Globally, online gambling revenues enjoyed rapid growth over the past 20 years or more. Back in 1997, these revenues were about $200 million a year. But the estimations for 2019 indicate more than $1 billion, and the growth limitations are still unclear. Taking these numbers into account, we should assume that legal issues are dragging well behind the factual state of the situation. However, the very nature of gambling can be the reason why the related legal agenda is still somewhat ambiguous, of which fact the law on online gambling is one of the best, or rather worst, examples.
Many people are still confused about US online gambling laws. Here is the list of the most frequently asked questions:
1. Is Online Gambling Legal in the USA?
Does it seem to be just a simple ‘Yes/No’ question? In fact, it is not. There are millions of Americans who want to know the answer to it, many of them are still a bit confused as there are too many innumerable details to wade through. In many such details, the answer is neither here nor there. But you can be sure about a couple of things, and the most important one is that online gambling is not forbidden by US online gambling law. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 never prohibited online gambling as such.
One possible source of confusion was the infamous ‘warning’ FBI had posted on their website in 2007, stating that gambling online was illegal. Although this statement was subsequently negated and retorted many times, it left a nasty taste in the mouth. The bottom line is that no American has ever been prosecuted for gambling online. The feds did not pull in anyone. Guess why? Just because there is no US gambling law enabling them doing so.
2. Are Online Casinos Prohibited on the Territory of the US?
That is the case, with a few exceptions listed in p. 3. However, there is no federal law against online gambling in general. When you place a wager online, you do not violate the federal law unless you place it on an American site — the latter is still prohibited except as stated in p.3. Just make sure the site you are going to gamble with is located outside the US.
So far, the Americans prefer to play in the online casinos having offshore jurisdiction. These casinos are located where online gambling is fully legalized, and they accept the residents of the US. But gambling operations may not be run on the territory of the US with the exception of a few states, where it is legalized, regulated, limited and licensed — see p.3.
There are many states with explicit anti-gambling legislation adopted. Most of these laws had been passed a long time ago, even before the Internet was invented, so no ‘Internet-based gambling’ was mentioned. Only a few states have updated their anti-gambling laws to explicitly ban gambling online. But all these laws are meant to work against operators and not against clients of the gambling industry.
3. What Kinds of Home-Based Online Gambling Are Allowed in the US And Where?
Online gambling legal in the US, in terms of the country-based sites, is operational in the following states:
New Jersey. While physically located in NJ, with no residency requirements, you can play at any of its regulated online casinos and poker sites and enter WSOP tournaments. NJ online sports betting is also accessible since late 2018.
Nevada. Here you can play at legal US poker sites. If you are in Nevada, you can play online poker as regulated by the Nevada Gaming Commission and Nevada Gaming Control Board. Since in 2018 WSOP announced that players pools of Nevada and New Jersey are combined, you can now play poker against New Jersey players. The related money transfers are allowed.
Pennsylvania. This state has officially declared the legalization of online gambling poker and/or online casinos. A law permitting interactive gaming was adopted in 2017.
Delaware. Legal online poker and casino games are available. Delaware was the first state outside Nevada to permit betting on sports since June 2018.
4. Is It Legal to Deposit to Online Casino?
US online gambling law states that “no person or entity may knowingly accept any funds associated with a person participating in illegal online gambling.” This statement is also a source of certain confusion. Does it mean that players cannot transfer their money to offshore online casinos? No, it does not. UIGEA implies no penalization of any individual for doing so. There are many ways and legal methods used to effect and to receive the payments.
5. Are All Kinds of Bets Online Allowed to the US Citizens?
Many different bets are allowed, but not all. Remember that if you are the resident of the US, the offshore online casino you have selected would not take your sports bets — they would accept only casino and poker wagers. Neither they would take your bets communicated to them over the phone.
6. Are Online Gambling Ads Allowed?
If you choose to run an offshore online casino, remember that according to US online gambling laws no American publisher or Internet resource would accept your online gambling advertising. Everybody remembers that in 2007 Google, Microsoft and Yahoo paid a fine for accepting online gambling ads.
Is online gambling legal in the USA? There have been many debates over its regulation and legalization. And the dust has not settled yet. Online gambling still has to get fully regulated in the US. But regulation often means limitations, restrictions and prohibitions. As there have been some attempts to declare online gambling illegal, it is still not excluded that one day such attempts would produce more results. Perhaps, anti-gambling legislation, quite outdated in many states, will be updated, but hardly towards more bans. The tendencies look quite the opposite.
Indeed, it is still very hard to imagine how one might prohibit online gambling. To do so, one must first prohibit online as such. Therefore, US citizens who love to gamble online can still do what they have been doing before. And even more, taking into account the recent trends, we should expect more efforts to legalize online gambling, and more moves made in this direction.