Online Gambling Laws In The U.S. - Is Online Gambling Illegal?

If you are someone who likes to bet online, or is thinking about placing wagers online living in the United States, there are a few things that you need to be aware of. This is both for the protection of yourself against illegal online betting sites, and also that you know the options that you have to bet online. We break down betting online into three major categories. They are sports betting, poker, and online casinos. There are completely legal ways to gamble online living in the United States, but at the same time there are laws in the country that prevent the operation of these sites, and also inhibit some of the ways in which a U.S. player can bet online.

Online Gambling Laws To Know

By the time you are done reading these pages, there are three laws that we want you to remember. Repeat these. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, the Wire Act, and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. Below, we get into these by explaining what they are, who they affect, and why they were put into place.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006

The UIGEA affect all three different types of online gambling we mentioned in the introduction. It is the only one of the three laws to do so. As such, it has the potential to affect a variety of online gambling sites, and actually has been the cause for some of the biggest betting sites in the United States to be shut down.

So what is it? An attachment to the Safe Port Act in 2006, the UIGEA prohibits businesses from accepting payments for the purpose of placing a wager through the use of the Internet. Actually, the Act passed on the final day prior to Congress adjourning and without a single person in the Senate reading the finalized piece of legislation. As such, the funding of any known gambling entity was effectively made illegal under this piece of legislation. And while this definitely affects the users of online gambling sites in that they have trouble making deposits, it's only illegal for banks to process financial transfers with payment processors that are known for gambling transactions.

The Wire Act Of 1961

The Wire Act actually dates all the way back the Kennedy Administration, with its aim to combat against organized crime and the way in which it was being funded. Interstate sports betting was perceived to be a big problem, so the way in which bets and wagers were made came under fire by the government. The Wire Act made it illegal to use any form of "wire" communication to place or accept a bet which meant you couldn't phone a wager in to any bookie, legal or not, across state lines.

As gambling grew and the advent of online gambling came about, prosecutors expanded this law to cover more than sports wagering to cover all forms. Think, there was no way possible to play a casino game for real money from another state back in 1961 so the only way to apply this law to all of online gambling was to take liberties with it's meaning. However, a recent ruling in December of 2011 by the Department of Justice made it so that only sports betting was under the umbrella of these terms which is how the law was originally intended.

Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act

The PASPA was formulated and passed back in 1992, and was the first explicit stance against all sports betting in the United States at the federal level. PASPA set the guidelines for what constituted sports betting, and established states where it would be legal. However, states which had a 10-year history with legally licensed casinos were able to apply for immunity up to one year after the law went into effect (January, 1993).

Today, there continue to be states, like New Jersey, which are fighting against the laws of sports betting. It seems to be only a matter of time before this law is repealed thus opening up the possibility for a sportsbook in all states that have regulated land-based casinos just as you would find in Vegas. For now though, all land-based legal sports betting takes place in Nevada and Delaware although Montana and Oregon are also included in the group but decide not to allow it within the state.

Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection & Enforcement Act of 2013

This is a proposed law by New York Representative Peter King that would provide for regulation of Internet gambling in the United States. This is unlike the state-by-state developments like we've been seeing recently, but this still must make it through Congress. Other attempts have been made at similar bills failed on the floor with the most recent campaign being Barney Frank's attempt in 2007. Stay tunes for updates on the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection & Enforcement Act (that's a mouthful) here at

State Laws And Gambling Ages

While we discussed the three main federal laws, it's also important to note that there are many state gambling laws, which vary depending on where you reside. This includes most importantly the legal age to gamble. Legal gambling ages will be different from each state, typically either 21 or 18. But it's important to know the legal age to gamble online in your state. This is because most online gambling sites require players to be at least 18. However, if your state says you have to be 21, you must abide by that.

Other recent developments at the state level, specifically in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, have actually made online gambling legal in those states when done at state-regulated gambling websites. Legislation was passed within these states' legislature to allow for the regulation of online gambling sites back in early 2013.

In Nevada, Governor Brian Sandoval signed their state's bill that legalizes forms of online gaming which can be regulated by the state. Officially known as Assembly Bill 114, it allows Nevada to legalize games such as online poker and casino gaming without having to comply with the federal legislation. This bill also stipulates that interstate agreements can take place between Nevada and those states that are looking at going down a similar road. As it stands, only those living in Nevada, or visiting Nevada are able to play.

In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie signed legislation that allows for a 10-year window of regulated web-based gambling from the 12 casinos operating in Atlantic City should they choose to apply for licensing. Initially, this is thought to apply just to casino games but we could eventually see this branch out into online poker, bingo games and perhaps one day, online sports wagering.

