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Is online gambling legal in the U.S.?

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

There is no U.S. federal law against gaming online. At the national level, gambling online is perfectly legal, because of the lack of a law against it. It is possible to run afoul of state law (notably in extremely conservative states), however 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 doesn’t violate federal law. No American has ever been arrested, indicted, or prosecuted by the feds for gaming online, since there’s no law against it. If online gambling were illegal I would not be running his site for nineteen decades, as an American citizen, living in the U.S., with my real name. And I sometimes gamble online, also, and I admit that publicly, like I’m doing right now.
This may be confusing as the other outlets erroneously reported that Congress prohibited online gambling in 2006. Those reports are simply wrong. The 2006 law makes it illegal for banks to move betting money when the stakes are already prohibited (like from a state law), but doesn’t make it illegal for gamers to make bets. The legislation just does not create or extend any ban on gambling itself. In reality, the law says quite clearly,”No provision of this subchapter shall be construed as altering, limiting, or expanding any Federal or State law or Tribal-State compact prohibiting, permitting, or regulating gaming within the USA.” You can see for yourself by checking out the full text of this law.
While you do not break any national laws from placing bets online, it’s not legal to run a gaming operation (i.e., to accept bets), except in those few countries where it’s explicitly legal and the operator is licensed. So don’t believe that you can begin an online casino or run Facebook raffles.
And yes, the FBI published a scary warning online in which they claimed that putting bets online is against law. In short, they lied, and the DoJ finally reversed that place anyway. (more on that)
States where online gambling is explicitly legal
Not many states have specific laws against online gambling, though many have laws against gaming generally, which apply equally to offline and online gaming. A little handful of countries have legalized online gaming, provided that you perform 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 at least some Kind of online gambling are:
Delaware became the first state to legalize online gambling, in June 2012, and the next to start (Nov. 26, 2013). (USA Today, Delaware Online, Casino.org)
Nevada became the first nation to legalize online gambling (well, poker ), on Feb. 21, 2013 (CBS) and launch on April 30. (LVRJ)
New Jersey became the third country to legalize online gaming (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 gaming in the U.S., in April 2011. However, the measure was repealed in February 2012 until it ever became active. (NY Times)
State violations of gaming are usually misdemeanors
Even when countries do not permit players to gamble, the penalties are always mild. The only nations where simple gaming is a felony would be the two Washingtons: Washington, DC, and Washington state. (source) In most states easy gaming is just a misdemeanor, and in Arkansas and Colorado it’s a simple petty offense, 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 gambling. When it’s against the law to gamble on your nation, that applies offline and online, even if the law doesn’t mention online. However, a few countries do specifically outlaw online gaming. Those countries are:
Nevada (go figure)
South Dakota
Resource: Gambling Law U.S.
Players convicted of breaking State legislation I know of only two cases where a player ran afoul of state legislation (in extremely conservative states), both of whom were charged under their state’s overall anti-gambling laws, not any specific anti-online-gambling law:
North Dakota. Jeffrey Trauman paid a $500 fine on what was likely over $100,000 in online sports wager winnings, in 2003. (Gambling & the Law)
Oklahoma. Online sports bettor Roland Benavides was billed in 2011 and in 2012 received a deferred sentence (meaning that when he doesn’t violate the terms of his probation, he will likely face no jail time). (Information OK)
Kentucky seized domain names A Kentucky judge agreed to let Kentucky seize 141 gambling-related domains, on the spurious grounds that a domain name comprised a”gambling device” under regulations. But even if it had been clear that gambling domains violated Kentucky law, the seizure was still absurd, due to that logic any country could seize any domain anywhere in the world when the website happened to violate its local law. In any case, as FlushDraw stated,”Just a small number of US-based registrars complied, as well as the seizures themselves were rendered somewhat moot when nearly all of the domains relocated to non-US registrar services and ceased using”.com” domains.”
The Kentucky Court of Appeals promptly chased the seizure action, but then the State appealed. I could not find any upgrades involving 2014-2018 (EFF 2008, KY appealed in 2009, 2014 judgment )
Taking bets is illegal It has always been contrary to federal law to carry sports bets over the Web (not to create them). In other words, you can’t set up a site and take sports bets from the public. The law which prohibits this is known as the Wire Act. For years the feds said that the Wire Act applied to taking poker and casino stakes also. In 2011 they reversed themselves and said the Wire Act applied only to athletics. (Forbes) Then in 2019 they reversed themselves and returned to the former position that the Wire Act indeed applies to taking poker and casino stakes as well. (source) Though again, placing bets remains perfectly legal under federal law. The challenge is finding a reputable place to play. Because of the legal issues, there are not many operators serving the entire U.S., and several of those that do are kind of questionable. That’s why I promote only Bovada on this website, because they’re the best one for U.S. players.
States can now offer sports gambling In May 2018, the Supreme Court overturned a law which prohibited sports betting in all countries but Nevada. This allows individual countries to legalize sports gambling if they opt to do so. On the other hand, the court’s ruling does not speak to the Wire Act, therefore online sportsbooks still violate federal law (for the operator, not the participant ). (Forbes)

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