The title question of this article is a very interesting one, and there is a reason why many people are wondering the exact same thing. The reason for this is quite simple: the legality of online gambling in the United States varies per state.
This means that some states have legalised and regulated online gambling, whilst others have banned it, making it illegal for players to place any real money bets or wagers. We recommend always checking the rules and local laws of your state before signing up at an online casino or sportsbook and making a deposit.
In this thorough gambling regulation in the USA guide, we will discuss USA gambling laws, which states allow and which states prohibit online gambling, and the best licensed online casinos and sportsbooks. Additionally, we will go through some interesting alternatives for USA players, no matter what state they live in.
The legality of Online Casinos and Bookmakers in the USA
Ever since May 2018, a lot has been set to change when it comes to online sports betting. Since then, every state may decide whether to legalise online sports betting and/or casinos within their jurisdictions according to their ruling.
As of writing, more than 30 states have legalised online sports betting. However, one can only place wagers at online bookies in about 20 states because not every state has a solid framework in place yet. Even fewer states allow online casinos to operate within their boundaries. So far, they are regulated in only seven states: West Virginia, Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, and Connecticut.
Note that although online casinos and bookmakers are legal in these states, many offer only a certain amount of games instead of their full game selection just to meet all the regulatory requirements, state laws, and other restrictions.
Some states are considering legislation as of writing. These states are Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and even New York. For 2024, New York is the state that is the most likely to legalize online gaming, whilst Kentucky is planning to legalize online poker and sports betting.
What games you can play or bet on online gambling sites totally depends on which state you live in. Some essential things to keep in mind regarding the legality of online casinos and bookmakers in the United States are that most laws are aimed at gaming operators and not at you as a player, that most licensed casinos and bookmakers are licensed in the state they are originally founded, and that there are still some states that don’t have online gambling laws in place yet.
Almost all 30 states that have online gambling laws in place allow horse racing and fantasy sports betting. On the other hand, lottery and poker are still prohibited in most states.
Licensed Online Casinos in the USA
In case you are wondering what casinos are legal in the United States, we have done some research and found out that the following online casinos have a valid gambling license in place issued by gaming commission(s) of one or more states:
- FOX Bet
- Hard Rock
- Golden Nugget
- Delaware Park
- Dover Downs
- Harrington Gaming
- Wheel of Fortune
Gaming Control Boards in the USA
Gaming control boards are the institutions that issue licenses to online and land-based casinos and bookmakers in the United States. They are also responsible for the regulation of gaming activities within their jurisdiction. This often includes accounting, casino game rules, security, and auditing. Gaming control boards also regularly fine gambling companies for breaking the rules, for instance, when they actively target minors or ‘’problem gamblers.’’ Some of the most prominent gaming control boards in the United States are:
- The Kahnawake Gaming Commission
- The New Jersey Casino Control Commission
- The Nevada Gaming Control Board
These gaming control boards are the only institutions that can grant and deny gaming licenses to casino establishments. For this reason, both online and land-based casinos go to extreme lengths to adhere to the strict rules set out by these commissions and gaming control boards. It must be noted that, just like the FBI, these gaming control boards sometimes launch big investigations to double-check whether a certain casino or sportsbook is truly ‘’playing by the rules.’’
Offshore Casinos for USA Players
As we mentioned briefly in the intro of this article, players from the United States aren’t limited to USA-based casinos. If you live in the States and want to gamble online, but there are no online casinos operating in your state because it is prohibited, you can just sign up, deposit and play at a so-called offshore casino.
There are more than enough licensed online casinos that have valid gaming licenses in place, issued by the Malta Gaming Authority, UK Gambling Commission, or the Government of Curaçao that accept players from the United States and even deposits made in dollars. In some cases, you will have to use a VPN to access these sites, but you can easily download and install a free VPN nowadays.
However, we cannot stipulate enough that you should never ever sign up, deposit, and play at an unregulated casino, no matter how tempting the deposit bonus, odds, or game selection may be. When you play at an unregulated casino, chances are that you will never be able to withdraw your winnings, and in some cases, even your personal details will be stolen and sold to hackers and other cybercriminals.
Luckily, it is pretty easy to recognize whether you are dealing with a reliable, regulated casino or with a scrupulous scam casino. First of all, all regulated casinos will have valid regulator seals displayed on their homepage. Some casinos have associations with land-based casinos, which greatly boast creditability. Others have reputable brand names that you have seen sponsoring sports matches, for instance. Then they also feature regulator logos at the bottom of their homepage as they are proud to be regulated.
When you don’t see any gaming regulator seals, logos, or reputable brand names, we strongly advise you not to sign up at the particular casino or sportsbook and to search for an alternative gambling site instead.