Where You Can Legally Gamble Online in the United States

Where to gamble online legally in the United States

Much like many other countries across the world, gambling has enjoyed something of a rollercoaster existence in the United States.

Legislative and regulatory issues have placed numerous hurdles in front of the gambling industry, but recent changes to the laws have transformed the landscape.

Read on as we take a closer look at gambling in the US, including its history, where you can gamble legally today and other important issues.

The history of gambling in the United States

Gambling appeared in many forms during early US history, with attitudes to the practice varying wildly between different communities.

Horse racing and lotteries were amongst the most popular forms of gambling at that time, but restrictive legislation eventually made it difficult for people to place wagers.

This forced much of the industry to operate covertly, and by the early part of the 20th-century gambling was widely linked to criminality.

The legalisation of horse racing betting by state governments in the 1920s was seen as a positive move, while the brakes were let off other forms of gambling such as bingo.

However, one of the most notable landmarks came in 1931 when Nevada legalised gambling to bring economic relief to the state following the Great Depression.

By the 1960s, Las Vegas was firmly established as the centre of gambling in the US, with investors eager to grab themselves a piece of the pie.

Southern Maryland and Atlantic City also jumped on the bandwagon, while the growth of Indian casinos expanded the land-based offering in the US.

The legislative picture remained cloudy across the country, but the creation of the internet eventually forced lawmakers into a rethink.

The Supreme Court’s decision in 2018 to strike down a federal law banning sports betting sparked a wave of excitement across the gambling industry.

Many US bettors had been forced to use offshore betting firms or illegal bookmakers to place their sports wagers, but the ruling has allowed states to cash in.

Leading gambling brands are now falling over themselves to expand their operations in the US, although there are still some legislative hurdles to overcome.

A few states have welcomed the new laws with open arms, but many others are still debating how to structure gambling within their boundaries.

US states where at least one form of gambling has been legalized

While the US has made gambling legal under federal law, there are still some restrictions in place relating to online and interstate gambling.

As things stand, there are 48 states that allow some form of gambling if state-run lotteries are included. Hawaii and Utah are the odd ones out. The current state-of-play is as follows:

CharitablePari-mutuelLotteriesCommercialTribalRacetrackOnlineSports betting
American SamoaYesNoNoNoN/ANoNoNo
Washington, D.C.YesNoYesNoN/ANoNoYes
New HampshireYesYesYesNoN/ANoYesYes
New JerseyYesYesYesYesN/AYesYesYes
New MexicoYesYesYesNoYesYesNoYes
New YorkYesYesYesYesYesYesNoYes
North CarolinaYesNoYesNoYesNoNoYes
North DakotaYesYesYesNoYesYesNoNo
Northern Mariana IslandsYesNoYesYesN/ANoNoNo
Puerto RicoYesYesYesYesN/AYesNoYes
Rhode IslandYesYesYesYesNoYesYesYes
South CarolinaNoNoYesNoNoNoNoNo
South DakotaYesYesYesYesYesNoNoNo
United States Virgin IslandsYesYesYesYesN/AYesNoNo
West VirginiaYesYesYesYesN/AYesYesYes

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia have been at the forefront of the explosion of online gambling in the US in recent times.

Experts have tipped the market to continue growing, with more states on track to embrace the new legislative landscape over the coming months.

The revised laws allow for better regulation, making it more difficult for illegal websites to operate in a particular jurisdiction.

US gambling FAQs

Is it legal for United States residents to play at online casinos?

In simple terms, it is not illegal to gamble online in the US as there is no federal law banning the practice throughout the country.

However, the rules can differ between states, particularly regarding gambling across state lines and betting on sports.

Generally speaking, the US government is happy for states to implement their own rules about gambling within their boundaries.

For instance, New Jersey allows casino games, betting on horse races on and off the track and sports betting, but the offering in many other states is not as comprehensive.

Some states explicitly ban all forms of online gambling, although prosecutions for anyone partaking in the practice are virtually non-existent.

Checking state-level laws is undoubtedly best way to find out what you can and can’t do in the US.

Who regulates gambling in the US?

Federal legislation creates a framework of gambling restrictions while giving states the freedom to formulate their own regulatory structure.

For example, in New Jersey the Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) is the investigative arm of the casino regulatory system responsible for enforcing the Casino Control Act in the state.

Using a team of accountants, attorneys and investigators, the DGE oversees every aspect of online gambling within its jurisdiction.

The DHE issues licenses, conducts reviews and audits, produces reports and investigates alleged wrongdoing to ensure that gambling is conducted in a safe environment.

It is a similar story in Pennsylvania, with the Gaming Control Board responsible for implementing a regulatory framework in the state.

This model is replicated in other areas and is likely to be adopted by other states as they take advantage of the new legislation in the US.

Can I try games for free first?

Most reputable gambling operators provide players with the opportunity to play games for free before depositing real money.

Whether you like slots, blackjack, roulette, poker or something else, this is a great way to familiarise yourself with a particular site.

You can generally play free games without downloading any software, and they are usually available via desktop, laptop, tablet and mobile.

The games you play will be the same as the real money versions, although you will be unable to withdraw any winnings you may accrue.

However, some sites offer no deposit bonuses and free spins, which give you the opportunity to make a profit from playing games for free.

There may be terms and conditions attached to any winnings, so make sure you read the small print before playing.

How do I choose the best casino?

There are a wide range of factors to consider when choosing an online casino, but making sure it is fully licensed and regulated is top of the list.

This will give you peace of mind that you are dealing with a trustworthy operator who will pay you out if you are lucky enough to bag some winnings.

Always make sure that the site you visit uses the latest encryption technology to keep your personal information away from unscrupulous individuals.

The best casino operators also offer generous sign-up bonuses for new customers and ongoing promotional deals for people who play regularly on their sites.

Your chosen casino should offer a wide range of games from the top developers, including variations of blackjack, roulette, poker, slots, video games and more.

It also worth checking that the site offers a good choice of banking options and has a professional customer service team to answer any queries you may have.

Is it safe to play at casinos?

If you choose a casino that is fully licensed and regulated by the appropriate authorities, it should be perfectly safe to play the games there.

Licensed casinos are required to undergo regular audits by a third party, which helps to ensure that they are operating in a legal manner.

This includes testing the random number generator (RNG), providing you with peace of mind that the games are being run fairly.

A site which uses up-to-date encryption technology generally guarantees that it is completely safe for players to visit.

The use of software from respected companies such as Microgaming and Playtech is also a sign that a casino site is trustworthy.

Before parting with real money, spend time reading online reviews to ensure that the casinos you use are safe and secure.