Online gambling differs from one country to the other. UK gamblers have different considerations from US gamblers. The legalities are different for one thing, but also, the gambling activities which are most popular are also different from one country to the other.
The purpose of this post is to share some United States specific tips for gamblers who are just getting started online. Some of the information here might be helpful even if you're an old hand at gambling online, too.
I have an obligation to advise you to follow the law to the best of your ability. That's true of gambling as well as any other activity.
At the same time, I think most people reading this probably drive over the speed limit without too much concern.
I have a similar attitude about gambling. Your thoughts might differ.
But here are a couple of reasons I think most people don't have much to stress about when it comes to online gambling from the United States-at least legally speaking.
The federal law about gambling clearly prohibits offering online gambling services to United States residents. In other words, don't open a casino. If you're a small-time bookie, don't use a website to take bets. Most of my readers aren't going to fit into either of those categories.
Federal law is less specific about participating in online gambling. The consensus opinion on the Internet is that-for the most part-playing a hand of blackjack for real money on the Internet is not a crime.
Of course, state laws vary, too, and you also need to consider them. But most states that make it illegal to gamble online treat gambling online as a misdemeanor. In other words, it's similar to getting a traffic ticket.
Finally, the risk involved is minimal. To the best of my knowledge, only 2 gamblers have faced any legal repercussions for placing bets online. Both of those gamblers were involved in sports betting.
To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever been arrested or prosecuted for playing blackjack or poker on the Internet.
So yeah-obey the law. But considering risk is only natural, and playing poker, slots, or blackjack on the Internet is about as low-risk as it gets.
Of more concern to most gamblers is the reputation and integrity of the site where you're playing. Gambling is fun until it's time to cash out your winnings and the casino refuses to send you your money.
Most new online gamblers worry that the casino's games aren't random. Or that the casino has rigged the games so that they never win.
This has happened, but it's unusual.
What's more common is the casino that delays your cashout requests repeatedly in the hopes that you'll eventually use the money in your account to gamble some more.
Since the casino has the edge, the longer you play, the more likely you are to lose.
One of the best ways to investigate the reputations of the online gambling sites you're considering is to look at a reputable information portal like this one for recommendations. Operators of sites like this are eager for your return traffic, so they vet online casinos thoroughly.
This site, in particular, only recommends the best of the best.
This sounds so much like just a general tip about gambling that you might think it's trite.
But gambling with money you can't afford to lose is even more important in the United States online gambling environment.
Since online gambling sites are mostly offshore and sometimes become the targets of legal action from the government, your money is at risk in multiple ways.
You have a good chance of losing your money at these games of chance because the house has an edge over your.
But you also need to take into account the potential loss if you're unable to cash out because of a legal situation related to the U.S. government.
This happened to multiple players from Full Tilt Poker who had thousands of dollars in their account there. Once the DOJ shut the site down, players waited months to get their funds.
In the cases of Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet, some players never got their funds.
This makes it doubly important that you only gamble with your "fun money".
This is another general tip that becomes more important for United States players.
That's because the likelihood of the government getting involved varies based on the type of gambling.
Here's an example:
Poker became so popular online that a huge percentage of United States citizens were playing. One thing you can't afford to do with the U.S. government is brag about violating the law.
Online poker became so popular that these sites were unable to fly under the radar. Many of them weren't even trying. PokerStars, for example, spent millions advertising during WPT and WSOP events on television.
Poker was a higher-risk activity than blackjack, for example.
Sports betting is another higher-risk activity. The Wire Act specifically targets sports betting as an activity.
Gambling on slot machines or craps on the Internet are less clearly a violation of the law. In fact, depending on who's doing the analysis, it might be safe to say that those activities aren't covered by the Wire Act.
The DOJ itself has interpreted the law in both ways depending on when you were asking their opinion.
You also need to weigh the amount of enjoyment you get from various activities against the risk involved.
You might love sports betting so much that you're okay with the heightened risk.
That's for you to determine.
Just because a casino game is played online doesn't mean that the odds are different. The random number generators that power these animated video game versions of blackjack, craps, roulette, slots, and video poker duplicate the odds you'd find at a casino.
Blackjack and video poker still offer the best odds in the casino.
Craps is still a pretty good bet if you stick with the lowest-house-edge options.
Roulette still has a 5.26% edge if you play the American version, but you can cut that to 2.70% by sticking with the single zero version. Almost all online casinos offer both options.
Slot machines are still the worst bet in any casino. But slots on the Internet almost always offer better payout percentages than you'll find in traditional land-based casinos.
You might think that getting free money just for making your first deposit is too good to be true. There's more truth than poetry to that.
Sure, you can deposit $1000 and get a $2000 signup bonus.
But you can't cash that amount out immediately.
The casino requires you to wager that first. In fact, they require you to wager those amounts multiple times before cashing out.
When you wager $3000 enough to have $45,000 in wagers (or whatever the requirement is), you're exposing yourself to the house edge often enough that the expected value is firmly on the casino's side.
Signup bonuses are great.
But they're not a path to easy riches.
Bitcoin is growing more popular as a means of depositing and withdrawing funds from online casinos.
And it's a great option for doing so.
But you do need to consider that Bitcoin is a volatile form of currency.
A single Bitcoin might be worth $1000 today, $750 tomorrow, and $600 next week.
Or it might be worth $750 today, $1000 tomorrow, and $1200 next week.
This means that you're gambling on the casino games and then gambling again that the value of the currency you're using will be roughly the same or better than it was when you bought the Bitcoin.
That extra volatility is fine as long you're aware of it and ready for it.
Gambling online from the United States offers several things to think about versus gambling online from another country. The tips on this page only scratch the surface of what you should consider.
My best recommendation is to spend some time on this site researching. Education and knowledge are power-especially when you're a gambler from the United States.
In fact, in at least three states, you can now gamble online legally. And I didn't even cover that.