Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money or material goods. It goes without saying that gambling has a deep rooted history in this country and it is even likely that many government and law enforcement employees engage in gambling activities. In fact, legalized gambling, such as the New York State Lottery, is used to fund government agencies and critical social programs.

However, in an effort to maintain their monopoly on gambling, the government has passed several laws to prevent private gambling, including most recently, internet and web based gambling and sports betting. This post will outline some of the federal tools that the government uses to prosecute gambling activity, as well as charges in the New York State Penal Law and important legal definitions.

New York State

New York gambling crimes are contained in NY Penal Law Article 225. Basically, the charges contained in this Article relate to all forms of sports betting, online poker and bookmaking. It is not uncommon for arrests for these charges to find their way into the realm of felony prosecutions.

Penal law 225.10 – Promoting Gambling in the First Degree

A person is guilty of Promoting Gambling in the First Degree when that person knowingly advances or profits from an unlawful gambling activity. Specifically, that person must materially assist in the gambling venture or profit from the unlawful gambling. Further, the government must prove the individual either:

1. advanced or profited from an unlawful gambling activity by engaging in bookmaking to the extent that the individual received or accepted more than 5 bets collectively in excess of $5,000 in any one day; or

2. advanced or profited from an unlawful gambling activity by receiving, in connection with a lottery or policy scheme or enterprise, (a) money or written records from a person other than a player whose chances or plays are represented by the money or records or (b) in excess of $5,000 in an given day.

So what exactly is an unlawful gambling activity?

An individual engages in gambling when he or she risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance upon an agreement that he or she will receive something of value in the event of a particular result.

A contest of chance is a game or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance (even if skill is a factor).

Bookmaking means to advance from gambling by unlawfully accepting bets as a business upon future contingent bets. A person advances from gambling activity when that person materially aids in any form of gambling.

Federally, the government has several tools that they use to bring these types of prosecutions. The Wire Act makes it illegal for anyone in the business of gambling to knowingly use interstate wires (eg. Internet, Western Union) to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wages. The government also uses the Travel Act to prosecute individuals who travel in interstate or foreign commerce to distribute proceeds or promote unlawful gambling activity. There is also the overarching charge of Conducting an Illegal Gambling Business that is usually charged in conjunction with Money Laundering or the so-called RICO statutes.

While the forms of gambling generally do not vary tremendously, the unique facts of each case and the charged individuals’ role can play a huge role in mounting a legal defense or mitigating the individuals’ activities. There are always unique defenses found both in the case facts as well as the criminal statutes. For more information on charges relating to promoting gambling, search warrants, wiretaps or other gambling related felonies, it is important to consult with an experienced Manhattan or Brooklyn criminal defense attorney.

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