Is online gambling legal across the USA?

There is no questioning the popularity of online gambling, with the industry generating billions in revenue each year and strong growth predicted over the coming decades.

To anyone not familiar with the industry, these kinds of figures might make it seem like it is an entirely legitimate pastime which has the full support of the authorities. Of course, a little research will quickly reveal that this is not the case and that in fact, the topic of online gambling’s legality in the USA is a much murkier and more complex one than you might assume.

So that you have all of the information to hand, here is a rundown of the current state of play and a look at the potential changes which may come in the future to influence how accessible and above-board online gambling is nationally.

Regulatory ambiguity

The main problem with discussing the legality of online gambling in the USA is that there is a lack of federal-level clarity surrounding this type of activity.

For example, it is not technically illegal for individuals to gamble online, but it is illegal for casino sites to operate on US soil. This creates a kind of Catch 22 situation, which is only further compounded by the fact that some states do allow online casinos to be run terrestrially, but only if they are linked to existing land-based casino brands.

That brings us to the question why is gambling illegal in the first place? A combination of moral and religious objections in addition to concerns about the impact that it may have on the finances and mental health of those who become addicted to casino experiences has tempered the enthusiasm of politicians to embrace it.

State-specific solutions

As mentioned earlier, with no federal-level blanket ban on online gambling in place, it is entirely possible for states within the US to forge their own regulations for various kinds of web-based wagering and casino game playing.

The main sticking point until around a decade ago was the Wire Act of 1961, which could previously have been used to prevent online gambling because it effectively outlawed inter-state betting. However, with a change brought in by the DoJ, a number of states were given the green light to jump on this bandwagon in a major way.

New Jersey was one of the first states to take up the challenge, and alongside gambling haven Nevada it now offers online gambling services to residents and visitors. These services are necessarily tied to specific bricks and mortar casino brands, even if they can operate under their own unique branding for the purposes of marketing.

In the interim, states such as Pennsylvania and West Virginia have also rolled out legal online gambling so that licensed operators can ply their trade within their borders.

Sports betting

Another recent change to regulations at a federal level has made sports betting a legitimate option both for land-based and online bookmakers, further pushing the legitimacy of this pastime in many states. If you’re a soccer fan, you can bet on your sports team now by checking out

Aforementioned places such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania have taken up the opportunity to license sports betting operators since 2018’s ruling, while other states including Mississippi have also followed suit, potentially creating the start of a domino effect which could eventually lead to nationwide adoption.

In other states, such as California and New York, sports betting and other forms of online gambling have yet to be given the go-ahead by the authorities, although campaigns to instigate changes and encourage legalization are ongoing.

Potential benefits

Earlier on we discussed the reasons why there has been hesitance surrounding the legalization of online gambling, both in the US and elsewhere worldwide. It is also worth discussing the advantages of making it fully legal and regulated across the country, chief amongst which is the injection of cash it would create for the public coffers.

At the moment, players in the US who want to gamble online will usually have no choice but to do so with an overseas operator, unless they are lucky enough to live in a state where it has been legitimized. This means that tax revenues and job opportunities are being minimized, whereas legal, licensed, locally operated online casinos would bring all of this money back into the state.

The other key benefit of legalization is that it will allow regulators to control exactly what kinds of services are available, while also providing support for players both as consumers and as members of society, addressing the issue of problem gambling directly.

Ideally the softening of federal regulations which has been seen recently will continue to convince more states to embrace online gambling, as millions of citizens have done so already.

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