This guide is meant to provide players with useful tips on how to find the best online casino in the USA. I also present you with an overview of the legal status of various forms of online gambling.
With a special focus on casinos and online casinos, this blogpost aims to supplement my online gambling – USA guide.
Online casinos in the USA
The gambling regulations of the USA are amongst the most hazy and complicated in the world. While many forms of land based gambling are legal and regulated by the authorities in many states, online gambling and online casinos in the USA are subject to strict prohibitions and limitations.
The year 2006 was a landmark for online casinos in the USA, as that was the year the famous (or notorious) UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act)* was enacted, which – although was ambiguously phrased – basically outlawed all online gambling and online casinos in the USA.
Before the enactment of the UIGEA, online casinos in the USA – as in many other countries – occupied sort of a grey area, meaning, that regulations at the time didn’t address international online casinos directly, so they were basically operating in a legal vacuum. This meant gold for players, as operators were not deterred from the market by an overly complicated legal climate and US residents were not restricted from accessing any such sites. However, local companies were still restricted from operating an online casino in the USA under the Wire Act of 1961, which effectively outlawed all interstate electronic communications in relation to gambling or wagering.
However, after the UIGEA, things changed. The legislation was flawed in its phrasing, as it didn’t define unlawful online gambling nor did it expressly ban it. It only outlawed financial transactions related to illegal online gambling sites. What it did, though, was that it created an atmosphere of uncertainty for both online casinos in the USA and their players. Through the subsequent years after the enactment of the law, many foreign operators decided to opt out of the US market due to the overly complicated legal environment. Currently it is reported, that US players are restricted from accessing 72% of the world online gambling and online casino platforms**.
Until recently, no online casino in the USA could legally obtain a licence from the authorities and other forms of online gambling were outlawed as well. However, recently two states and one overseas territory legalised online casinos after the landmark events of December 2011, when the DOJ reversed its formal stance on intrastate online gambling in a memo***.
That being said, it is important to note, that although foreign online casinos in the USA are considered illegal in the vast majority of states, there are no laws in place that would criminalise gambling on foreign platforms on the level of the individual players. This means, that although the legal options for playing casino games online in the USA are extremely limited for players, they are not in any way penalised or prosecuted for frequenting unlicensed foreign online casinos.
**Source: Online Gambling Access Around The World
***Source: 2011 DOJ memo
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Online casinos accepting players form the USA
Both of the casinos below are perfectly safe and trustworthy. The reason they’re able to accept players from the USA is that they run on BetOnSoft online casino software. BetOnSoft allows online casinos that use its software to allow US players to register – as opposed to Microgaming and many other major casino software providers.
Land-based casino gambling in the USA
Commercial gambling and casinos in the USA, in more or less their current form were first legalised in Nevada in 1931. The state was seeking new streams of revenue, after the famous crash of the New York stock exchange in 1929, and as it already had a blossoming, albeit illegal gambling scene, legalisation seemed like the right move to make. The first investors of the Las Vegas casino scene were mostly criminal figures, such as Busby Siegel (he opened, amongst others, the famous Flamingo hotel-casino, which still operates today)*.
In the later decades, many other states and cities followed. Thats when casinos in the USA were legalised in Atlantic City, Southern Maryland. In 1979, the first commercial indian gambling venue was opened by the Seminole tribe, which started a trend that spread to many other reservations during the following decades.
Currently 18 states operate casinos in the USA legally. Massachusetts was the most recent one to legalise commercial casinos. Penn National Gaming opened the state’s single slots-parlor, Plainridge Park Casino to the public on June 24, 2015**. New York has also passed a referendum in 2013 on the legalisation of casino gambling. 57% of the voters were in support of the establishment of commercial casinos in the state*. However, no such venue was built to date.
Other forms of gambling in the USA
There were no legal lotteries in the USA between 1894 and 1964. However, during the ’60s, lotteries also started to emerge as a form of supplement tax revenue for states. The first state to legalise lotteries was New Hampshire in 1964 and New York followed in 1967. However, the first modern lottery with considerable commercial success in the USA was the New Jersey lottery, established in 1971. Pari mutuel horse betting was also gradually legalised in most states during the twentieth century.
By now, most US states have some kind of legal gambling. There are currently 43 states that operate a state lottery and also 43 with legal pari mutuel wagering. Native american casinos (indian casinos) are operated in 28 states, “racinos” (venues that offer casino games as well as horse race betting games) in 13, and 17 states have legal casinos in the USA*. Legal sports books are only allowed to operate in Delaware and Nevada, since the enactment of PASAPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) in 1992.
Legal online gambling and online casinos in the USA
In the second half of the ’90s, online gambling and online casinos started to gain more and more popularity globally. In the first decade of their operation the majority of governments didn’t have specific regulations pertaining the online gambling, but as it gained more and more ground over the years, many countries felt, that they need to pass laws to control this new phenomena.
In the case of the USA, the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) of 2006 was the regulation which established government control over the online gambling industry. The UIGEA created an uncertain legal environment for foreign operators, as a result of which in subsequent years many online gambling operators and online casinos opted out of the USA market. The legislation was taken even more seriously after the events of April 15, 2011, when major poker platforms, such as Poker Stars and Full Tilt were indicted with charges under the UIGEA*.
Another key legal statute pertaining to online gambling in the USA is the Wire Act of 1961. This act was introduced by then Attorney General Robert Kennedy in his attempt to fight organised crime by cutting one of the main revenue stream of crime syndicates, which at the time consisted largely of interstate horse race betting and sports betting profits. Therefore the Wire Act prohibited all forms of interstate wire communications related to sports betting.
However, the DOJs (Department of Justice) stance was, until 2011 that the Wire Act in fact covers all interstate gambling done through any means of telecommunications, not just wagers on sporting events. Therefore it effectively bans all online gambling activities in the country, as the DOJ considered the internet an “inherently interstate medium”**.
In short, the UIGEA banned foreign operators and the Wire Act (or more the DOJs interpretation of it) made domestic operators illegal. However, it all changed after a memo was issued by the DOJ in December 2011, reversing their previous interpretation of the Act, and stating that non-sports betting internet gambling falls outside its scope of the Wire Act. This gave a green light to states to legalise online gambling – albeit only on an intrastate level.
To date, two states, Delaware and New Jersey and one overseas territory, the US Virgin Islands legalised online casinos in the USA. Nevada only permitted poker sites to operate between its borders.
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Online bingo sites – USA (coming soon)
Online poker sites – USA (coming soon)
Online sportsbooks sites – USA (coming soon)
Online lottery, keno sites and scratch cards – USA (coming soon)
Bitcoin casinos – USA (coming soon)
Simon’s USA Online Casino and Casino Guide is part of Simon’s Online Casino Guide.
Last Updated: 2015. 11. 10.