Florida AG Seeks Credit Card Companies' Help in Stopping Online Gambling

1 December 1999
The Florida Office of the Attorney General recently contacted Visa and MasterCard requesting the companies' assistance in the AG's battle against online gambling. In its letter to the credit card companies, the AG's office outlined Florida regulations that make it not only illegal to participate in online gambling, but explain that Florida law prohibits credit card companies from collecting gambling debts from their users. Additionally, Florida law allows suits to be filed against any entity which assists in the transaction, such as a credit card company.

October 27, 1999

Bennet Katz, General Counsel
Visa International, Inc.
PO Box 8999
San Francisco, CA 94128-8999


Robert E. Norton, Jr., General Counsel
Master Card International
Legal Department
2000 Purchase Street
Purchase, NY 10577

Re: Offshore Sports Wagering, L97-3-1253

Dear --:

As you may be aware, this office has been conducting an investigation into the Florida activities of certain sports betting and wagering businesses which advertise and solicit business in the State of Florida. These businesses advertise that bets and wagers placed in the United States and Florida can be made by the use of telephone and Internet facilities and payment can be made by money transfer services such as Western Union, courier services, and credit cards, including Visa/MasterCard cards.

It is unlawful in the State of Florida to be or wager any money or other thing of value on sporting events. Our investigation has concluded that the betting and wagering activities of these businesses are in violation of Florida law (Fla. Stat. § 849.19 and § 849.25). Additionally, the use of telephones or wire communications in gambling activities is prohibited by 18 USC § 1084. Recently, courts have found that the activities of offshore bookmakers and casinos are, in fact, violations of gambling laws in states in which gambling is prohibited.

Pursuant to Florida Statutes (§ 849.26), gambling contracts are unenforceable in the State of Florida. Therefore, Visa/MasterCard may not have authority to collect on charges which gamblers make to offshore casinos or other gambling establishments from computers, telephones, or any other means when a bettor located in Florida attempts to dispute the charge. Furthermore, if a gambler loses any money when placing a bet, Florida Statutes (§ 849.29) allows suits against any entity "which sets up or conducts the gambling transaction in which the loss occurs or has an interest in it as a backer." I understand that your company is currently involved in litigation related to this matter in another state.

The Office of the Attorney General has a duty to enforce the laws in this state and is actively endeavoring to prevent illegal gambling in Florida. Many of these businesses operate from other countries, but are, nonetheless, violating Florida law by conducting business in this state. We are attempting to prevent these businesses from violating Florida law by preventing them from collecting money from Floridians.

This office has entered into an agreement with Western Union to cease transmission of funds from bettors in the State of Florida to these businesses which are engaged in violations of Florida law. These businesses also use methods other than Western Union money transfer, such as credit cards, to conduct sports wagering activities.

Our agreement with Western Union has been highly successful. However, in order to fully curtail the violations, all methods of funds from Florida by these businesses must be stopped. In the best interests of both the State of Florida and Visa International/MasterCard International, I would like to discuss the possibility of preventing the transfer of funds by Visa/MasterCard for bets and wagers which are in violation of Florida law. Please contact me at your earliest convenience so that we may discuss this matte in detail.

Enclosed is some information on this subject for your review. Thank you in advance for your cooperation.


Gary L. Betz,
Special Counsel to
the Attorney General