Is Online Gambling Legal

Although many regard the USA as the land of freedom, not everything is allowed there. Actually, you will be astonished to discover that online gambling is considered illegal.

Why Is Online Gambling Illegal?

Online gambling is, without a doubt, a fruitful and prosperous business; in fact, online casinos make billions of dollars per year. Unfortunately, online gambling is not legally accepted in the United States of America. Gambling in land-based casinos in the USA is entirely legal, and people are free to gamble (remember Las Vegas and Atlanta). But believe it or not, online gambling is officially prohibited in the majority of the American states.

The reason for such a prohibition lies in the Federal Wire Act from 1961, which bans particular sorts of betting. However, 8 years ago, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a resolution that any wire communications which are not related to sports events or competitions are beyond the scope of this Act. But a year ago, the DOJ altered this decision under the pretext that the bans are not solely confined to sports betting and gambling. Thus, the final decision that DOJ has made was that all sorts of online gambling (online casinos, online sports betting) were officially illegal.

Legal or Illegal?

Officially, the U.S. legislation has never issued a law or act that definitely restricts and prohibits online gaming. Even placing bets itself is legal. But on no account may those bets be situated on the U.S. territory. To make it clear, gamblers may place their bets or wagers but only on the sites that are not located in the United States of America. Therefore, players may gamble at online casinos founded in Europe or Australia, but not in the United States.

On the other hand, internet gambling at online casinos based in the USA is strictly prohibited. Even setting up an online gambling site located in the States is illegal. Thus, if you want to run a gambling site, avoid the U.S. Furthermore, you must cooperate only with the U.S. residents, and you mustn’t take wagers over the telephone.

However unbelievable it may sound, U.S. legislation considers advertising online casinos illegal. What’s more, back in 2007, the world-famous companies Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft were prosecuted and fined for advertising online gambling. Besides, helping with money transfer is also banned. According to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), American banks must not deal with any transactions that are related to online casinos and gambling.

Gambling slots online

These are some of the reasons why some online gambling sites refuse players from the United States. However, all this did not deter U.S. players from online gaming.

Individual Decisions

The U.S. legislation has not completely prohibited online gambling on the entire territory of the country. What’s more, it was up to individual states to decide whether they are to allow it or not. Thus, several U.S. states agreed to allow both online gambling and sports bettings. This, however, implies that residents of those states are limited to gaming either in that state or at an offshore casino. For instance, Pennsylvania residents must not gamble in New Jersey, but in Pennsylvania only.

Online Casinos

The states where online gambling is legal are the following:

  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada

The first three states legalized all online casino games: poker, slot machines, etc. Nevada, however, legalized online poker only.

For the time being, West Virginia has legalized online sports betting only but is in the process of legalizing online casino games as well.

What is important to mention again is that the players must play at the casinos founded in their place of residence, i.e., the state they live in, or an offshore casino.

New Jersey legalized online gambling back in 2013. The casinos that are available to players in New Jersey include a number of slots and classic table and card games (roulette, baccarat, keno, blackjack). Some even offer live casino.

Even though Pennsylvania allowed online gambling two years ago, currently, there are no active online casinos. However, they will be established in July 2019.

The state of Delaware hasn’t got much to offer either — its limited list includes three casinos only. West Virginia, which is in the process of online casino legalization, offers five casinos for the time being.

When it comes to Nevada, everyone would expect online casinos to prosper here due to its most famous City of Vegas. However, it is completely the opposite. The only thing worth mentioning is the WSOP NV. Not only is it the only gambling site currently active, but it is also the most promising.

Besides West Virginia, which is already in the process of legalizing online casinos, other states that are considering it include California, Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Illinois, and Michigan.

New Jersey Online Casinos

Pennsylvania Online Casinos

Delaware Online Casinos

West Virginia Online Casinos

What is important to mention is that now it is possible to play poker against other gamblers from Delaware, New Jersey, or Nevada. Namely, the state of New Jersey initiated such multi-state poker gambling last year.

Online Sports Betting

Online sports betting has the same fate as online casinos and gambling. Last year, it went through some ground-breaking changes. Namely, in May last year, the Supreme Court proclaimed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) as illegitimate. This further implied that any state could legalize online sports betting. Currently, only five states approve of online sports betting:

  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada
  • Mississippi
  • West Virginia.

Online Lottery

online Lottery


It seems that there hasn’t been much ado about online lottery compared to online gambling and sports betting. However, very few states allow it, and those are:

  • Georgia, which introduced online lottery to its residents back in 2012;
  • Illinois, which launched lottery for the first time in 2012 as well;
  • Michigan, which introduced lottery in 2014;
  • Kentucky, which allowed online lottery back in 2013, but started sales in 2016;
  • New Hampshire, which initiated introducing lottery in 2017, only to launch it in 2018;
  • Pennsylvania, which launched online lottery in May 2018.

Final Thoughts

The entire situation related to U.S. legislation and online gaming is quite confusing. Namely, it is not clearly defined whether online gambling is legal or not. The reason for this is the lack of federal law, which will definitely make gaming legal or illegal. Hence, it is up to the states themselves to decide whether they will allow online gambling or not. So far, only a few of them have allowed some forms of online gambling, such as online casinos and poker, sports betting, and online lottery. However, the majority of the states haven’t still clearly regulated online gambling.

Yet, despite all the odds, online casino enthusiasts managed to find a way to gamble. Even though online gaming is frowned upon on the U.S. territory, it does not mean that players are not allowed to play. The key is to find suitable offshore online casinos that will accept U.S. players and learn about what states allow online gambling. Besides, gaming is slowly but steadily becoming legal and regulated, as the states are gradually accepting various forms of gambling. It is only the question of time when the majority of states is going to legalize all forms of online gambling.

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