Cutting The Wire
Gaming Prohibition And The Internet
Publication Year: 2005
Published by: University of Nevada Press
Series: Gambling Studies Series
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
My first book, Suburban Xanadu: The Casino Resort on the Las Vegas Strip and Beyond, grew out of my doctoral dissertation in U.S. history at ucla. Since I grew up with the casino industry in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the history of casinos was a rather obvious topic for my dissertation. To tell a story about that world and help people better understand the place of casinos in American...
Introduction: Kennedy’s War Continues
Until the judge started giving the jury its instructions, Jay Cohen felt pretty confident that he’d be back at his desk at the World Sports Exchange in a week or two. Sure, the prosecutors had shown the jury lots of evidence proving that his company had accepted bets from undercover agents over the phone and on the Web. But they had never proved that he intended to break...
1. Legal Vices and Illicit Diversions
Americans have never quite agreed on what to do about gaming. They inherited a legislative indecision about gaming along with the rest of the corpus of English law. “The common law and the early English statutes on gambling were not consistent,” wrote a New York judge as he surveyed gaming law in 1950. “Toleration and prohibitions of gambling went...
2. The Anxious Decade
Professional gamblers taking bets from the public are, out of necessity, exposed to prosecution for running gambling businesses. Yet for much of American history, ostensibly illegal gaming operations thrived, beneficiaries of the mechanics of direct democracy. Politicians achieve and hold power by satisfying more interests than they offend. In the big-city machines...
3. Camelot Strikes Back
The attorney general of the united states, under any circumstances, is an incredibly powerful citizen. The nation’s “top cop,” he or she sits at the head of the Justice Department, commanding an army of lawyers, investigators, and officials. Charged with representing the legal interests of the United States, the attorney general is the lead partner in the world’s largest...
4. Booking the Bookies
The Wire Act became law as part of Robert Kennedy’s war on organized crime, a program with very specific goals. But though the Kennedy attorney generalship ended within three years of the act’s passage, the Wire Act remained on the books even as the landscape changed. The directors of the federal war against organized crime found new and better legislative tools...
5. A Money Jungle From Sea to Sea
Speaking at his february 1950 Conference on Organized Crime, Attorney General Howard McGrath proclaimed plainly that opposition to gaming was the reigning cumulative law of the United States: “Throughout the United States there is, and has existed for many years, a public policy that condemns organized gambling and makes its activities criminal.”1 Given...
6. Point, Click, and Bet
In the mid-1990s, the sudden popularity of the Internet appeared to be an overnight phenomenon, but it had in fact been quietly evolving for decades. The technology to link computer systems has existed since 1965, when computer scientist Larry Roberts demonstrated the feasibility of long-distance connections between computers. In 1969, as Americans walked on the moon,...
7. March Madness
There will probably always be some tension in the United States between the policing imperative to curtail some citizens’ actions in the name of law and order and those citizens’ wishes to pursue their pleasures unmolested. The growth of the Internet, a communications medium that slashes through national borders, has only complicated the collision between law...
Epilogue: Prohibition in a Borderless America
Over the past fifty years, gaming advocates have triumphed in a pitched battle against anti-gaming forces, one that compelled Americans to choose between vestigial distrust of those who profited from gaming and the slow realization that people continued to gamble despite prohibition and that individual citizens viewed gaming legalization to be in their personal interest because of the prospect it offered of lower taxes. In the early...
Appendix 1: The Wire Act
Appendix 2: Timeline of Federal Gaming Legislation