Is online gambling legal in the U.S.?

There’s no U.S. National law against Gaming online

There’s no U.S. federal law against gambling online. At the federal level, gambling on the internet is perfectly legal, because of the absence of a law against it. It’s likely to run afoul of state law (notably in extremely conservative countries ), but there prosecution is extremely uncommon, and penalties are often slight.
U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway confessed in a House hearing that only placing wagers online does not violate federal law. No American has ever been arrested, indicted, or prosecuted by the feds for gaming online, because there’s no law against it. If online gambling were illegal I wouldn’t be running his website for nineteen decades, as an American citizen, residing in the U.S., using my real name. And I occasionally gamble online, too, and I admit that openly, like I am doing right now.
This may be confusing because other outlets erroneously noted that Congress prohibited online gaming in 2006. These reports are just wrong. The 2006 law makes it illegal for banks to move betting money when the bets are already prohibited (including from a state law), but doesn’t ensure it is illegal for players to make bets. The law just does not make or extend any ban on gambling itself. In reality, the legislation states quite clearly,”No provision of this subchapter shall be construed as altering, limiting, or extending any Federal or State legislation or Tribal-State compact banning, permitting, or regulating gambling within the USA.” You can see for yourself by checking out the full text of the law.
While you don’t violate any federal laws from placing bets online, it is not legal to run a gaming operation (i.e., to accept bets), but in those few states where it’s explicitly legal and the operator is accredited. So don’t think you can start an internet casino or run Facebook raffles.
And yes, the FBI published a frightening warning online in which they claimed that putting bets online is against the law. In short, they lied, and the DoJ eventually reversed that place anyway. (more on that)
States where online gambling is explicitly legal
Very few countries have specific laws against online gambling, though many have laws against gambling generally, which apply both to online and offline gambling. A small handful of states have explicitly legalized online gambling, provided that you play at one of the handful of approved online casinos. In some countries, only certain kinds of gaming may be lawful (e.g., poker). The countries which have legalized some form of online gambling are:
Delaware became the first nation to legalize online gaming, in June 2012, and the next to launch (Nov. 26, 2013). (USA Today, Delaware Online, Casino.org)
Nevada became the first nation to legalize online gambling (nicely, poker at least), on Feb. 21, 2013 (CBS) and launch on April 30. (LVRJ)
New Jersey became the third state to legalize online gambling (poker casino), signed into law in February 2013, and launching on Nov. 25th. (NJ Poker Online)
Note that Bovada will not accept players from such states, nor will they accept players from Maryland or New York.
The District of Colmbia became the first jurisdiction to legalize online gambling in the U.S., in April 2011. However, the measure was repealed in February 2012 before it became active. (NY Times)
State violations of gaming are often misdemeanors
Even if countries don’t permit players to gamble, the penalties are always mild. The only nations where simple gambling is a felony would be the two Washingtons: Washington, DC, and Washington state. (origin ) In most states simple gaming is just a misdemeanor, and in Arkansas and Colorado it’s a simple petty crime, like a traffic ticket. (source)
States with an Internet gaming prohibition
Even states that prohibit gambling in general usually do not have a particular ban on online gaming. If it’s against the law to bet on your nation, that applies online and offline, even if the law doesn’t mention online. However, a few states do specifically outlaw online gambling. Those countries are:
Nevada (go figure)
South Dakota
Resource: Gambling Law U.S.
Players convicted of violating State laws I know of only two cases where a player ran afoul of state laws (in extremely conservative nations ), both of whom were charged under their nation’s general anti-gambling laws, no special anti-online-gambling law:
North Dakota. Jeffrey Trauman paid a $500 fine on which was probably over $100,000 in online sports wager winnings, in 2003. (Betting & the Law)
Oklahoma. Online sports bettor Roland Benavides was charged in 2011 and at 2012 received a deferred sentence (which means that if he doesn’t violate the conditions of his probation, he’ll likely face no jail time). (News OK)
Kentucky seized domains A Kentucky judge consented to let Kentucky capture 141 gambling-related domain names, on the spurious grounds that a domain name comprised a”gambling device” under state law. But even if it were clear that gambling domains broken Kentucky law, the seizure was still absurd, due to that logic any country could seize any domain anywhere in the world if the website happened to violate its regional law. In any event, as FlushDraw said,”Just a small number of US-based registrars complied, and the seizures themselves were left somewhat moot when nearly all of the affected domains jumped to non-US registrar services and ceased using”.com” domains.”
The Kentucky Court of Appeals promptly chased the seizure action, but the State appealed. I couldn’t find any upgrades involving 2014-2018 (EFF 2008, KY appealed in 2009, 2014 ruling)
Taking bets is illegal It’s always been contrary to national law to carry sports bets over the Internet (not to make them). That is, you can’t establish a website and take sports bets out of the public. The law which prohibits that is called the Wire Act. For years the feds said that the Wire Act applied to taking casino and poker bets too. Then in 2011 they reversed themselves and said the Wire Act applied only to sports. (Forbes) Then in 2019 they reversed themselves again and returned to the previous position that the Wire Act actually applies to accepting casino and poker bets as well. (source) Though again, putting bets stays perfectly legal under federal law. The challenge would be finding a respectable place to play. Because of the legal problems, there aren’t many operators serving the entire U.S., and many of those which are kind of sketchy. That’s why I promote only Bovada on this website, since they’re the best one for U.S. players.
States can currently offer sports gambling In May 2018, the Supreme Court overturned a law that prohibited sports betting in all countries but Nevada. This permits individual states to legalize sports betting should they choose to do so. On the other hand, the court’s ruling does not talk to the Wire Act, so online sportsbooks still violate federal law (for the operator, not the player). (Forbes)

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