Legal Online Gambling: Where Is Gambling Legal in the USA?

Legal online gambling in the United States is confusing to many. Due to a myriad of federal and state laws, every American must consult multiple statutes to know where gambling is legal in the US. The good news is the US gambling laws is changing in players' favor over the last generation. 

Read our guide to legal gambling in the USA. You'll learn where online gambling is legal, where Americans shouldn't gamble online, and why our complex system of gambling laws exist the way they do. Let's start with a look at the types of legal online that are available. 
 

Where is Online Gambling Legal in the US?

For a quick introduction to online gambling legality in the USA, take a look at the table below. A dozen states have some form of licensed gambling online. Though many of them have approved online lottery sales only, this at least gives some framework for expansion. 

US StateOnline CasinosOnline PokerOnline Lottery
DelawareYesYesNo
GeorgiaNo No Yes
IllinoisNoNoYes
KentuckyNoNoYes
MichiganYesYesYes
NevadaNoYesNo
New HampshireNoNoYes
New JerseyYesYesYes
North CarolinaNoNoYes
North DakotaNoNoYes
PennsylvaniaYesYesNo
West VirginiaYesYesNo

Types of Online Gambling Available to US Players

Bettors might be surprised at the sheer variety of online gambling options they have. Here is a quick overview of the types of gambling US players can enjoy legally online. 

  • Online Casinos: These sites offer a wide range of games, including online slots, specialty games, and table games. Table games include blackjack, baccarat, roulette, and craps. The specialty games category includes Keno, Bingo, and online scratch cards
  • Live Dealer Games: Online casinos also offer live dealer games. Dealers in casino studios deal cards for blackjack and baccarat and roll dice for craps. This is streamed live to your computer screen in real time. 
  • Online Poker: Online cardrooms offer a schedule of tournaments, sit & go events, and cash games. Most sites feature Texas Hold'em, Omaha, and Omaha Hi-Lo. Others also offer Seven-Card Stud, Pineapple, and other poker variants.
  • Online Sports Betting: Due to the 1961 Wire Act and 2006 UIGEA, online sports betting is banned in the United States. A few states with land-based sportsbooks allow online sports betting inside their casino, but none support online bookmakers that provide bets in the privacy of your home. 
  • Online Lottery: Eight different US states support online lottery ticket sales. While this is often overlooked, the New Hampshire Lottery was the one who first sued the US Department of Justice in 2019. The case preserved the right of US states to offer online poker, online casinos, and online lottery games. 

States Most Likely to Legalize Online Gambling

Several states have legal online gambling: New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan. Besides New Jersey, a whole other set of states have online lottery sales: Georgia, Illinois, New Hampshire, and so on. The question is which states are most likely to legalize online gambling in the coming months and years. Here are our predictions. 

  • Connecticut: Connecticut's legislature already has approved online casinos and online poker sites for Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casino. It's a matter of implementation now. An ongoing lawsuit might keep this from happening in 2022, though 2023 is likely. 
  • Ohio: Gov. Mike DeWine has given his public support for land-based sports betting and online gambling legislation in the near past. If DeWine wins reelection in 2022, Ohio is closer than most states to legalization. 
  • New York: Most years, New York legislators introduce bills to legalize land-based sports betting. In recent years, some have tried to legalize online poker. Though no legislation is pending, New York has a large population and a legislature willing to back gambling bills, so you never know. 
  • California: A few years back, California had at least one online poker bill per year. No state lawmaker has introduced a bill since 2017, though Reggie Sawyer-Jones suggested he might do so in 2020 -- before Covid interrupted the casino industry. If California's tribal gaming interests get on the same page, this could happen quickly. 

