Change is an ever-constant in the governance of sports and casino gambling across the United States. Consequently, we provide you with the definitive guide to U.S. Gambling Laws & Regulations across all of the U.S.A.
Each state has the authority to apply and administer its own unique Gambling Law affecting the everyday practical application of sports and casino gambling for the state’s residents.
Why is it so complex?
Firstly, gambling is defined differently in different states and secondly, the U.S. is a large nation where regional variations exist.
Most states have regulations that reflect the values of their diverse populations. For example, Bible Belt states of the Midwest trend towards being more conservative, whilst New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware tend toward to pushing the boundaries, aspect and rate of change.
Gambling law is an ever-evolving web of legislation and law-making and it takes proactive analysis to investigate the authentic and substantive complexities.
Online Gambling and Change in the U.S Gaming Environment
For decades, many U.S. States had been intent on arguing between themselves setting their law-making agendas to debating the semantics of what is deemed ‘gambling’ and what is ‘gaming’ and what is neither. However, during the intervening 10-20 years, whilst the semantic debate took place, many states legalized gambling including lotteries, opened the way to the establishment of Native American Casinos and regulated casino style games. Overall, with the increased popularity of betting as a whole, and with the advent of the internet technology, online gambling has fueled the public’s interest in gambling.
A little more than a decade ago, as the online gambling industry began to grow larger, the U.S. government started to show an increased interest. As a result, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) was created. The purpose of the Act was to criminalize online gambling in the USA, however, the law was poorly received. In most circles, UIGEA was ridiculed as nothing more than an ‘attack on internet gambling’ as it affected companies and corporations rather than gamblers themselves.
A little more than five years later, in 2011, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) reversed the UIGEA position and overnight changed the online gambling scene. The DOJ had previously prescribed that the decades-old Wire Act of 1961 (originally written as an anti-racketeering law but often used to legitimize any form of regulation on new ways to disseminate information through the use of new communications technologies) criminalized all forms of online internet gambling.
However, legislation finally confirmed in December 2011 that the Wire Act applied only to race and sports betting.
With this landmark decision came the announcement that individual U.S. states would be permitted to decide their own laws in regards to acceptance or declination of online gambling. The DOJ decision effectively and immediately removed the legal obstacle for U.S. states that wished to sanction online gambling in order to collect more revenue to repair their budget deficits and financial black hole areas.
Shortly thereafter, Delaware became the first state to legalize online gambling, instituting a divergent online gambling approach allowing for most casino games (slots, baccarat, blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, bingo, wheel of fortune or any variation of these games); however, excluding keno and lotteries.
Nevada on the other hand, despite being the home of America’s casino gambling mecca, Las Vegas, chose a more limited online gambling pathway, legalizing only online poker.
New Jersey has the widest range of online betting options (such as lotteries, online poker, slots, online blackjack, roulette, baccarat, and sports betting) available of all the states so far, and Pennsylvania is expected to follow suit with a similar model to New Jersey shortly. Many other states currently have proposals on the drawing board and/or before State legislators.
The intricacies of each state’s online gambling laws (passed, proposed or otherwise) do vary, however, there is one unwavering constant. The most common guideline states that only gaming establishments located within each state are permitted to apply for licenses to operate within in the state’s online gambling industry.
In other words, offshore gambling operators are unable to take advantage of legal online gambling in the USA. The geolocation system technology of most smartphones, mobile devices and PC’s make this law possible.
On the other hand, many states appear to agree that the need for interstate online gambling is imperative, and Delaware and Nevada have already begun an interstate liquidity sharing agreement for their online poker jackpots, making the games more lucrative and therefore, more popular in each of these two online-gambling-friendly states.
Legal Sports Betting fuels U.S. Gambling Development
On the back of the development of the gambling industry as a whole, legal online sports betting is expected to continue online gambling’s rapid growth and execution of legalization laws across many States of the Union.
In May 2018, The United States Supreme Court struck down a federal law that had previously prohibited gambling on sporting events in the US. The landmark decision gave states the green light to go ahead and legalize sports betting.
The court ruled 6-3 to strike down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), a 1992 law that barred state-authorized sports betting. (It is worthwhile to note that the 1992 PASPA law granted immunity to four states that had previously legalized sports betting inside their state lines, Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana).
However, in the outcome of a six-year legal battle, the court ruled in favor of the state of New Jersey and against the NCAA, NFL, NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball. The decision culminated in overturning the federal statute that the gaggle of professional sports leagues had determinedly stood by for almost twenty-six years. All U.S States are now free to determine for themselves if residents or anyone within their state boundaries can legally gamble on sports.
The U.S. has now joined other legal jurisdictions that have long-established and highly mature sports betting markets like Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and France. With more freedom than ever before, U.S. citizens will have access to betting on their favorite sports, when, where and how they want.
Sports Betting, DFS & Online Casinos to Modernize Gambling
The legalization of sports betting has assisted in creating a perfect storm in which to propagate a mature, long-lasting and successful online gambling industry. Already in combination with the proliferation of online Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS) Betting Sites (long held to be legal by U.S. Federal lawmakers), the ground swell of many U.S. States now legalizing online gambling, and now too legalizing sports betting, a millennial generation that is armed and savvy with sophisticated smartphone technology is driving the kind of online gambling industry that they want. It’s a reliance on technology and a comfort using it that people generally born in the early 1980’s to early 2000’s (‘Millennials’) are now used to.
In regards to online gambling, U.S Federal and State Legislation is now beginning to reflect the modern world we now live in where instant gratification is the accepted and expected standard, and like most industries, it is the available technology that is driving the change.
It is highly expected that several of the world’s largest tech companies are anticipated to come to the fore as bookmaking giants that will compete against established U.S. and international sportsbook operators, Native American gaming interests, DFS betting sites and state lotteries for a share of the overall online gambling market place. With an increase in choice and competition, the benefits are expected to flow on to online gamblers, and the entire gambling industry as a whole.
States with Legal Sports Betting
Sports Betting Legalized under immunity of the 1992 PASPA Act;
Sports Betting Legalized since the U.S. Supreme Court overturn of PASPA Act in May 2018
Michigan – Launched March 2020 – Legal online sports betting launched in the Wolverine State on 22 January 2021.
Virginia – Legalized April 2020 – Online sportsbooks began accepting their first legal wagers in the Old Dominion State on 21 January 2021.
New Mexico – Tribes have been offering sports betting since November 2018 under a Federal Government compact agreement.
Wyoming – Legalized April 2021 – Online sportsbook betting model pending launch – Expected September 2021.
North Carolina – The first legal land-based sports wagers were placed in late March 2021. No word yet on if online sports betting will follow.
South Dakota – Land-based sports betting in the casinos in the historic South Carolina town of Deadwood was signed into law by Governor Kristi Noem in March 2021. Expected launch date of legal sports betting is September 1 2021.