Here you can learn about legal online casinos & gambling in the United States. I have also included a brief history of gambling in the US, along with benefits for players from the US and a useful FAQ section. While it is currently legal to gamble in a small number of states, the restrictive laws in those states mean that only certain forms of online gambling are legal. It’s currently possible to gamble in the real money mode at state-licensed online casinos in Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
- USA Listing of States With Legal Online Gambling
- Gambling History in United States
- United States Gambling & Online Gambling Laws
- Online Casino Benefits to Players from United States
- FAQ Useful to Players from United States
- Online Gambling Highlights in United States
- Problem Gambling Help in United States
This table provides a listing of all states in the USA offering legal online gambling and the types of online gambling that can be engaged in by American players.
Gambling History in United States
Where did it all begin?
Gambling in the United States has a long and colorful history, dating back to the first settlers when the colonies were said to have used lotteries as a way to help generate revenue. Later on, during the 18th and 19th centuries, the money from such gambling activities was used to develop the educational system by improving a number of secondary schools and universities. Although the general attitude towards gambling varied somewhat from state to state, gambling continued to spread as the nation grew and even more forms of gambling became more widely available at a growing number of privately owned businesses.
In the mid-19th century, there was fierce criticism by the opponents of gambling about how gambling in the US exploited the poor and destroyed lives. They also criticized the fact that the gambling dens were controlled by organized crime syndicates. Money was lining the pockets of underworld mob figures, but state authorities weren’t receiving a dime. In the areas where there was a more laid-back attitude towards gambling, people naturally flocked to these places, which became hotbeds for gambling.
A major turning point occurred in the state of Nevada in 1929 at the time of the Wall Street stock market crash and during the construction of the Hoover Dam. State authorities legalized gambling to generate much needed income. However, for many, the inhospitable and dry landscape of Nevada meant that very few people were interested in developing in the state. This all changed in the mid to late 1940s when gaming laws became even more restrictive. Las Vegas, Nevada quickly became a more desirable place to set up shop, but once again the gambling businesses were controlled by shady underworld figures.
The gambling industry rapidly developed during the 1950s and ’60s, and numerous legal gambling venues started popping up. In 1977, New Jersey made gambling legal in Atlantic City as a direct response to the success of the exploding gambling industry in Nevada, and both places became major tourist attractions for Americans. People from around the world also flocked to these two gambling Meccas. Lotteries and certain types of pari-mutuel betting eventually became legalized in other areas of the country, and in the 1990s, even riverboat casinos were legalized in certain areas such as Louisiana, Illinois.
What is the Federal Wire Act and why was it introduced?
Criminals had been taking advantage of interstate gambling for many years by accepting bets over the telephone, and so, in 1961, a new piece of legislation more commonly known as the Federal Wire Act was introduced. This new legislation prohibited certain forms of betting businesses from operating. It also outlawed interstate wagering on sports, but it was not clear on other forms of gambling. Any operators breaking the law under the Wire Act could now end up with a hefty fine and jail time (a minimum of two years).
If we fast forward a couple of decades, to the dawn of the internet, we find that there was a renewed focus on the Wire Act, which was misinterpreted by state authorities to include placing bets over the web. In 2018, there was a reinterpretation of the legislation by the Department of Justice, which said the Wire Act applies to all forms of interstate gambling, and not just sports betting. However, in June 2019, the DOJ also said that it will be waiting until at least 2020 to enforce its reinterpretation of the Wire Act beyond sports betting.
What is the UIEGA
After the Wire Act, the next major piece of legislation to come into effect in the US was the UIEGA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act). This new legislation was first passed in 2006, and although it did not specifically prohibit online gambling, it did, however, make it illegal for financial transactions to be made between online gambling sites and financial institutions such as banks and e-wallet companies (e.g., Skrill, NETELLER and PayPal). There are a number of criticisms regarding the UIEGA, and although most US citizens believe that the legislation made playing at online casinos illegal, there are many people who do not interpret the law in that way.
It was also at around this time when online gaming operators moved outside of US jurisdiction and set up shop in places such as Antigua & Barbuda, Curacao (the former Netherlands Antilles), Panama and Costa Rica, where licenses were handed out to pretty much any operator with enough cash to purchase one. However, there were very few strict regulations in place in some of these jurisdictions, and players were taking a risk playing at these sites. US players could also still legally access online casinos that were licensed in Europe, Kahnawake and most other major jurisdictions.
