Playing games at the casino and gambling is favoured by the Americans. Due to latest changing laws and making online sports betting legal in many of the US states, it is true that the largest online gambling entity in the US will emerge in the coming years.
Many of us still seem confused by reading about the online gambling legal scenario in the United States and there are certain questions that pop to our mind as far as US Gambling Laws are concerned.
Let us first understand a bit of history of the gambling and laws before coming to the present situation.
The Words “Gamble” and “Gambling”
The words “gamble” and “gambling” are generally used for an activity that may violate and play foul to applicable criminal laws. The word “gaming” is usually reserved for those instances where the activity has been specifically legalized by applicable laws or where the activity is exempted from the criminal laws.
The two words are not mutually exclusive. That is, a gaming activity could turn out to be gambling where applicable laws regulating that particular gaming are violated.
Similarly, a gambling activity may turn out to be gaming if it is exempted from a given criminal statute. For example, playing a card game for money in a purely social setting where no one earns anything from the game other than as a mere player would be gaming if such social games were excluded from the reach of the criminal anti-gambling laws in the state where the game takes place.
The Gaming Acts and History
The Federal Wire Act– 1961
The Federal Wire Act was first put into law in 1961 by John F. Kennedy. This law was part of Kennedy’s efforts to stop the laundering of money by organized crime through betting on casino games and sports. This law specifically prohibited the use of wire communications for placing wagers or collecting money from the placing of wagers on sporting events or contests.
The Federal Wire Act- 2002
In 2002 the Federal Wire Act came back because of the Department of Justice during President Bush’s reign concluded that the Federal Wire Act meant a complete ban on online casino gambling, including poker and sports betting. This was a severe blow to sites such as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, which had been courting United States players for many years.
The UIGEA, or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, was added to United States law in late 2006. It pertains to online gambling, with the law stating that businesses are not allowed to knowingly accept money from players with regard to online betting. Placing wagers on fantasy sports is excluded from this law, in addition to tribal gaming institutions that are legally licensed.
The Three Sets of Gaming Regulations in America
United States gambling law is governed by three sets of gaming regulations, one each for local, state, and federal entities. Some states have gaming regulations that go back more than two centuries; other states have yet to address major aspects of the industry at all. The modern laws on gambling are complex in part because they’ve been developed over the course of several decades. Over that time, technology and society have changed, while US gaming laws (for the most part) have not.
In some ways, American gaming law is liberal. The following are good examples of this.
- State-run lotteries are available in 44 US states.
- Tribal casinos operate in more than half of American states, with a dozen large-scale venues under construction as we put this article together.
- Small-scale game and card rooms can be found in most major cities, and plenty of small towns, too.
- The government allows a few forms of betting (for charity, or for the elderly) with little regulation.
Federal Online Gambling Law
Three significant federal laws apply to the practice of gambling in general and online gambling in particular.
- The Interstate Wire Act
- The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act
- The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act
If we come to discuss each of them in detail then it has a long chapter to write and discuss. But we will look into the current legal aspect of each and how they affect a player.
In the year 2011the US Department of Justice clarified the Interstate Wire Act, the legal status of certain types of betting became crystal clear. In a statement, the department of justice decided that “… interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.”
That’s remarkable news for online poker and casino game players but still troublesome to sports bettors. In an appeal, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the department of justice that the Wire Act prohibits the transmission of sports wagers but not any other type of online gambling.
Points to Remember
- Remember that the Interstate Wire Act has not been used to prosecute any individuals for placing bets by wire.
- The FBI has stated numerous times that their focus is on prosecuting the large-scale operations.
- The worst the FBI can do is warn you that funds in your player account may be seized if the site you bet with gets busted.
- Passed in 1992, PASPA is the least-known of American gaming regulations, and the one with the smallest impact on Americans’ everyday online gambling activity.
- The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act is sometimes called “the Bradley Act” after Senator Bill Bradley. The full title of this bill is -“An Act to prohibit sports gambling under State law.”
- The most important part is Section 3702 of PASPA. It clearly disallows any “governmental entity” (translation – state) from allowing bets on amateur or professional athletics.
- This language goes so far as to outlaw bets on fantasy sports, the results of which are tied directly to the individual performances of athletes.
- States in which daily fantasy sites are explicitly legal, such as Iowa and Maryland, may already be in direct violation of PASPA.
- PASPA has been used recently to shut down New Jersey’s attempt to legalize sports betting in Atlantic City. A referendum on the issue passed with a strong majority before the Department of Justice swooped in and invalidated the law based on a claim from PASPA’s language.
- The Bradley Act was ultimately too limited in its scope by the existence of a few state sports betting markets. Specifically, existing sports betting markets in Oregon, Delaware, Montana, and Nevada were outside the scope of the law.
