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Felony charges for gambling ring implicates draconian sentences

In New York, most gambling is illegal with some exceptions. According to Brooklyn's district attorney, illegal gambling is not a victimless crime. He says that is why he led the arrest on felony charges of several men for allegedly running an internet-based sports gambling ring. However, there are many persons and even government authorities who would challenge that assessment.

In those states that have forms of legal gambling similar to Atlantic City and Las Vegas, people can make bets just like the ones that are illegal in New York. Why is it that a person can be doing something perfectly legal in one state and be pursued on felony charges for the same activity in another state? Furthermore, how do gambling activities create victims in one state but by virtue of its legal status in an adjoining state no victims are created there?

The answer may be in the fact that gambling is not an inherently criminal activity but becomes one only by the arbitrary choice of a particular state's legislature. The four men charged by the Brooklyn authorities on felony charges of enterprise corruption and first-degree promoting gambling are not debating those legal niceties today; instead, they are likely trying to frantically arrange for their possible release on bail. The Brooklyn district attorney called it the biggest bust of its kind and announced that the group took bets amounting to $927 million in wagers just on football bets during the 2015 season.

Generally, it seems constitutionally unfair to expose people to draconian prison sentences for activities that are perfectly legal in some states but are major felony charges in New York. The group even set up the bulk of its operations in another country where it was a legitimate business employing dozens of people. The bets were taken on the internet where the location of the gambler, as well as that of the accused, could be open to doubt. Somewhere in this mix of frustrating legal dilemmas, there may be the seeds of a developing defense that will take advantage of the nature of the internet to exonerate people for activities not inherently criminal.

Source: reuters.com, "California, New York men charged in billion-dollar gambling ring", Laila Kearney, June 30, 2016

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