The US Gambling Laws explained
When it comes to rules and regulations, the United States aren’t the easiest country in the world to figure out, which is why many people don’t have a clear answer to a question is gambling illegal in the US. There seem to be many wrong theories and misconceptions about gambling floating out there, giving people completely wrong ideas. So, in this article, we’ll try to answer some of the burning questions of about when and why is gambling illegal in the US.
Is Gambling Illegal or Not: Quick Facts
- In the US, gambling laws are decided on a state level
- Some states have legalized online gambling within their borders
- The Wire Act prevents gambling between the states
- There is no federal law addressing online gambling
- Playing at offshore sites is treated differently by different states
Gambling in the US: Quick Overview
When it comes to gambling, there isn’t a single federal law that governs this area. Live and online gambling laws are left at the discretion of each particular state, so every state is free to come up its own set of regulations covering various types of gambling, from casino games to online poker and sports betting.
Thus, you might be able to find many casinos and gambling establishments in one state and not see a single one in another. Some states have very liberal gambling laws, others are very anti-gambling. The same thing applies to internet gambling where states are, for the most part, given free rein to do as they please within their own borders.
Things get more complicated on a federal level, though. What makes gambling illegal between the states is the Wire Act, which effectively makes it impossible for people from one state to gamble with a casino or bookmaker physically located in another state. Crossing state lines using virtual means such as phone or the internet is in violation of the Wire Act, which is why even legal gambling sites in regulated states can’t accept players from other states.
Legal Online Gambling in the US
The United States has been through several different stages when it comes to online gambling. The passage of the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) of 2006 has effectively put a stop on internet gambling, prohibiting online casinos from willingly and knowingly accepting funds from the players located in the States.
While some sites continued to accept US players despite the Act, they were doing so fully aware they were operating in a grey area at the very least. Many major industry players decided to withdraw from the market and wait for a better climate instead of taking the risk and potentially having to deal with charges and huge fines.
Several years would pass before emergence of legal online gambling in the States. Eventually, certain states such as Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey started passing online gambling laws, allowing them to launch their own online poker and casino sites, finally legalizing online gambling for US players, at least the ones located within the borders of regulated states.
Can You Gamble Online and Where?
Passing laws and opening legal online casino sites in certain states has created even more confusion with some US players. The question that became even more prominent was: is gambling considered illegal or not? How come some get to play online while others cannot? What happened with the freedom of the choice and all that?
This all goes back to the fact that things relating to online gambling are dealt with at the state level. Those states that took time and effort to come up with relevant laws dealing with the subject are the ones where players get to play in a safe, regulated environment under the state supervision.
Sadly, things have been moving very slow on this front. While some states have passed online gambling laws and a few are on the verge of doing so, many more are either not interested in the topic or simply refuse to discuss it. So, players in these states are out of luck if they want to play on a regulated online casino. It isn’t uncommon for laws with much bigger significance to drag out for years, collecting dust in drawers, so it is no surprise the online gambling legislation is treated this way in certain states.
At the same time, the Wire Act prevents regulated states from taking action from players located in other states that don’t have these laws in place. While some states have entered compacts that allow them to mix their player pools (like Nevada and Delaware, for example), this is only possible between the states that have already established legal online gambling.
Online Gambling Laws & Offshore Operators
In this environment, some US players decide to give their action to offshore casino operators. These are gambling sites that decided to continue catering to the US market even after the passage of the UIGEA, knowingly acting against the federal rules and accepting the risk that comes with this decision.
While this may seem like a good idea in the situation where no alternatives are provided, we always emphasize that you should never play with offshore casinos. The fact they operate against the laws of the country they accept players from indicates their business priorities don’t necessarily correspond with what players expect from a gaming operator. Furthermore, should anything go sideways, there is no relevant body you can complain to since you’ve been playing with an unregulated site. So, if they go under or decided to shut down and simply take your money, there won’t be much you can do about it.
Legal Implications of Playing at Offshore Sites
Beyond these considerations, there are also certain legal implications that come into play if you decide to take your chances with an offshore operator. Once again, these may vary differently depending on your particular state as these, like the rest of online gambling laws, are primarily addressed on the state level.
As already mentioned, some states are so anti-gambling that people have often wondered is gambling between friends illegal, let alone going at an obscure online site and depositing money from your bank account there. In other states, lawmakers have taken a different approach or the subject of online gambling isn’t particularly addressed at all.
The long and the short of it is that state laws on this topic vary greatly. With most states, players can’t really get in trouble for just playing as laws only address “facilitators” or “organizers,” meaning they’re primarily concerned with online casinos and they are the ones that can get in trouble.
However, don’t take this as a general rule. There are several states where you could potentially face criminal charges if you decided to play at an offshore casino. While there haven’t been any actual cases of someone being brought to court for gambling online, the fact that laws make it possible in certain jurisdiction means it could happen at some point.
The goal of this article isn’t to scare you away by citing possible legal problems. The number one reason you shouldn’t play with these offshore casinos is, as already explained, the fact that you can’t really trust them given all the circumstances. If you still decide to do so, it would be wise to first check out your local state laws addressing this topic and make sure you can’t get in any serious problems.
It is also worth mentioning here that even if you play on an unregulated site and happen to win, you’re still liable for taxes on your winnings. Just because money was won on a site that shouldn’t even be accepting players from the States it doesn’t mean the taxman won’t request its share of the pie. Whether you consider it fair or not is an entirely different topic but that’s how things are right now and you should be aware of it.
Stay Safe: Stick to Legal Gambling Sites
There are already several states that offer legal online gambling for US players and that number is set to grow in the future. So, if you want to really enjoy your gaming experience and rest assured your money is safe at all times, always stick to legal online casino operators. In addition to offering safe and regulated environments, these sites will also give you plenty of bonuses and excellent gaming libraries, so there won’t be anything missing!
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