Glossary of US Legal Gambling Terms

  • Black Friday: Term for the day when the US Department of Justice seized the domains of the most popular US poker sites: April 15, 2011. 
  • Class II Gaming: Bingo and other non-banked games. Tribal governments don't have to enter into agreements with states over these forms of games. Many tribal casino games use bingo game mechanics for legal reasons.
  • Class III Gaming: Casino-style gaming. Las Vegas casinos and other commercial casinos are Class III gaming venues.
  • Commercial Gaming: Operated by a traditional commercial enterprise. Corporations like MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Las Vegas Sands engage hold commercial gaming licenses.
  • 1961 Wire Act: The Federal Wire Act made it illegal to make sports bets over phone lines. Used by the FBI to prosecute many mobsters over the years. 
  • PASPA: The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. For 25 years, it was federal law on sports betting. It banned sportsbooks in 46 states. PASPA went into effect in 1993 and became defunct in 2018, when the US Supreme Court overtuned the sports betting ban.
  • RAWA: Restore America's Wire Act. An attempt by US Sen. Lindsay Graham and former US Rep. Jason Chaffetz to ban online gambling throughout the United States. Backed by the late-Sheldon Adelson, lawmakers tried and failed to pass the law from 2014 to 2016. 
  • Tribal Gaming: Operated by a Native American tribe on their reservation lands. Under the 1988 Indian Gaming Act, federally recognized Native American tribes can open casinos on their native lands. 
  • UIGEA: The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made it illegal to process payments on certain types of online gambling. UIGEA stipulated that any form of gambling illegal for phone lines under the Wire Act would be illegal over the Internet. Two sides formed on whether the Wire Act and UIGEA applied only to sports betting, or also to poker and casino games. 

How US Online Gambling Legislation Came to Be

  • 1961: The Federal Wire Act: US President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Wire Act. This made it illegal to make sports bets over phone lines. In a time when the US government had trouble proving organized crimes in court, the Wire Act gave the FBI a way to tap phone lines and send many mobsters to prison. The Wire Act was a key part of RICO prosecutions for decades. 
  • 1992: PASPA: The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed in the first Bush Administration and signed into law in the Clinton Adminstration. It banned sports betting in 46 states, while giving exceptions to Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware. Only Nevada had full sports betting, while the other states had sports lotteries. This law would continue until 2018. 
  • 2006: UIGEA: The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act address the legality of online gambling. Under UIGEA, any form of gambling banned for phone lines under the 1961 Wire Act would be banned for the Internet. The past 16 years have seen a debate about which forms of online gambling are legal. Currently, online sports betting is illegal, while online poker and casino games are legal -- if states regulate them. 
  • 2011: Black Friday: On April 15, 2011, the US Justice Department seized the domains of the top US poker sites and indicted 13 poker executives. This was a dark day for US online poker. 
  • 2011: DOJ's Opinion on Online Gambling: Later that same year, the Justice Departments's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) gave its opinion on US online gambling. It stated that sports betting was banned under the UIGEA and Wire Act, but poker and casino games were not. 
  • 2012: Online Gambling Bills: In response, the states of Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey launched referendums on whether they should legalize online gambling. Delaware and New Jersey proposed legal online casinos and poker sites, while Nevada proposed online poker only. 
  • 2013: Legal Gambling Sites Launched: Following successful votes, the three states launched legal online gambling sites. All three continue to operate sites, though Nevada's online poker investment is minimal.
  • 2014: Interstate Poker Compact: The governors of Nevada and Delaware formed the Multi-State Internet Gambling Association (MSIGA), which would allow the states to share poker player liquidity. The MSIGA was open to any state which made online poker legal and was willing to join.
  • 2017: Pennsylvania Online Gambling: Pennsylvania joined the ranks of the US states with legal online poker and online casinos. It did not join the MSIGA. 
  • 2018: US Supreme Court Overturns PASPA: On May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court overturned the 25-year old ban on sports betting. Dozens of states would legalize land-based sports betting in the coming months and years. 
  • 2019: DOJ Opinion on Online Gambling: In January 2019, the US Department of Justice announced it had changed its opinion on the UIGEA and Wire Act. Online poker and online casinos now were banned, and states had 90 days to comply. New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania sued to fight the ban.
  • 2019: West Virginia Online Gambling: On March 27, 2019, West Virginia legalized online poker and casino sites. Implementation would drag into 2020. 
  • 2019: Michigan Online Gambling: On December 20, 2019, Michigan legalized online poker and casino sites. Implementation would drag into 2021. 
  • 2021: Court Cases on Online Gambling: Throughout the course of 2020 to 2022, US states fought for the right to keep their online gambling sites legal. US federal courts sided with proponents of online gambling expansion, thus assuring that online poker and online casinos were not banned after all. 
  • 2022: Connecticut Online Gambling: On July 1, 2022, the State of Connecticut legalized online poker and online casinos. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino will be allowed to launch online gaming portals. Implementation is likely to take place throughout 2023 and 2024. 