United States Gambling & Online Gambling Laws
Today, the main authorized types of gambling categories, as broken down by the American Gaming Association, are advance-deposit wagering, card rooms (both public and private), commercial casinos, charitable games & bingo, lotteries, legal bookmaking, pari-mutuel wagering, and tribal casinos. At the time of writing, the US states that offer LEGAL ONLINE CASINO GAMBLING activities are Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The states that offer LEGAL ONLINE POKER activities are the same three states, and LEGAL ONLINE SPORTSBOOKS are permitted in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and also in Indiana, Oregon, Rhode Island and West Virginia.
Delaware was the first state to legalize online gambling in 2012, with the market eventually opening up the following year. New Jersey passed its online gambling laws in 2013, which included online casino gambling, and Pennsylvania legalized online casinos in 2017. West Virginia legalized online casinos in March 2019, but it’s unlikely that there will be any online casinos available to anyone living in WV until 2020/21. The markets are still very under-developed in these states where online gambling is legal, and there are very few operators that have obtained an online gambling license to offer their services to the residents of those states. In other words, US citizens based in Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania only have access to a handful of state-licensed online casinos.
There are only two states in the US that do not legally permit ANY forms of gambling: Hawaii and Utah. The same two states, along with Alabama, Alaska, Mississippi and Nevada, do NOT allow betting on the lottery, and a total of 22 US states currently allow lottery gambling and pari-mutuel betting on horse racings, but they do NOT have any land-based casinos. Gambling is legal under US federal law, although it’s down to each state to regulate its own gambling industry and legislation. Strangely, the only two states where casino-style gambling activities are legally permitted throughout the state are Louisiana and Nevada.
Illegal gambling in the United States is defined in several different ways, but it means betting on an outcome that is at least partially based on luck and is done so to win things such as cash. Illegal gambling can be described as any form of gambling that is also specifically prohibited by that particular state’s law. In some states, illegal gambling is only punishable by a monetary fine, but in other states, it is possible to end up in jail for a small amount of time (e.g., weeks and months). Even today, players in most states continue to gamble in the real money mode at offshore regulated online casinos that don’t fall under US jurisdiction.
Although many of these casinos are now secure to play at, some of them are known as rogue casinos, and they are controlled by ruthless operators who were only out there to scam hard-working US citizens out of their cash. Players who risk gambling at foreign-controlled online casinos that operate from outside of US borders in ‘bottom-tier’ licensing jurisdictions (such as Panama and Costa Rica) have little or no legal backing to fall back on should an issue arrive at one of these casinos, such as players not receiving their winnings or their account being frozen without warning.
Also, geo-location software is used in US states today where online casino gambling is illegal to stop players from using a VPN to play in a state where online casino gambling is legal. While gambling in various forms (both online and offline gambling) has survived many attempts at being banned and heavily restricted, the future still looks bright for gamblers, although the legal landscape is still rather murky. Until state authorities can figure out how to properly tax online gambling and develop the necessary legal framework, it looks as though players will just have to make do with what is currently available.
Today, a growing number of states that have under-developed online gambling legal frameworks in place are looking to develop and regulate their very own online gambling industry by replicating what’s happening in neighboring states such as Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. No doubt there are lots more changes to come with regards to online gambling laws at both federal and state levels.
Online Casino Benefits to Players from United States
Some of the main online casino benefits for players from the United States are discussed here. Traveling to Las Vegas or Atlantic City is out of reach for millions of Americans, and so the next best thing is an online casino. Online casinos are always free to sign up to, and you never have to leave your home to visit one. Even if you are out and about today, perhaps on a train or bus, or on your lunch break at work, you can still visit your favorite online casino from your smartphone or tablet device. Online casinos are basically more convenient and much easier to visit than land-based casinos.
That’s not all though. Online casinos are free to sign up to, and you never have to worry about getting dressed in your fancy clothes to play at an online casino. You will receive a guaranteed new player welcome bonus when you sign up to an online casino, and the only thing that’s usually required to claim your initial sign-up bonus is a minimum deposit of around $20. You wouldn’t get a new player welcome bonus down at your local land-based casino, and you wouldn’t be able to take advantage of a VIP program or Comp Point program at a land-based casino like you can at many of today’s best US online casinos (unless you’re a high roller who visits the casino on a regular basis, in which case you can occasionally find loyalty programs at land-based casinos).
As a frequent real cash player at an online casino, you can benefit from regular cashback bonuses (weekly or monthly cashback on your net losses up to a certain amount, depending on your current loyalty level). Today’s best US online casino loyalty rewards programs also offer several other attractive perks and benefits such as the ability to climb through different levels of loyalty, with fantastic new benefits at each new level.
