Is Online Gambling Legal In The USA?
The American online gambling industry is, by any measurement, thriving. With so much attention turned toward the industry, lawmakers, gamblers, and simple observers have all been faced with one main question - is online gambling legal? This question is tough to answer due to the multi-faceted nature of the industry. With so many small hooks and details, it is incredibly difficult to come to any standard answer. Lawyers, law makers, the press and players all have their own opinions, but we are here not to make opinions - we are here to present the facts and give you real insight as to the actual legality of online gambling in the United States.
This page is dedicated to informing you about all of the facts and figures surrounding gambling legally online in the United States. The short answer is that there are legal ways to do so. The long answer is why, and what are the reasons and laws in place that make it such a complex issue. And it's not as if the laws and bans in place are permanent right now either. In fact, the fight on both sides of this issue, in which there are legitimate arguments for both, continues on even in Washington today. What rules are set now, could look quite different in a year or two. Or perhaps even sooner. Right now though, all we can give you is the most up-to-date information we have.
The legality of online gambling is a topic that is somewhat diverged due to the multi-faceted nature of the industry. With three major forms of gambling - online sports betting, poker and casinos - there are different laws governing each. Sports betting is the form of gambling that has received the most negative attention, and this stems from the age old battle against organized crime. Online poker has taken a similar degree of heat, though significantly less than sports betting, due to its widespread popularity. That leaves legal online casinos in something of a grey area, as no law has directly targeted casinos, nor will you ever hear about them specifically by the press.
In terms of federal law, there are two major points of contention. There is the Wire Act of 1961 and the more recent Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, or the UIGEA. The courts have upheld the Wire Act in its relation to online gambling, and the UIGEA is a special case in terms of what has been made legal or illegal. Both laws have had some effect on the online gambling industry, though the extent of the damage is truly difficult to monitor.
The Wire Act may have been written prior to the true invention and commercialization of the Internet, but courts have deemed that it does apply to online sportsbooks as well due to the definition of a "wire communication facility." The text of the law says that these facilities are "any and all instrumentalities, personnel, and services (among other things, the receipt, forwarding, or delivery of communications) used or useful in the transmission of writings, signs, pictures, and sounds of all kinds by aid of wire, cable, or other like connection between the points of origin and reception of such transmission." Due to the nature of the law, the Internet has been said to follow the "aid of wire, cable or other like connection," excerpt of the text. This has effectively solidified the illegal status of operating sportsbooks that are based in the United States on the Internet.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act has caused some turmoil in the online gambling industry. The UIGEA was passed as part of the SAFE Port Act, a bill that had to do with securing the ports of the nation. The bill could not be stopped, so the UIGEA was passed into law. The biggest problem here in is that it did not actually illegalize online gambling. Rather it made processing payments related to online gambling illegal. This potential fall out of this bill caused many gambling companies to cease serving the United States market. Even some payment processors and e-wallets had ceased serving American gamblers. Using the UIGEA to bring money laundering charges against these gambling sites, the Department of Justice has brought several major gambling companies to their knees.
It has grown difficult to determine whether or not online gambling is legal due to these laws, but it is almost entirely safe to say that the player will not have to worry about being targeted by federal laws. These laws are in place to prevent a gambling business from operating, not to stop the player from gaming. Similar to the prohibition of alcohol, however, these businesses still operate and players are still able to participate in these games.
To further complicate the whole mess, the legal issue of online gambling has also come down to the individual states. The courts decided that each state could determine whether they would allow intrastate online gambling sites, effectively creating a structure for licensing to take place as it would a land based casino. More specifically, states would be allowed to establish online gambling sites that are fully licensed and regulated by the state's individual gaming control commission or board, and open these sites using geolocation services that would ensure that all players live within the borders of the state. This has not yet happened, but it is an option - an option that has not been taken advantage of.
On the state by state basis, there is some debate over whether or not existing state gambling laws spread out to cover online gambling. Since there are no gambling sites that are actually established and operating in the United States, it has become a very complicated question to answer. The states simply do not have the ability to govern a business that is established off shore, regardless of whether or not residents from said state are able to join. What the state can do, as in the case of Washington, Nevada and a few others, is impose criminal penalties against those who would join these sites.
