William & Mary Business Law Review


Erik Gerstner


In recent years, a myriad of websites have been established, which offer gambling to U.S.-based customers via the Internet, using virtual items existing only within the realms of online video games as currency. A relatively new development, this virtual property has been addressed by courts very little, leaving many questions about how the law of the U.S. would and should treat it for purposes including but not limited to gambling. Because virtual property shares many characteristics with tangible property, it is likely to be found to share many of the same legal aspects as the latter, which would permit the Justice Department to attack it as it has other forms of gambling throughout the years.

One form of regulation which the U.S. government might use to regulate this virtual property gambling is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). In 2011, the U.S. government used the provisions of the UIGEA to shut down major websites offering online poker and other forms of gambling within the U.S., targeting the payment processors handling funds from American customers. If the Justice Department finds that virtual property is analogous to tangible property, it would likely approach regulation of this market in a similar manner as it did in 2011. This Note argues that because virtual property gambling is a multibillion-dollar business and should be seen as property in its own right, regulation via the UIGEA, or other sources is inevitable.

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