Depending on which US online casino you are playing at will determine exactly which benefits you will have access to, but at most online casinos today, frequent real cash players can count on birthday bonuses (either a cash bonus, matching deposit bonus or free spins bonus on your birthday), and anniversary bonuses (either a cash bonus, matching deposit bonus or free spins bonus on the day that you signed up to the casino with each new year that passes).
You can also benefit from a higher comp point redemption rate as you climb through the different levels of loyalty, with access to a VIP accounts manager, exclusive promotional offers that are tailored to the individual’s needs, direct offers, special comp point days where you can earn more points per dollar wagered, and access to exclusive online slot tournaments. Some online casinos also let frequent real money players try out new games before they are released. You’ll have access to 24-hour, toll-free telephone support, plus email support and live chat support are also usually available for US players.
Finally, some of the other benefits include:
Having access to hundreds of games from some of the world’s best online casino software providers. These games have higher payout rates than the games at any land-based casino.
Access to live dealer casino games give US players the ultimate online gambling experience.
You have the ability to play on the games in the real money mode AND practice in the free play demo mode (apart from live dealer games, which are generally only available in the real money mode), plus the games have wide betting ranges that cater to everyone from low rollers to high rollers.
Play in your own local currency of US dollars and choose from a growing range of popular US online payment options that enable you to deposit and withdraw.
Choose between playing either instantly in your web browser or from within a perfectly secure download client, and don’t forget, you can play on desktop or mobile, all from within a secure environment. Online casinos are protected by the latest SSL encryption technology (the same ‘stuff’ that banks and other major financial institutions use to keep your details and funds in safe hands at all times).
FAQ Useful to Players from United States
How do I choose the best US online casino?
Some of the things that you should consider before signing up to an online casino include finding out where it’s licensed, who owns the casino, and does it have good reviews. You may also want to look for an online casino with low wagering requirements on the bonuses, and one that has a good loyalty rewards/VIP program, professionally trained player support that’s available 24 hours per day, and one that has games from a renowned online casino software provider.
Am I breaking the law by playing in the real money mode at an online casino?
No. You are not breaking the law when playing at an online casino that’s licensed offshore, or when playing at a casino that’s licensed by the governing authorities in your home state. Don’t forget, there is currently no law that stops you from gambling at foreign-owned online casinos that operate from outside of US borders.
How old do I have to be to gamble in the real money mode in the US?
California, Florida, Georgie, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, and Washington have established 18+ as their legal minimum gambling age for state-regulated casino gaming. However, several lawmakers in America have brought up that the legal age limit for online lottery games is 18 and yet for online casino games it’s 21.
In which states in the US are online casinos legal?
Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It’s also legal in West Virginia, but there aren’t currently any state-licensed online casinos operating in WV.
How can I trust the results/outcomes of the games at online casinos?
When playing at a fully licensed online casino that’s powered by a reputable online casino software, you can count on the games being fair. The software is frequently tested for fairness by reputable third party online casino testing agencies, some of which include Technical Systems Testing (TST), iTech Labs, and eCOGRA (eCommerce Online Gaming Regulation and Assurance). The outcomes are determined by RNGs (Random Number Generators), which use mathematical algorithms that produce no discernible pattern.
You will find that most US online casinos today have an average return to player payout percentage rate (RTP%) of around 93.00% to 99.00%. Therefore, at an online casino with an average 96.00% payout rate over a four week period, it means that the games will have paid out a total of $960,000.00 in winnings if the players wagered a total of $1,000,000.00 at the casino over that period, and that the remaining $40,000.00 was kept by the casino operator as revenue.
How can I deposit and withdraw at an online casino?
When logged in to your favourite online casino account, simply go to the cashier section and choose from any of the available methods (e.g., credit & debit cards, prepaid cards, MST gift cards, bank transfers, cryptocurrencies, e-wallets/web wallets, checks and money courier).
What happens if I encounter a problem at an online casino, such as not receiving my withdrawal or encountering a technical issue with the games?
The best thing to do would be to contact the player support at the casino, and include as many details as possible when contacting them, preferably with screenshots.
Are online casino bonuses worth claiming?
Yes, especially the casino bonuses with low wagering requirements.