In the end, it is a difficult question to answer. Is online gambling legal? On a federal level, online gambling is ostensibly legal for the player. Each state has the ability to criminalize online gambling, and a few already have - Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. On the other hand, Washington, D.C. has actually begun to launch their own gambling site, though some say that this will be short lived. In the end, it is entirely unlikely that you will ever be arrested for online gambling, but one thing is for certain - the industry is not regulated, and regulation is required for the games to be truly legal.
Supreme Court Rules 6-3 Against PASPA
PASPA, the most restrictive of the federal anti-gambling laws, has been officially struck down. On May 14, 2018, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 against PASPA, saying it violated the constitution. The ruling allows individual states to make their own laws about sports betting within their borders, and it seems clear that most states are going to fast-track this golden opportunity to fill their coffers and grow their governments into a new and lucrative industry. Whether or not your particular state rolls out sports betting on-site or online (or both) in a timely fashion remains to be seen, so until at least then, it’s best to stick with legal online sportsbooks like Bovada, SportsBetting, and other top providers for your Internet sports wagering needs.
Is Online Sports Betting Legal In The USA?
The legal issues surrounding online sports betting have been debated even more than those surrounding online poker, as there are additional gambling laws pertaining to sports gambling outside of any other sport. Obviously there is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA, 2006) that is making it difficult for the financial portion of online sports gambling to operate stateside, but there is also another law that has made it difficult for gambling sites to take bets on sports - the Wire Act of 1961. We are going to touch on these laws and how they affect you, as well as what sort of trouble exists when trying to bet on sports.
Sports gambling in the United States has had a rocky history. Due to organized crime (and protectionism by the government re its own state lotteries), the federal government had taken great steps to prohibit sports betting from taking place. The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 was the first step in banning sports betting in the United States, and this created a framework to prosecute those who illegally accepted wagers on sporting events over telecommunications across state lines. The wired, cabled existence of the Internet means that Internet is also covered by the Wire Act.
32 years later, congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). PASPA made it illegal for any state to authorize a sports betting business that had not been "grandfathered" in by having legalized a form of sports gambling prior to the act's creation. Only Nevada, Oregon, Montana and Delaware were grandfathered in, though only Nevada had an actual robust sports betting industry. Fortunately, PASPA has been eliminated by the US Supreme Court, and states are now free to regulate their own sports betting initiatives.
The UIGEA came on in 2006. More of a symbol against online gambling and a banking restriction, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act has long been a sign of the struggle for legalizing online gambling. In terms of sports betting, the UIGEA has had the same affect that it has had on other forms of gambling - it has complicated making payments into these sites. It has not actually caused any players any harm, as it is nothing more than a financial inconvenience.
If you haven't figured it out, it is not illegal to wager on sports over the Internet - not on a federal level at least. Federally speaking, you have as much of a chance of going to jail for placing a wager as you do getting hit by lightning. One U.S. Attorney, Catherine Hanaway, was once asked by a House representative, "[Is there] no prohibition against gambling on the Internet?" to which she replied "That's Correct." This was back in 2007, and as far as we know, no major law has been passed surrounding online sports gambling on a federal level, so this seems to remain true today. This does not, however, mean that sports betting is legal in every single state.
We would like to say that no one has ever been arrested for gambling online, but this is not the case. One man had been arrested due to the violation of a state law in North Dakota for placing a wager over $500 - a misdemeanor in the state of North Dakota. This arrest was not even because he gambled online, it was simply that he gambled - it is pure happenstance that he had gambled through the Internet. Even still, there are those states that have their own bans against online gambling, and we do not recommend attempting to gamble if you live within one of these states. Washington is the primary aggressor against online gambling, but Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin all have bans against online gambling in their code of laws. Provided you adhere to the laws of your state, there should be no legal complications when trying to bet on sports over the Internet - just don't try to establish your own sports gambling business, as this is an excellent way for you to get in trouble.
The fact of the matter is that there are several safe and legal methods in which players from the United States will be able to gamble safely and legally. We have myriad different legal sports betting sites listed on our site, along with comprehensive reviews for each. We list all of the most important facets of the sportsbook, so that you know what to look for going in before signing up for an account. Not to mention the fact that all of these sports sites we do mention have a great track record with bettors in the United States. You can rest assured that these are all legal options with fantastic records of trust.
See more about legal online sports betting here as well as a list of all online sports betting sites accepting USA players.