Right from the beginning of American history, the US has had a topsy-turvy relationship with gambling. There are periods in US history when gambling was legal and periods when it was not.
But is online gambling legal in the US? The quick answer is yes. There is no federal law that makes prohibits online gambling in America. The American government leaves the question of states to determine the legal status of online gambling,
Like you would expect from a country of 50 states, some states consider online gamble as illegal, others outrightly consider it as legal and some consider only parts of it as legal. This lack of a strong national stance has made the status of online gambling in the US up for discussion.
In this article, you will find out the true legal status of online gambling in the US, which forms of it are allowed, the states that support it, and the states that do not.
Online Gambling in the US from a Federal Perspective
Since there is no law from the federal government banning online gambling in the US, it is correct to say that its status is legal.
There are further complications because the US has laws such as the Federal Wire Act of 1961 that seem to prohibit gambling activities across states. This law suggests that while you can place a bet in a state, betting in another state is illegal.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 prevented states who had not legalized sports betting from ever doing so. The Supreme Court in a landmark judgment in 2018 overturned it, granting states the right to make their own decisions on legalizing sportsbooks or not.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 further deepened the confusion. The Act makes operating an online gambling site in the US illegal, while still allowing players the right to use an online gambling site. Confusing isn’t it?
The Act made it impossible for online gaming sites to operate in the US. However, some offshore gambling sites such as Bovada and BetOnline accept bets from US players. It is worth noting that the act exempts online fantasy sports leagues.
The Online Gambling Legality Question at the State Level
States determine if online gambling and gambling, in general, are legal in their territories. They set their own rules and determine the form it takes. Gambling is legal to a limited extent in 48 states. Only Hawaii and Utah are completely banned.
In Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Montana, Colorado, New Hampshire, Oregon, and Rhode Island, online gambling is legal for sports games. Nevada accepts online gambling for poker. In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, online gambling is legal for Casino, poker, and sports. Delaware accepts online gambling as legal for casino and poker activities.
Some states in the US do not have rules against online gambling. By default, they accept the legality of online gambling in their territories. They include Alabama, District of Columbia, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.
Punishments for Violating the States Online Gambling Laws
What happens to the individual if they violate the rules against online gambling in their state? This is an interesting question. The punishment varies from state to state but the nature of the punishment is low and only a misdemeanor.
Mostly, the state does not prosecute the offender and the punishments are quite light like getting a traffic ticket for over speeding. In Arkansas, the penalty is $25, but it is rarely enforced. There is no jail term for a defaulter. In Montana, Washington, and Iowa, it can be considered a felony. Arkansas and Alaska classify it as a minor offense.
The state’s focus is on the organizations that carry out these illegal online gambling activities than the individual.
The Future of Online Gambling Legislation in the US
Having established that gambling is not illegal in the US because of the law of federal law against it and the differences in state laws, it is pleasing to note that the legal status of online gambling in different states is changing.
Many states are already taking the steps to legalize it in their territory. In the next few years, many states will expand the gambling activities they allow, and some states where it is illegal will make it legal.