Online Gambling Highlights in United States
- You will get a guaranteed new player welcome bonus when you sign up to an online casino, generally in the form of either a matching deposit bonus where your deposit will be matched by a certain percentage (50%, 100% or 200%), or a free spins bonus where you can use free spins to play in the real money mode on any of the selected slots. Some US online casinos today are currently offering new players a generous NO DEPOSIT BONUS instead of a free spins bonus or matching deposit bonus (e.g., $5, $10 or $20 for free, upon signup, without the need to deposit)
- Apart from the attractive casino bonuses for new players, fully registered members who have already claimed their welcome bonus can also then look forward to additional casino bonuses, rewarding VIP programs and lucrative loyalty comp point schemes where points collected can be exchanged for cold hard cash
- You can play on hundreds of popular online casino games from some of the world’s best online casino software providers either on desktop or mobile, and you can play either instantly in your web browser or from within a perfectly secure casino download client. Some of the most notable providers that supply games to US online casinos today are Realtime Gaming (RTG), NetEnt, IGT Interactive, WMS Gaming, Rival Gaming and Betsoft Gaming, to name just a few
- You can play in the real money mode or you can practice on the games in the free play demo mode, and the good news is that you can enjoy playing on hundreds of games with wide betting ranges that pretty much cater to everyone from low rollers to high rollers (e.g. $0.01 per spin up to $500.00 or more per spin on most slots, and from $1.00 to $500.00 or more per hand/round of blackjack/roulette)
- US online casinos today are protected by the latest SSL encryption technology, and you will find that the systems, software and day-to-day operations are monitored by reputable online casino testing agencies and trusted third party auditors
- In addition to being able to play on hundreds of games at online casinos, US players can also now gamble in the real money mode at a growing number of fully licensed sports betting sites. You can wager on hundreds of different sports, and there are generally numerous betting markets with unbeatable odds per sporting event. You can play various types of poker (such as Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Razz 5 Card Stud, etc.) at numerous licensed online poker rooms and you can also gamble at bingo sites (70, 80 and 90 ball bingo) and play in the lottery
- The simple registration form at US online gambling websites today is easy to fill out, and usually take less than a couple of minutes to complete, which means that you can be playing on your favorite games in no time at all
- The best US online casinos today are controlled by trustworthy operators with proven track records
- A growing number of perfectly secure online payment options are currently available for US players, and they allow for rapid and secure deposits and withdrawals
- Online casinos have much higher payout rates compared to land-based casinos
- 24 hour, professionally trained player support is provided, and you can generally get in touch with the friendly support agents via toll-free telephone, email and live chat
Problem Gambling Help in United States
Unfortunately for some, gambling can become a problem, and it doesn’t always affect just the gambler. It can also have an impact on friends, family members, and even work colleagues. The first thing you need to do is try and identify whether you, a friend or family member or just someone that you care about has a gambling problem by answering a series of relevant questions. Answering yes to seven or more of the questions below pretty much indicates that there is a problem. Then you need to try and find the best way to seek help, guidance and support for whomever it is that has developed a gambling problem.
Here are 15 important questions that should take just a couple of minutes to read through and try to answer as honestly as possible.
- Have you ever gambled until all of your money has gone, with absolutely no self-control to stop before you’ve lost your entire bankroll?
- Do you still feel the need to gamble, even after you’ve had a big win or a big loss?
- Has gambling ever affected your family, colleagues or close friends?
- Do you ever gamble as a way to make a living?
- Have you ever borrowed money from anyone, or taken out a loan just so that you can gamble?
- Have you ever gambled to try and make money so that you can pay off a debt?
- Have you ever lost any sleep due to gambling?
- Have you ever committed a crime just so that you can get money to gamble?
- Have you ever been late for college, university, work, or any other meeting because you were gambling?
- Have you ever celebrated anything by gambling?
- Have you ever considered harming yourself after gambling, or worse, considered committing suicide?
- Have you ever tried to chase your losses within minutes or hours of losing?
- Have you ever gambled to try and escape certain things such as worry, grief or loneliness?
- Has your reputation ever been affected by gambling?
Has gambling affected your home life and made you careless in terms of looking after your family, paying the bills, buying the groceries, etc.)
If you are seeking support for problem gambling, either for you or anyone else, some of the most notable non-profit organizations that I can recommend turning to if you live in the US are the National Council for Problem Gambling (NCPG), the Substance Abuse and Mental Services Administration (SAMSHA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA). They all provide the necessary support for problem gamblers, and some of the useful tools that you can take advantage of are things like free online counseling sessions (at certain venues up and down the country) and toll-free telephone support with professionally trained counselors.
You can also participate in group chats and forums, and their official websites tend to have useful questionnaires, articles, guides, and other information and services regarding problem gambling. US problem gamblers can also look to the wider international community for additional support, and two of the major organizations that are worth visiting are GamCare and Gamble Aware.