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The various laws and regulations that affect US online casinos and American players are pretty complicated because they vary state-to-state. However, there are massive misconceptions about federal laws regarding online gambling here as well.
If you ask ten different people what online gambling laws are like in the United States, then chances are that you’re going to get ten completely different answers. The level of complication and misconception cannot be understated when it comes to this, so we want to clear things up as best we can so that players have a better idea of the reality of the situation instead of having to deal with rumors and hearsay.
Picking out where to play as a US player can be a bit tricky. There are a number of software providers that do not allow US players, and there have been a number of brands in the past that have tried to rip off American players by not processing cash outs, which leaves them with few options to get their money back. We want to help you to find the best and most trustworthy options out there so that you can enjoy the best US online casinos running today.
Down below, we’ll look at the main laws that players should be aware of. One of those is the UIGEA, which cut off a lot of payment options for players, and that’s still the main thing that players should pay attention to today: trustworthy and reliable deposit and withdrawal methods. In all of our recommendations, this is the very first thing that we look at because of how important it is.
Aside from that, bonuses and game selection are the next criteria that we suggest players focus on. This will dictate the value you get for your play and the options you have to pick out the titles that you’ll enjoy the most. Despite having a somewhat limited selection compared to international players, you can still find places to play that will give you a great value with bonuses and promotions while also giving you hundreds of games to choose from.
Finally, you’ll want to take a look at the software platform and whether or not you’re able to take your play with you on the go if you want to play via mobile. If you don’t care about mobile play, then you can skip this part, but it’ll be a critical point for many.
In the United States, the legal system is set up so that there are federal laws that govern the country, but there are also individual state laws that govern within the borders of those states. For online gambling, this is one of the sources of complication for people who would want to try out US online casinos. There are some states where it’s a felony to gamble online, there are some states where it’s completely and totally regulated by the state government, and there are plenty of states where the law is totally unclear.
Things vary a lot from state to state, but we want to focus primarily on two federal laws that cause the most confusion for the most players most of the time. These are the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (called the UIGEA for short) and the Interstate Wire Act of 1961. If you understand what these laws do and what they don’t do, then you’ll have a pretty good vantage point for understanding how gambling laws work in the country as a whole.
Back in the 1960s, there was a lot of organized crime activity in the United States, and one of their key sources of income was gambling via sports betting. The Wire Act of 1961 was passed to ban sports betting that was done via telephone lines, and this gave police an important tool that allowed them to go after organized crime rackets along these lines.
People in the 1960s could have never guessed that we would have computers, the Internet and the level of technology that we have today. Because of that, there’s no reason to think that they would have wanted this law to apply to anything over the Internet, but the wording of it left things up in the air.
For a long time, a number of people thought that it made all forms of gambling online illegal because of the way it’s written, and that would have included US-friendly online casinos. However, in 2011, the Department of Justice released a legal opinion clarifying that it only applied to sports betting but that it did apply to sports betting on the Internet.
Along these lines, it’s worth pointing out that this is the only form of online gambling made illegal on a federal level, but it’s such an outdated law that it could likely be repealed or otherwise changed at some point in the future. It’s a law that is the source of a lot of confusion because a lot of people still believe that it applies to all gambling on the Internet, but that’s simply not the case.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, known as the UIGEA for short, is an interesting one, and an entire book could be written about all of the politics that went into its passing. For our purposes, however, it’s important to just note what it does and does not do for US casino players online.
Point blank: It states in an early opening paragraph that it does not make any type of gambling legal or illegal. It does not change the legality of gambling online in any way, shape or form. Instead, it primarily does two things:
On the first point, it’s really, really important to note that withdrawals were protected under this law, so it was completely legal to process withdrawals. However, because big fines would be taken from banks that processed deposits for online gambling that would be illegal due to any existing state or federal laws, and because it would have costed them a lot of money to monitor these transactions, many banks just decided to block all US online casino and other types of gambling transactions completely to be safe. This stifled the industry for quite a while until other options were worked out for deposits and withdrawals.
With the second point, it’s notable that at the time, there were no licensing or regulatory bodies for online gambling set up in the United States at all on any level in any jurisdiction. This essentially, at the time anyway, made it illegal for any type of online casino (for example) to be operated from American soil.
The end result is that there was still no federal law that made it illegal to play in American online casinos.
Years after the UIGEA passed, some states started regulating different types of online gambling, and the most notable of those is New Jersey, though there are others. What these jurisdictions did was create their own licensing and regulatory jurisdictions that only apply within their state lines, which they are allowed to do. This made it so that companies could get licenses to operate within those borders under the rule of the UIGEA (see the second point above).
What you’ll find is that these jurisdictions also make it explicitly illegal to play at casinos that are not licensed within their borders as long as you are inside of those particular states. They are in a minority, but it’s something important to keep in mind because you’ll need to refer to your own state you’re playing from to see which sites you can play with if you’re in a regulated jurisdiction.
At the time of this writing, it’s a minority of states that have this type of setup, but more states are introducing legislation to try to regulate the online gambling industry to raise funds for their budgets, so the licensing options on a state-by-state basis are constantly in flux.
The federal laws and interplay between state and federal laws for online casino play is a bit complicated. As such, we’re going to break down exactly what you need to know in a point-by-point summary here:
These five points essentially sum up everything that American players need to know about the legalities of playing online.Menu