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Is Gambling Online Legal in the US?


Just like any other thing in the world, gambling has its pros and cons. Gambling can be a hobby, bonding with friends or even as a chance of making a living. However, gambling can also become addictive or used for money laundering techniques.  In a more evolving digital world, gambling has evolved too and has a big share of the internet. In fact, a research done in 2013 by Dr Gainsbury SM found that the global market of online gambling reached 6.1 Billion Euros that year.

As simple it’s definition and understanding of its rise is, the question about the legality of online gambling in the US still falls into the grey area. The federal law doesn’t prohibit any citizens in the US from online gambling or companies to be opened but some states are liable to the state law against online gambling.

The Current Situation

Federal and State Law

In 2006, The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was forced by Congress with the interest of credit card companies and banks. Although it restricts operators and players from playing and betting on US-based websites, the act doesn’t prohibit operators from opening new frontiers for US players. However, it gives the opportunity to the states of the US to create their own laws against the matter of online gambling.


The emphasis of the UIGEA is on restricting websites from accepting wire transfers which don’t go through a due diligence process, which is made available online with the act, and should report to the authorities if illegal transactions are made. This law has been said however, players can still gamble on offshore online gambling website without any restrictions, as different rules apply on different online gambling website soils.

Legalized online gambling states

After the force of the UIGEA by the Congress, amendments and resolutions have been introduced and reached in different US states in order to legalize or restrict online gaming in their soil. Currently, online gambling is legal in Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey with Pennsylvania looking to join them later in 2018.

Recent changes in sports betting

Why were sports betting illegal in the first place?

During 1992 the Congress passed, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), which prohibited states from authorizing sports betting. This act was created to reduce the amount of match-fixing which was a sports problem, especially in horse racing which is a vital sport for American culture.

2018, the historic year of sports betting in the US

However, on 14th May 2018, history has been done as together with New Jersey, who fought for a long time to legalize gambling on sports, about 12 other states joined them to move for authorization from the federal congress. This meant that the federal Congress couldn’t prohibit states to legalize sports betting. This decision came in view after the American Gaming Association quoted that about 150 US Billion Dollars are being bet illegally on sports every year.  This decision was hailed by many important people in the sports industry in the US with the commissioner of the NBA suggesting that legalizing sports betting means that it will be monitored and regulated appropriately.

Sports betting on the rise

To summarize since the Congress allowed states to legalize gambling on sports, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey legalized sports betting while 6 other states are in advanced stages. 15 other states are moving forward to follow suit but still in its early stages with the other 29 states no movement yet.

The USA Oriented Websites

History and Popularity

History suggests that the first online gambling site originated from South Africa in 1994. In 1997, Jay Cohen was found guilty for violating the US Wire Act of 1961 with the website as sportsbook gambling was illegal. US-based gambling websites mainly consist of poker, sports and casinos betting.

The best of the crop

According to the Bovada review from BitPokerStar, Bovada is the number one online Casino in the US after a long history in the field of online gambling.  One may argue that this can be due to the fact that they accept bitcoin deposits as bitcoin is growing steadily in the market. The curious case of Bovada comes from the fact that Bodog that was being licensed from the same owner of Bovada, Mohawk Morris Gaming Group. Bodog is another online gambling website which didn’t want to be associated anymore with Bovada as they are now growing in legal markets prompting Bovada to open a new brand with the name of in 2011.


Way Forward

As things stand, online gambling is an ever-growing industry and doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. Legalizing fully online gambling has its side effects as it would open a huge market for operators but legalizing it would also mean that the government can impose taxes and regulate it while introducing fines and prison sentences if the law is broken for illegal activities.

Long live online gambling?

With the US Congress leaving the states to decide about the legalization of online gambling and sports betting, you can bet that that online gambling is only going to grow in the future.

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