- An exception was made allowing the state of New Jersey to pass a law making sports wagers legal within one year. The state government of New Jersey failed to do so, and lost the right to offer legal bets on sports.
You have come to know of this act as described in the beginning of this page. UIGEA is not something that individual sports bettors need to worry about. It is used to prevent banks and credit card companies from doing business with providers of illegal gambling – not to prosecute individuals who use those payment processors.
The legal situation surrounding sports betting in the US underwent a radical change in 2018. The US Supreme Court ruled in May 2018 that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) was unconstitutional.
Due to the decision, any state could potentially offer sports betting to its inhabitants. So far, more than a dozen are either actively allowing sports betting or have legalized it and are hammering out the final details.
As far as the online sports betting component goes, these states are either offering it currently or making plans to offer it.
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
US States where online gambling is legal
- New Jersey is currently the largest market for regulated online gambling in the US. Over a dozen legal and licensed online casino sites and poker rooms compete for an overall market that is worth more than $225 million a year. There are a number of sportsbooks and online sports betting apps live in the state.
- Nevada was the pioneer of regulated US online gambling but only offers the chance to play poker. In addition to poker, Nevada also allows players within the state to bet on sports using mobile apps.
- Delaware can’t boast the size that New Jersey has managed with its online gambling market, but the state’s legal casino games and poker sites are growing after a sluggish start. Delaware shares its online poker pool with both Nevada and New Jersey. Single-game sports wagering is also legal.
- Pennsylvania is the fourth and biggest state to legalize and regulate online gambling. The new law allows for online casinos, online poker, sports betting and more. The first sportsbooks started launching in the state in late 2018. Online sports betting and online casinos have both recently launched.
West Virginia law allows for mobile sports betting as well. FanDuel Sportsbook and DraftKings Sportsbook launched in late summer 2019, and more could follow.
States where online gambling will be legal soon
- California state has been trying to pass a bill to regulate online poker for the better part of the last decade. Online casino has never been part of the conversation. Observers aren’t that optimistic about the chances that legal online poker will fare any better in California in 2019 either.
- State of New York after several years of slow progress, it appears as if it may be now ready to move on legalizing online poker. The state’s constitution prohibits expansion of gambling without a public vote (poker would be considered a game of skill and therefore not gambling), meaning that online casino is unlikely. The online poker bill did not pass in 2018, but it gets a fresh look in 2019.
- Massachusetts state has floated a few bills to legalize and regulate online gambling in recent years. The state Gaming Commission has become increasingly vocal on the issue, as has the Lottery, suggesting that momentum may be approaching critical mass. The state also has land-based properties from Wynn (in progress) and MGM Resorts (opened 2018).
- Michigan state bills to legalize online casino and poker have been a part of the legislative conversation in Michigan, and one was actually sent to the governor in 2018 before a veto. Expect another push to legalize online gaming and sports betting in 2019.
- West Virginia already has online sports betting apps, thanks to a 2018 law. However, online casinos and poker rooms are soon to join the fold. The enactment of the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act has opened the possibility of online casinos and poker rooms in West Virginia in 2020.
What is legal to play in the US?
After reading the above change and slow transformation in the Gambling Laws here is the present scenario as far as gaming and gambling is concerned as what is legal to play in the US?
- Online Casinos: Legal online casinos are currently available in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. If you aren’t in those states you can play at sweepstakes casinos like Chumba Casino where you can play online casino games for real cash prizes.
- Sports betting: Is currently legal in these states: Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Mississippi, West Virginia, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New York, Iowa, Arkansas, Indiana, Oregon and Rhode Island. Currently, several other states have active bills and 2019 legislation in progress to create additional land-based and mobile sports betting options throughout the US.
- US online lottery: While a majority of US states offer a form of lottery play, only a select few offer the addition of an online lottery. These states are Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania.
- Online Poker: Legal, regulated online poker is available in Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware. New Jersey has the largest amount of poker networks, while Nevada’s only regulated online poker is through World Series of Poker (WSOP). Similarly, Delaware has one sole poker site, 888 Poker.
- Horse Racing: Horse racing is one of the oldest forms of gambling and is legally available in most states. Not only can you go to racetracks around the US, you can also bet on your phone or online in more than half of the states in the country.
- Fantasy Sports: Daily fantasy sports (DFS) operators, such as DraftKings and FanDuel, are available for play in most US states. However, many states come with legal, gray areas and operators that only serve select states. More states, including New York, have gone through various DFS legal battles and/or have legislation in progress.
Here are the answers to the questions that mostly occur in our minds when we think of gambling laws in US.
Is it legal to gamble online in the US?
