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Simon - s Guide to Online Gambling in the USA

Simon’s Guide to Online Gambling in the USA

US Online Gambling Guide – Gambling, online gambling, online bingo, online poker, online sports betting, online lottery and Bitcoin gambling in the United States – all of its states and territories

A study recently published came to the conclusion that in terms of online gambling, the USA’s gambling legislation is the most complex in the world. This makes the US online gambling market overly complicated for players and operators alike. We are here to make it simple and easy to understand. Currently, out of the 50 states and 5 inhabited overseas territories 7 has legalized online gambling and online gambling is still illegal on a federal level.

To date, as much as an estimated 72%* of the world’s online casinos are closed to US visitors (due to overly complex legal environment, and the hostility of certain states towards online gambling), which means that it is not easy for US players to find online casinos. We are here to help with this as well (see below for list of online gambling websites, which accept players from the USA).

First of all, US players are not prosecuted for playing in non-US online casinos and gambling websites. But in case of domestic, US-registered online operations, the online gambling website (with a few exceptions, see below) can only accept players from the state it is registered in.

Despite all this, domestic online gambling in the USA is blossoming. 5 US states and territories legalized some form of online gambling (apart from online horse racing betting and greyhound racing, which is legal almost everywhere).

Online gambling in the USA is legal since 2011, that year, the DOJ’s (Department of Justice) reversed its former stance on the Wire Act of 1961**. This made it possible for states to legalize intrastate online gambling from then on.**

Nevertheless, online gambling in the USA remains a complicated and a controversial topic.

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Legal status of online gambling in the USA

There are two Acts with paramount importance: the Wire Act of 1961, and the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) signed into law in 2006. Interpretations, reinterpretations, and contradictions of these two were decisive to the present legal status of online gambling in the USA. The most recent milestone of US online gambling regulations was the memo issued by the DOJ in 2011.

The Federal Wire Act of 1961 was part of a package of bills introduced by then US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in his attempt to fight organised crime. He sought to do this by cutting the funds of crime syndicates, which at the time consisted mainly of profits gained through illegal interstate bookmaking activities. These were in many cases conducted using the prominent telecommunications tools of the era, the telephone, and the telegraph. The section of the Act relevant to online gambling in the USA is the following:

“Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”

If you made your way through the quirky sentence, intuition probably tells you that it only applies to sports betting. According to several historic cases, most interpretations, and discussions and the enactment of the Act mentioned in the 2011 memo prove that it was indeed only meant to impose regulations on sports betting activities. Moreover, it only seems to address the technological infrastructure of the era it was crafted in.

In fact, many amendments proposed through the ’90s sought to make the act more technologically neutral, which suggests that the people proposing these amendments didn’t believe it applied to the internet, or anything besides what “wire communication facility” meant at the time of its enactment.

All this didn’t stop the US Department of Justice from interpreting the Act as a broad scale prohibition on gambling using any means of telecommunication, including the internet. Moreover, the Act only mentioned interstate transmissions expressly, but the reasoning of the DOJ for using the act to prohibit intrastate online gambling was that the internet and the telephone are inherently interstate media.

*Wire Act and its effect on online gambling legislation is Michelle Minton’s white paper: The Original Intent of the Wire Act and Its Implications for State-based Legalization of Internet Gambling, from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas

In 2009, the New York’s lottery division and the Illinois governor’s office wrote to the Department of Justice Criminal Division seeking an opinion on the legality of online lottery sales. While the Criminal Division asserted that offering lotteries online within the state would violate the Wire Act, they did acknowledge that such interpretation contradicts the UIGEA, which expressly excludes intrastate online gambling, making it legal.

The UIGEA was considered to be quite faulty in its phrasing, because actually it didn’t ban online gambling, nor did it define, what is unlawful internet gambling. Instead, it prohibited payment processors from processing transactions related to online gambling in the USA.

Another strange thing about the UIGEA is that it specifically exempts online horse race and greyhound betting. And this is why online horse and greyhound betting and online lottery are the only kinds of online gambling that are legal in the majority of the states.

In 2011, partly in response to the New York lottery divisions inquiry, the DOJ released a memo*, which represented a 180 degrees reversal of their previous interpretation of the Wire Act. The memo declared that because lottery is not related to sports betting, it falls outside the scope of the Wire Act. The decision, (apart from allowing the state of Illinois to conduct online lottery), dispelled the ambiguity surrounding the Wire Act’s actual scope and it opened the door for states to legalize online gambling within their borders.

The legal status of online gambling in the US, state-by-state

In total, 7 states & territories have legalized some forms of online gambling in the USA as of now:

  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Delaware
  • US Virgin Islands (unincorporated overseas territory)
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • New York (Bitcoin horse betting is allowed too)

And in the following 26 states only online horse racing betting is legal currently: Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Vermont, South Dakota, Tennessee, Rhode Island, Oregon, Oklahoma, Ohio, North Dakota, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, Louisiana, Minnesota, Kentucky, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Idaho, Pennsylvania.

