Playing games at the casino and gambling is quite popular among Americans. This popularity can be known from the latest quote of Geoff Freeman, the President and CEO of the American Gaming Association-‘Last year, before a single state authorized legal online gaming, Americans spent nearly $3 billion.’ This estimation is of only the online gaming and gambling. Otherwise the statistics were much higher as $92 billion worth of revenue in 2012 just from gambling games.
Many of us 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” are generally used for an activity that may violate and play foul applicable as to 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 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.
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.
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.
Three significant federal laws apply to the practice of gambling in general and online gambling in particular.
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 good 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.
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.
When we speak of America’s State laws we have to look into 50 states, two territories and the District of Columbia. Also some states defer to county or even municipal laws when it comes to gaming regulations.
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 and the answers to the questions that mostly occur in our minds when we think of gambling laws in US.
If you want to know the basic answer to the question, ‘Is online gambling legal in the US’, the answer is ‘Yes’. But it does get a little more complicated when you dig a little deeper.
So for now only three states have legal, licensed and regulated online gambling: Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.
Some other locations may follow suit. Like California with 39 million residents, the state is ruled out for the immediate future. Some states ban almost all forms of gambling outright – in Hawaii, for example, a home poker game where only players can make money is the only legal form of gambling.
To participate in legalized US online gambling, you must be physically present in one of three 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.
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.
The licensed operators in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey 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.
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.
You can play in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey states.
Unless you’re physically located inside the three 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:
Yes It’s your responsibility to find out if playing online gambling games is legal or not where you live. Again, some 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, Nevada or New Jersey.
There are little incentives (such as taking help from Responsible Gambling Council, Poker Players Alliance, and National Center for Responsible Gaming) for enthusiasts to be active in this regard. Kindly note, we always supports a concept like Responsible Gaming – just to make sure a fair and safe happening for all the concerned body.
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, 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), online banking transfers, PayNearMe and cash that can be deposited and withdrawn at a land casino’s cashier cage.
Hawaii, Tennessee, Vermont and Utah are among the most restrictive States when it comes to enjoying gambling games.
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.
Sports betting is a legally sensitive subject in the United States because large sports organizations oppose any online gambling or sports betting outside of land-based casinos. The recently updated Wire Act specifically forbade Internet sports betting transactions, and sports fans could find themselves left behind if and when online poker is regulated in the US.
At a federal level at least, the USA has yet to distinguish between poker and casino games when clarifying their stance on the online gambling legal situation. Delaware authorized all legal online gambling recently, but other states could well follow. That means online gambling legal sites offering roulette, blackjack and slots could appear in the US.
Now you see that the gaming regulations in America are changing. States like Maine, Delaware, and Iowa are moving to increase access to commercial and tribal gaming.
Atlantic City wants legal sports betting to compete with new casinos in Pennsylvania. The state of Maryland is close to legalizing online gambling and regulating online bets. At the same time, Nevada has moved to restrict access to daily fantasy sports sites while states like Washington and Louisiana have doubled down on their anti-Internet gambling positions.
Finally it is always advisable to check what is legal and what is not. It is always important to look at the individual state laws on various games as laws can change.