Online Gambling Laws in the US

There is a lot of misinformation about the legal issues regarding online gambling in the United States. Overall, current US legislature appears to allow for online gambling, but prohibits the actual ownership of online casinos in the country. However, the ambiguous nature of current gambling laws has led to many false conclusions, and this section is intended to clear up a lot of the misconceptions out there. We would like to remind you that we are not lawyers and the information on this site is in no way legal advice.

Legal Precedent

The controversy surrounding online gambling sites accepting players from the United States can be traced back to the Federal Wire Act of 1961, prohibiting the operation of certain betting businesses. However, this legislation was passed to help stop organized crime from trafficking, not to prevent law-abiding citizens from playing a hand of automated blackjack in their pajamas.

Recent rulings have favored the legality of gambling online at casino sites. A US Court of Appeals ruled that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting, not other types of online gambling. In September 2011, the US Department of Justice released a formal legal opinion that, "interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a 'sporting event or contest' fall outside the reach of the Wire Act."

Ensuing Confusion

This begs the question: why the current confusion over the legality of USA gambling sites? A lot of it can be credited to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, or UIGEA. This law prohibited US banks from accepting transactions to online gambling sites, which in turn led several major gaming sites to suspend real-money gambling for Americans, a move that proved to be business suicide. Other major websites announced their intent to continue serving US players, as the UIGEA only addressed banking issues and failed to define "unlawful internet gambling."

In a country where people are "innocent until proven guilty," unclear doctrine tends to be ruled in favor of the party who did not write it, in this case the online gambling sites. The ambiguous nature of the phrase "unlawful internet gambling" makes it difficult to serve as a basis of guilt. Furthermore, games such as online poker have been argued to be games of skill rather than games of chance, further excluding them from them realm of unlawful internet gambling.

Much of this controversy was actually solved in favor of online gambling in the US. In 2007, the UIGEA was modified to allow the licensing of online gambling facilities. Three years later, in July 2010, a bill was passed to legalize and regulate online poker and some other forms of online gambling. Later that year, New Jersey set precedent by being the first to expressly legalize certain forms of online gambling, allowing for betting on poker games, online casino games and slots. Today, Congress is working on future US laws that will have an exciting impact on internet gambling.

What It All Means

Online gambling does not seem to fall under the umbrella of the Wire Act and there appears to be no legal issue with members of the US using gambling websites. Most of the focus is placed on the gambling sites themselves and does not extend to the consumer (you). Even the UIGEA is directed toward financial institutions, meaning the banks and online gambling websites. In other words, the exchange of money through methods specified in the legislature is illegal, not online gambling itself.

In reality, the most significant consequence of online gambling law lies in US players making deposits. The legislation banning banks from accepting transactions to online gambling sites is still in place, though not every bank complies with these regulations. Most deposits will go through to online gambling websites without a problem, but they are occasionally blocked.

Players who have problems making a deposit at any USA gambling site or casino can either try a different deposit method or simply contact customer support. The online gambling sites we recommend accept multiple methods for making deposits and do their best to ensure a smooth and easy transaction. Withdrawal options also vary, but typically take place through paper checks or wire transfers.