Online gambling in most of these states and territories is only allowed on an intrastate basis. This means that poker players from Nevada, are only allowed to play poker against players from Nevada, and only on platforms offered specifically for the Nevada market.

However, this is changing right now, interstate agreements were signed by many of these states recently. And there are still also many offshore gambling websites, which accept US players.

This table summarizes the legal status of different forms of online gambling in all the US states. You can find a list of online gambling sites, which accept US players below the table.

US overseas unincorporated territories

Online casino gambling in the USA

Online casino gambling in the US: illegal in most states, offshore online casinos outside of US jusrisdiction accept players from most states, players are not prosecuted

Online casino gambling is prohibited in the US, mainly by the UIGEA. The only exceptions are two states, Delaware and New Jersey and an overseas territory; the US Virgin Islands. All three of these passed bills in recent years expressly legalizing various forms of online gambling.

Not many gambling websites accept players from the US. Some foreign online casinos are blocked by ISPs, some voluntarily restrict US access to their sites and some (especially the ones registered in microstates) are afraid of US influence and pressure. However, US players who play in foreign online casinos are not prosecuted by the authorities.

The following online casinos accept players from USA:

Black lotus casino – accepting players from USA

Lotus Asia casino – accepting players from USA

GT Bets accepts players from USA- accepting Bitcoins as well

GT Bets does not accept players from District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, and Washington

Online bingo in the USA

Online bingo in the US: illegal, except for New Jersey, a few foreign online bingo sites can accept players from the USA

In many US states, Bingo games are only allowed to be conducted in support of charitable causes. In others like Nevada, brick & mortar bingo halls are eligible for a license as well. The only legal online bingo platform in the USA at the time of writing is the one offered by New Jersey licensee, VirginCasino.com.

However, players who play on foreign bingo sites that still accept players from the US are not prosecuted (there are not many).

The following bingo websites accept players from the USA:

I can not personally recommend any right now.

Online poker in the USA

Online poker in the US: illegal, except for Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and the US Virgin Islands, players playing on foreign online poker sites are not prosecuted but barely any poker website accept players from the US due to various issues

Online poker is prohibited in the vast majority of the US states. After the UIGEA was passed in 2006, major online poker sites, like Poker Stars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker continued to offer their services on the US market, even with the apparent legal risks involved. It was not until four years later that US authorities took serious legal action against these sites, operating on somewhat of a gray market for 5 years. They were charged with the violation of the UIGEA, bank fraud, and money laundering. After their indictment on April 15, 2011, the day that was quickly dubbed by the poker community as “the Black Friday”, 95% of the US online poker market was destroyed overnight.

However, since then, states that recently passed bills legalizing online poker, but mostly on an intrastate level.

In most of the US, online poker opportunities are limited to unlicensed foreign sites. Although technically illegal, poker players are not prosecuted in the USA. Nevertheless, we do not recommend playing poker online on foreign websites from Washington (strict online poker laws – playing online Poker is considered a class B felony in the sate of Washington).

The following online poker sites accept players from USA:

Not many online poker platforms accept US players. I can not recommend any right now, because the ones I use do not accept US players and the rest, which do are on my rogue casinos & gambling websites list and are not recommended.

Online sports betting in the USA

Online sports betting in the US: illegal, except for Nevada

The 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act* or PASP outlawed sports betting nationwide in an attempt to protect professional and amateur sports against “the taint of gambling”. PASPA barred states that didn’t already have legal sports betting from legalizing it ever since. This law effectively gave Nevada a sports gambling monopoly.

Three other states were also exempt from the Act, New Jersey, Oregon and Delaware, due to sports betting regulations already in place. However, only Delaware established any kind of sports betting market, a parlay card game for wagering on NFL matches with no online platform. Nevada remains the only state offering legal online sports betting in the US to date.

Horse racing betting, on the other hand, is a completely different matter. Legal online platforms accepting wagers on horse races are available in the majority of the US states (except for the ones expressly banning it – see the table at the beginning). For some reason, this form of online gambling is exempt from the UIGEA.

A few foreign online bookmakers outside of US jurisdiction still accept players from the US. In some states these websites might be blocked, but bettors are not prosecuted.

The following online sportsbooks accept registrations from USA:

GT Bets online bookmaker – accepts registrations from USA, also accepts Bitcoin

GT Bets does not accept players from District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, and Washington

Online lottery in the USA

Online lottery in the US: lottery is, in most cases, a state monopoly, only the state-run lottery of Michigan, Minnesota (discontinued), Illinois, Georgia and New York have an online lottery

The lottery is a state monopoly in pretty much every US state (except for the ones that do not have a lottery at all – Alaska, Alabama, Nevada, Hawaii, Utah and Mississippi). Even though the 2011 memo made it possible for states to launch an online version of their lotteries, only four states, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Georgia lived with the opportunity so far.

