Online gambling is a great alternative to land-based casino runs for a number of reasons. It allows the gambler to enjoy some entertainment while lounging around on the sofa, ensures social distancing is never a problem and provides a certain amount of anonymity that new gamblers find attractive. There’s something to be said about being able to gamble almost anytime and anywhere, but online gaming sites have certain risks, especially when they’re not regulated or monitored. As the iGaming industry continues to gain popularity, there are plenty of questionable sites and groups popping up everywhere. Alaska is hoping to get some of the unlicensed activity taken down and has begun sending cease-and-desist letters to illegal gaming groups it finds on Facebook.
Stern (But Potentially Hollow) Threats
According to a local media outlet, the State of Alaska’s Department of Revenue is telling illegal gaming groups it finds on Facebook to shut down. The groups are ordered to turn in their gaming equipment and records to state officials, which would almost certainly trigger an investigation into potential tax fraud and violations of Alaska’s gaming laws.
The gaming activity is being conducted through moderated groups on Facebook that use Facebook Live video to provide the gambling options. A former tribal police officer in Mountain Village was made aware of the situation after someone she was familiar with received a cease-and-desist letter and confirmed with other state officials that the crackdown is underway. The hosts of the groups are paid by gamblers through payment apps, providing access to gambling options such as pull tabs (the same concept as scratch-off instant win lottery tickets) or bingo.
The former police officer posted a copy of one of the cease-and-desist letters on Facebook, clearly showing that it was drafted by the Department of Revenue’s Tax Division and signed by Katrina Mitchell, the division’s Gaming Manager. However, Mitchell confirmed to the media outlet that the Department of Revenue doesn’t have the authority to enforce illegal gambling and an officer with Alaska State Troopers confirmed that the illegal gambling groups are not a priority.
Facebook an Apparent Haven for Illegal Gambling
Facebook has come under fire for allowing – actively or passively – illegal gambling on its social media platform on several occasions. It is currently the target of a lawsuit, along with Google and Apple, for not doing its part in preventing social casino advertising and apps. The plaintiffs insist makes all three of the companies willing accomplices and the lawsuit is still pending.
The social media giant asserted last year that it was going to become more proactive in addressing illegal gaming. It even launched an initiative with Sweden’s gaming regulators in order to crack down on illegal lotteries that were being found on the platform. However, even with all of the resources it has at its disposal, Facebook hasn’t been able to figure out how to quickly make a serious dent in illegal online gaming being conducted through its applications.