As of the middle of 2013, Nevada is the only state to have any form of regulated online gambling in-play. Selection is still very limited but you can keep checking back here, as well as our individual pages about the gambling laws in Nevada and New Jersey if you want to stay aprised of the situation.

Latest Federal Online Gambling News + Archive

Online Casino Laws

The UIGEA is the main law affecting the operation of online casinos legal for USA players, just like it does poker and all it does is make depositing a pain in the butt. Like the other two forms of online gambling there is nothing in place to physically limit players in the U.S. from visiting online casinos and playing casino games for real money. Technically, the U.S. would be in violation of several International free trade laws if they actually prevented residents from going to these offshore casinos.

Below we have several of the finest online casinos that are not subject to U.S. gambling laws because they are not located in the States. Most of these are in Central America or overseas. Still, they are reputable and have established a trusted relationship with players living in the United States. We recommend these because we know you will likely have no issues making electronic deposits and if that problem does arise, these casinos have ways of getting around it; they've been around the block.

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Online Sports Betting Laws

When it comes to legal sports betting online, all three laws that we have mentioned on this page relate to it. Sports Betting bats 3 for 3 so to speak with the laws, at 1.000 in baseball terminology, which is not the case for the other two forms of online gambling. However, that being the case, there are still completely legal methods in which USA players can bet sports online. This can be done through the use of online sportsbooks that do not operate in the U.S. Since the operation of online sportsbooks is not legal, but the individual bettor can still place a wager on the laws, it's legal!

There are a ton of great and high quality online sportsbooks out there which specifically appeal to players in the United States, by offering them all of the betting lines they could want for sports and leagues. We've highlighted several of those books below in our chart of the best bookmakers for USA players.

Legal U.S. Bookmakers
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Bovada Sportsbook - 46 States $250 Max - 50% Match Yes Go To Bovada
BetOnline Sportsbook - 50 States $1,000 Max - 50% Match Yes Go To BetOnline - 50 States $1,000 Max - 50% Match Yes Go To Sportsbetting

Online Poker Laws

The most famous instance of the action of the UIGEA and the Federal Wire Act probably came when the biggest poker sites in the country were shut down. Names like Poker Stars, Absolute Poker, Full Tilt and more were seized by the government for committing Federal Wire Fraud in that they ended up basically being a big online ponzi scheme. In other words, they were using player's funds to finance their own lifestyles and make payouts to players with the money that other players were depositing. It was only a matter of time before the system collapsed and then no one could have gotten their money back. In reality, the government stepped in to prevent one of the biggest wire fraud cases of all time from going down. It's true that player's had their money seized for a while, but most were able to re-coup their funds or at least a portion of them once everything had been sorted out, personal/corporate assets had been seized and sold, etc...

While that is some scary stuff, that kind of thing doesn't happen anymore as the governments that allow these sites to operate and the providers know that it's not going to fly. Furthermore, since all that went down, the Federal Wire Act has been deemed to no longer have any bearing on online poker whatsoever. As defined by the United States Department of Justice, the Wire Act of 1961 is only meant to combat interstate sports betting, nothing more, nothing less.

With that said, the only piece of legislation in place affecting poker is the UIGEA which only makes getting a deposit into a poker room a little tougher. The only thing it really did was ensure that you pay a nominal fee on top of your deposit because of the hoops that poker rooms go through in order to circumvent it.

Some other recent headway for poker enthusiasts includes a recent ruling in a small court in New York, where the judge ruled that poker was a game of skill and not a game of chance. It's an important definition in the battle over the legalization of poker in the U.S. Essentially it could be deemed as a sport with a grand prize or a prize pool at the end which is no different than any other type of paid-professional sports tournament.

If talk of Black Friday didn't leave you with soiled pants and you still want to play, you can take solice in that there are several reputable poker rooms that welcome USA players. Unlike their predecessors, these operators are aware of the pitfalls and are backed by the biggest names in the industry. Most welcome players from all 50 states but be sure to check with our chart below which provides all the details.

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Bovada Poker - 46 States $1,000 Max - 100% Match 20,000+ Go To Bovada
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Gambling Legally Online, The Overall Picture

What we want you to take away from this page most importantly is the fact that as a USA player, you can legally play at a variety of online gambling sites where accepted. What is not legal is the operation of a site in the U.S. So as long as you are not running a gambling site, you are going to be just fine as long as you stick with reputable sites.

We also want to mention that we are not lawyers, nor experts in the law. We have researched this topic thoroughly, but if you feel compelled to do so, please consult your local government or authority on any issue you have read about and have a question over.