If you want to know the basic answer to the question, ‘Is online gambling legal in the US’, the answer is ‘Yes’. For online casino, you can gamble online in New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. For online poker, you can legally play online in New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and soon Pennsylvania. For online sports betting, you can gamble online in a number of states, and that number is growing every day. New Jersey, Nevada, West Virginia, Iowa and Pennsylvania. For online lottery, you can play games online from Pennsylvania and Michigan.
There are also illegal gambling sites that allow you to gamble online from the United States, but we advise against using those sites as they are not safe and you can’t be sure that the games are fair.
How can I participate in online gambling?
To participate in legalized US online gambling, you must be physically present in one of the states mentioned above. For example, an American citizen in Texas cannot register a real money casino gambling account at one of the online casinos in New Jersey.
Where can casinos apply for a license for online gaming?
Only casinos that operate within those states as stated above can apply for a license. There can be partnerships between land casinos and existing online gambling operators (as a software-licensing arrangement), though, such as Borgata and Party Poker, and Caesar’s Interactive and 888.com. Though both these established online operators have lots of experience and brand recognition to bring to the table. It’s also the only way for online operators to get into the US market.
Which casino operators accept real money players?
The licensed operators in Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and other states where online gambling is legal accept real money players. But also some offshore gambling operators accept real-money players from other parts of the US risking fines and possible prosecution in the process. These sites operate from jurisdictions outside of the United States, such as the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, Antiqua and Barbuda, Panama and Costa Rica.
Has anyone convicted for gambling on the internet?
Till date (according to thorough research) no one in the U.S. has ever been convicted or arrested for gambling on the Internet
Enforcement action has been limited to operators, such as in the case of United States v. Scheinberg, or payment processors, such as in the case of Neteller. So far, the government has seemed far more interested in what gambling operators and payment processors are doing than what gamblers are doing.
In which states of US can I play and what are their licensed sites?
You can play in Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Pennsylvania states. The following are:
The licensed Sites in New Jersey
- Borgata Poker
- Borgata Casino
- Pala Casino
- Harrah’s Casino
- Caesar’s Casino
- Golden Nugget Casino
- Betfair Casino
- Tropicana Casino
- Virgin Casino
Licensed Sites in Nevada are:
- South Point Poker
Licensed Sites in Delaware are
- Delaware Park Race track and Slots
- Dover Downs
- Harrington Raceway and Casino
Licensed Sites in Pennsylvania are
- Parx Casino
- Harrah’s Philadelphia
- Mount Airy Casino
- Hollywood Casino at Penn National
- Sugar house
- Valley Forge
- Rivers casino
West Virginia became the fifth state to legalize online casinos in March 2019. The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act authorized the state’s five casinos to pursue the development of casino and poker apps.
So, potentially, there could be five online casinos and/or poker rooms in West Virginia soon. The five casinos are:
- The Casino Club at Greenbrier Resort
- Hollywood Casino Charles Town
- Mardi Gras Casino
- The Mountaineer Hotel, Casino, and Resort
- Wheeling Island Hotel-Casino-Racetrack
Unless you’re physically located inside the four states above, you have no licensed sites to play at. Your only options are gambling sites that operate outside of the US and against the will of the US government.
Most offshore sites have, indeed, stopped accepting US customers, but there are also US-accepting sites with strong track records, such as:
- Bet Online
- Carbon Poker
- Slots.lv Casino
Is there anything I need to look before playing?
Yes It’s your responsibility to find out if playing online gambling games is legal or not where you live. Again, these sites haven’t been licensed to operate in the US, and are operating in other jurisdictions to avoid the US government. The safer option is to play at licensed US sites if you happen to be located in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Nevada or New Jersey.
How can I deposit and withdraw from online gambling sites legally?
There are many ways that US players can get their funds onto betting websites. Credit and debit cards with reputable banks are the easiest and safest options, however wire transfers and third-party payment processors can also be used. With the effects of UIGEA still being felt, still a legitimate deposit may be required. Many licensed US online gambling websites offer plenty of reliable and convenient payment methods, such as Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Neteller, Skrill, bank transfers (ACH), Cryptocurrencies, online banking transfers, PayNearMe and cash that can be deposited and withdrawn at a land casino’s cashier cage.
What are the restrictive states at US for gambling?
Hawaii, Tennessee, Vermont and Utah are among the most restrictive States when it comes to enjoying gambling games.
Is online poker legal in the USA?
Texas Hold’em fans in the United States can find card games available online, although payment processing restrictions make depositing money difficult. The first state to specifically legalize online poker only is Nevada – the home of entertainment capital, Las Vegas – and they are still in the process of defining their laws.
What is legal and what is not. It is always important to check with individual state laws on various games as laws can change.