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Is online gambling legal in the U.S.?


There is no U.S. National law against Gaming online

There’s no U.S. federal law against gambling online. At the federal level, gambling on the internet is perfectly legal, because of the absence of a law against it. It is likely to run afoul of state law (notably in extremely conservative countries ), but there prosecution is very uncommon, and penalties are often minor.
U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway confessed in a House hearing that only placing wagers online doesn’t violate federal law. No American has ever been arrested, indicted, or prosecuted by the feds for gaming online, since there’s no law against it. If online gaming were illegal I would not be running his site for nineteen years, as an American citizen, residing in the U.S., using my actual name. And I sometimes gamble online, also, and I admit that openly, like I’m doing right now.
This might be confusing as the other outlets erroneously reported that Congress prohibited online gaming in 2006. Those reports are just erroneous. The 2006 law makes it illegal for banks to move betting money once the stakes are already prohibited (including from a state law), but does not ensure it is illegal for gamers to create bets. The law just does not make or expand any ban on gambling itself. In fact, the law states quite clearly,”No provision of this subchapter shall be construed as altering, limiting, or expanding any Federal or State legislation or Tribal-State compact prohibiting, allowing, or regulating gaming within the United States.” You can see for yourself by checking out the entire text of the law.
Despite the fact that you don’t violate any federal laws from placing bets online, it is not legal to conduct a gaming operation (i.e., to accept bets), except in those few countries where it is explicitly legal and the operator is licensed. Therefore don’t think you can start an internet casino or operate Facebook raffles.
And yes, the FBI posted a scary warning online in which they claimed that putting bets online is against the law. In short, they lied, and the DoJ eventually reversed that place anyway. (more on that)
States where online gambling is explicitly legal
Not many countries have specific laws against online gambling, although many have laws against gambling in general, which apply both to online and offline gambling. A small handful of states have explicitly legalized online gaming, as long as you perform at one of the handful of approved online casinos. In some states, only certain kinds of gaming may be legal (e.g., poker). The states which have legalized at least some Kind of online gambling are:
Delaware became the first nation to legalize online gambling, in June 2012, and the next to launch (Nov. 26, 2013). (USA Today, Delaware Online,
Nevada became the first nation to legalize online gambling (well, poker ), on Feb. 21, 2013 (CBS) and launching on April 30. (LVRJ)
New Jersey became the third state to legalize online gambling (poker + casino), signed into law in February 2013, and launching on Nov. 25th. (NJ Poker Online)
Note that Bovada won’t accept players from such countries, nor will they accept players from Maryland or New York.
The District of Colmbia became the first jurisdiction to legalize online gambling in the U.S., in April 2011. However, the measure was repealed in February 2012 until it became active. (NY Times)
State offenses of gambling are usually misdemeanors
Even when states do not permit players to gamble, the penalties are almost always light. The only states where easy gaming is a felony would be the two Washingtons: Washington, DC, and Washington state. (origin ) In many nations simple gaming is merely a misdemeanor, and in Arkansas and Colorado it’s a simple petty crime, like a traffic ticket. (source)
States with an online gaming prohibition
Even countries that prohibit gambling in general usually don’t have a particular ban on online gambling. If it’s against the law to bet in your nation, that applies online and offline, even if the law does not mention online. But a couple of states do specifically outlaw online gaming. Those countries are:
Nevada (go figure)
South Dakota
Source: Gambling Law U.S.
Participants convicted of breaking State laws I know of only two instances where a participant ran afoul of state laws (in extremely conservative states), both of whom were charged under their state’s general anti-gambling laws, no special anti-online-gambling law:
North Dakota. Jeffrey Trauman paid a $500 fine on what was probably over $100,000 in online sports bet winnings, in 2003. (Betting & the Law)
Oklahoma. Online sports bettor Roland Benavides was charged in 2011 and at 2012 received a deferred sentence (meaning that if he does not violate the conditions of his probation, he’ll probably face no jail time). (Information OK)
Kentucky seized domain names A Kentucky judge agreed to allow Kentucky seize 141 gambling-related domain names, on the spurious grounds that a domain name comprised a”gambling device” under state law. But even if it were clear that gambling domains broken Kentucky law, the seizure was nevertheless ridiculous, due to that logic any country could grab any domain anywhere in the world if the site happened to violate its local law. In any event, as FlushDraw said,”Just a small number of US-based registrars complied, and the seizures themselves were rendered somewhat moot when most of the domains jumped to non-US registrar services and ceased using”.com” domains.”
The Kentucky Court of Appeals promptly chased the seizure actions, but the State appealed. I could not find any upgrades between 2014-2018 (EFF 2008, KY appealed in 2009, 2014 judgment )
Taking bets is prohibited It’s always been contrary to federal law to take sports bets over the Internet (to not make them). In other words, you can’t establish a site and take sports bets out of the general public. The legislation which prohibits that is called the Wire Act. For many years the feds said that the Wire Act applied to accepting casino and poker bets too. In 2011 they reversed themselves and said the Wire Act applied only to athletics. (Forbes) Subsequently in 2019 they reversed themselves and returned to the former position that the Wire Act actually applies to accepting poker and casino stakes too. (source) Though again, putting bets stays perfectly legal under federal law. The challenge is finding a respectable place to perform with. Because of the legal problems, there aren’t many operators serving the entire U.S., and many of those which do are kind of sketchy. That’s why I advertise only Bovada on this website, since they’re the best one for U.S. players.
States can now offer sports betting In May 2018, the Supreme Court overturned a law which illegal sports betting in most countries but Nevada. This allows individual states to legalize sports gambling if they opt to do so. On the other hand, the court’s ruling doesn’t talk to the Wire Act, so online sportsbooks still violate federal law (for the operator, not the player). (Forbes)

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