Is Online Casino Gambling Illegal in the US?

Posted on April 9th, 2009

Although we are a UK focused site (where online casinos, poker rooms, bingo and sports betting are regulated by the UK government and are legal), we seem to be getting alot of queries from visitors from the US as to the legality of online casinos in the United States.

I guess this must be something to do with the change of President or something, but anyway we decided to investigate on behalf of our American cousins to try and understand a little abit about the legal situation Stateside (I thought America was the “Land of The Free”?….what happened to that? (har har).

Well of course when you are talking US law, things get a bit murky and there is no black and white. You’ve got your federal laws that cover the whole of the US and your State laws.

As far as we can see, there is no federal law against online gambling in the US, and the only state to have a law against gambling online is Washington.

But this is not the impression that most punters have (maybe that is the authorities’ aim).

The main pieces of federal law relating to gambling are the Wire Act of 1961, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, and the infamous UIGEA, passed in 2006.
We are led to believe that the Sports Protection Act only applies to sports gambling, as its name suggests.

The Wire Act is probably the most famous one. It has been interpreted by US Courts to apply only to sports betting. The other piece of legislation- the UIGEA does not make Internet gambling illegal, but targets the financial institutions and forbids them making payments that have anything to do with online gambling.

The law does not say illegal online gambling actually is- ie it doesn’t define it. The bottom line is that the whole thing is a right mess- no-one really know for sure what the lay of the land is. But the authorities have been going after the casino and poker companies and the financial institutions in a bid to strangle off activity in this area, rather than targeting players.

It all seems pretty weird to us sitting here in the UK. Why the cloak and dagger stuff? Why not just regulate it or ban it outright?

Lots of companies seem to be advertising for players in the US still. And lots of players are still playing (the US still accounts for 50% of the online gambling market). “Go figure. You do the math etc etc”.

So is online gambling illegal in the United States? Search me. No idea. No tengo ningun idea. But it doesn’t seem to be putting anyone off.

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