How to Get Started with Legal Online Gambling

If you're new to the online gambling industry, read the following instructions. Pay special attention to the section on finding a licensed, legal, and safe gambling website. Honesty and reliability are requirements if you're to enjoy the gaming experience. 

  1. Find a Legal Gambling Site: Research to find the legal, secure, and fair online gambling sites. Read gambling site reviews and player forums to learn about the operators in your region. 
  2. Assure It's a Legal Website: Search the homepage and FAQ page for certification. If you're uncertain, read the website of your state's gambling regulator. All such agencies have a list of licensed operators and a list of URLs.
  3. Sign Up at a Betting Site: Sign up at the online casino, poker site, or sportsbook of your choice. Registration only takes a few minutes. 
  4. Make a Deposit: Using your preferred banking method, fund your account. Collect welcome bonuses for making a first deposit. Remember to pick a gaming site that supports your preferred deposit method.
  5. Start Playing For Real Money: Learn the game rules and player controls on the site's free mode, then start playing for real money once you have the game down. 
  6. Make a Withdrawal Request: Once the bonus's wagering requirement is cleared, use the cashier page to make a withdrawal. Wait anywhere from 2 hours to 2 weeks, depending on your banking method. 

The Advantages of Real Money Online Casino Gambling

Online Gambling ProsOnline Gambling Cons
Win real money by playing at legal online gaming sites.Players craving social interaction only get it on live dealer games.
Lower stakes and lower bankrolls than land-based games.Facing a house edge, just like land-based casinos. 
Better welcome bonuses than live casinos.Hands happen faster, so you must adjust your bankroll management.
Bitcoin bonuses even better than standard bonus offers.Wagering requirements might trip up some players. 
Convenience. Play anytime in the privacy of your own home.  
No travel costs, no meal costs, no hotel costs.  
Wider variety of games than land-based casinos.  
World class security, fairness assured by state regulators.  

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Legal Online Gambling FAQ

Can I gamble online legally?

Yes, you can. US officials don't fine or prosecute American residents if they gamble online. Instead, they target gambling operators who's servers are in their jurisdiction. US gambling laws are a patchwork of jurisdictions, though, so people play under many different legal frameworks. Six US states have licensed online poker, while five US states have licensed online casinos. 
 

In what states is online gambling legal?

Online gambling is legal in Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey. Nevada licenses online poker but not online casinos. The other five states license both online poker and online casinos. Due to the 1961 Federal Wire Act and 2006 UIGEA, states do not have the right to offer online sports betting. New Hampshire, Georgia, and a few other states have online lottery ticket sales. 
 

Is online gaming legal in the US? Is it legal to gamble online in the US?

At the federal level, online gaming is allowed. Individual US states have the right to legalize, license, and tax online gambling. Most states have not licensed online casinos or online poker, so players play at offshore online gaming sites. 
 

What gambling sites are legal?

Gambling sites that operate in US states which license, regulate, and tax such sites are considered legal. US states have the right to license online casinos, online poker rooms, and online lottery sites. While US states also can legalize land-based sports betting, they do not have the right to legalize online sportsbooks. 
 

Is there a way to tell if a gambling site is legal or not?

Yes. Most licensed gambling sites post their licensing information. It's usually on the homepage, but might be in the "About Us" or FAQ pages. If you want to double-check a site's licensing status, state gambling regulators list their licensed operators on their websites.

Search on the official sites for the Michigan Gambling Control Board, the Pennsylvania Gambling Control Board, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement, the Delaware Gaming Enforcement agency, the West Virginia Lottery, and the Nevada Gaming Control Board for the list of legal online gambling operators in each state.