Interstate online lotteries are not yet legal in the US, therefore popular interstate lotteries like Powerball do not sell lottery tickets online directly. However, interstate lotteries can partner with state lotteries and the state lotteries can legally sell interstate lottery tickets. This convoluted system is the reason why online lotteries are not very popular in the US.*

Some foreign online lotteries and lottery agents let people from the US purchase lottery tickets online too, and people are not prosecuted for such in the US.

The following websites let people from USA purchase lottery tickets online:

Bitcoin gambling in the USA

Bitcoin Gambling in the US: not yet decided in most states

The legal status of online Bitcoin gambling in the USA is very much undetermined to this date. The fact that the UIGEA does not ban online gambling per se, only prohibits financial transactions related to online gambling leaves Bitcoin in pretty much a gray area, as Bitcoin payments are not financial transactions in the traditional sense.

While many see and use this as a legislative loophole for online gambling in the USA, the reality might seem more complicated if we just consider the reasons for which the Nevada home of professional Poker player Bryan Micon was raided in 2015. Micon was running a Bitcoin only poker site called Seals with Clubs (and was also notoriously bragging about it on social media). It was the first-ever prosecution of a Poker site that used the digital currency in the US. Initially Micon was looking at a prison sentence, up to 10 years of imprisonment and a $50,000 fine*. Later this was reduced to a gross misdemeanor and he was ordered to pay $25,000. Currently he is on probation.

In an interview he gave to the Las Vegas times last year A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board made it clear that it was not only the lack of license that lead to Micon’s prosecution. Burnett told the reporter: “It’s [Bitcoin] absolutely not approved for gaming transactions and no licensee has approached me for considering its use”.

On the other hand, a legal and licensed horse betting operator, DerbyJackpot became the first-ever operator to Bitcoin in the USA*. The startup in New York was permitted by the state regulators to accept bets and wagers in the cryptocurrency earlier this year.

Its seems that interpretations of state and federal laws in relation with individual cases will decide Bitcoin gambling matters, for the time being. In the meantime, some foreign Bitcoin casinos, outside of US jurisdiction continue to accept players from the USA. These sites are not blocked and players are not prosecuted for placing bets with these operators.

The following Bitcoin casinos accept players from USA:

GT Bets accepts players from USA- accepting Bitcoins as well

GT Bets does not accept players from District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri, New York, and Washington

If you have questions or any feedback don’t hesitate to drop a comment below. Please let me know in the comments section if you think we might have gotten something wrong or if you have additional information, clarification about the legal status of online gambling in this country.

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This page is part of Simon’s List – Legal Status of Online Gambling – a definitive guide to the legal status of all forms of online gambling activities in every country around the world.

Last updated: 2016-07-18

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Legalizing Sports Betting in the USA - Best Gambling Sites

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How you got here: Poker-Finder Home | Legalizing Sports Betting in the USA

Legalizing Sports Betting in the USA Legalize Sports Betting Across the Board

While the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots were preparing to face-off for Superbowl LI, an estimated 50 million Americans were scrambling to place their bets just before kickoff. Wagers for the biggest NFL game of the season were estimated at $4.7 billion. Of that amount, only a paltry $100 million was wagered legally in Nevada. That’s only 2% wagered legally! Leaving the other 98% in the illegal category.

Which calls into question: why is sports betting illegal in the first place? Clearly, sports betting has never been more popular. Why are we making criminals out of millions of otherwise law abiding citizens? The reason that we are criminalizing millions of citizens is due to an out-dated 25 year old federal ban on the practice. In the meantime, Nevada is breaking sports betting records. It’s time to change the laws that don’t serve the public interest.

Will the Sports Betting Market Change in the Near Future?

Clearly, the sports betting ban isn’t working. You can see it in the numbers. Sports betting is a growth industry, whether legal or not. Keeping sports betting illegal keeps it relegated to the dark corners, hidden in the shadows. More than $150 billion is wagered annually without any kind of protections in place for consumers. Nor are there any mechanisms in place, such as data analysis and real-time alogrithms, to ensure that games are kept fair. Not to mention the millions of dollars in lost tax revenues for state and local governments.

At the root of this no-longer-relevant ban is the PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act), which allows only Nevada to offer legal sports betting, which was made law in 1992 by the first Bush Administration. Ironically, the new president in the USA, Donald Trump, had pushed for similar legislation in New Jersey, was once quoted as saying “You have to be in favor of it. It is vital to keeping your taxes low, to senior citizens, and to putting the bookies out of business.” He also said in 2015 that he is “OK with sports betting (and other gaming options) because it’s happening anyway. Whether you have legalized sports betting or you don’t have it, you have it.”

Sports betting ban and constitutional issues

The United States Supreme Court has shown interest in possible constitutional issues the federal ban poses. Also, many members of congress have constituents who are employed by casinos, whose communities benefit from millions of dollars in tax revenue created by the gaming industry. There are polls that show almost 90% of voters say that gaming is a perfectly acceptable form of entertainment.

States should have the option to choose to allow sports betting as well as the best methods to regulate it. There are so many benefits. States would be in the driver’s seat, in a regulated market, to stem the flow of money that could be used as fuel for criminal activity and organizations. That alone should be enough.

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