There is no U.S. National law against Gaming online
There is no U.S. national law against gaming online. At the national level, betting online is perfectly legal, due to the absence of a law against it. It is possible to run afoul of state law (notably in extremely conservative states), but there prosecution is extremely uncommon, and penalties are often minor.
U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway confessed in a House hearing that just placing wagers online doesn’t violate federal law. No American has ever been arrested, indicted, or prosecuted by the feds for gaming online, because there’s no law against it. If online gaming were illegal I wouldn’t be running his website for nineteen years, as an American citizen, residing in the U.S., using my actual name. And I sometimes gamble online, also, and I admit that openly, like I’m doing at this time.
This might be confusing because other outlets erroneously noted that Congress banned online gambling in 2006. Those reports are simply erroneous. The 2006 law makes it illegal for banks to move betting money when the stakes are already illegal (including from a country law), but doesn’t ensure it is illegal for players to create bets. The law just does not make or extend any ban on gambling itself. In reality, the legislation says quite clearly,”No provision of this subchapter shall be construed as altering, limiting, or extending any Federal or State legislation or Tribal-State compact prohibiting, permitting, or regulating gaming within the United States.” You can see for yourself by checking out the full text of the law.
Despite the fact that you do not violate any federal laws from putting bets online, it is not legal to conduct a gambling operation (i.e., to take bets), but in those few countries where it is explicitly legal and the operator is licensed. So don’t believe that you can begin an online casino or run Facebook raffles.
And yes, the FBI published a frightening warning online in which they claimed that placing bets online is against law. In short, they lied, and the DoJ finally reversed that position anyway. (more on that)
States where online gambling is explicitly legal
Very few states have specific laws against online gambling, although many have laws against gambling generally, which apply equally to online and offline gambling. A small handful of states have legalized online gambling, as long as you play one of the couple of approved online casinos. In some states, only certain kinds of gaming may be legal (e.g., poker). The states That Have legalized some Kind of online gambling are:
Delaware became the first state to legalize online gaming, in June 2012, and the next to start (Nov. 26, 2013). (USA Today, Delaware Online, Casino.org)
Nevada became the first nation to legalize online gambling (well, poker at least), on Feb. 21, 2013 (CBS) and launching on April 30. (LVRJ)
New Jersey became the third country to legalize online gambling (poker casino), signed into law in February 2013, and launch on Nov. 25th. (NJ Poker Online)
Be aware that Bovada will not accept players from these countries, nor will they take players out of Maryland or New York.
The District of Colmbia became the first jurisdiction to legalize online gambling in the U.S., in April 2011. However, the measure was repealed in February 2012 until it became lively. (NY Times)
State offenses of gambling are often misdemeanors
Even if countries do not permit players to gamble, the penalties are almost always mild. The only states where easy gaming is a felony would be the two Washingtons: Washington, DC, and Washington state. (origin ) In many states simple gaming is just a misdemeanor, and in Arkansas and Colorado it is a straightforward petty crime, like a traffic ticket. (source)
States with an online gaming prohibition
Even states that ban gambling generally usually don’t have a specific ban on online gambling. If it’s against the law to gamble in your nation, that applies offline and online, even if the law does not mention online. But a couple of states do specifically outlaw online gambling. Those countries are:
Nevada (go figure)
Source: Gambling Law U.S.
Participants convicted of violating State legislation I know of two cases in which a player ran afoul of state laws (in exceptionally conservative states), both of whom were billed under their state’s general anti-gambling legislation, not any special anti-online-gambling law:
North Dakota. Jeffrey Trauman paid a $500 fine on what was probably over $100,000 in online sports bet winnings, in 2003. (Betting & the Law)
Oklahoma. Online sports bettor Roland Benavides was charged in 2011 and in 2012 received a deferred sentence (meaning that if he doesn’t violate the terms of his probation, he will probably face no jail time). (Information OK)
Kentucky seized domain names A Kentucky judge agreed to let Kentucky capture 141 gambling-related domain names, on the spurious grounds that a domain name constituted a”gambling device” under state law. But even if it were clear that gaming domains violated Kentucky law, the seizure was still absurd, due to that logic any nation could seize any domain anywhere in the world when the website happened to violate its local law. In any case, as FlushDraw said,”Only a small number of US-based registrars complied, as well as the seizures themselves were left somewhat moot when nearly all of the affected domains relocated to non-US registrar services and stopped using”.com” domains.”
The Kentucky Court of Appeals promptly chased the seizure actions, but then the State appealed. I could not find any updates involving 2014-2018 (EFF 2008, KY appealed in 2009, 2014 ruling)
Taking bets is illegal It’s always been against federal law to take sports bets over the Web (not to create them). That is, you can’t set up a website and take sports bets from the general public. The law that prohibits that is called the Wire Act. For many years the feds said that the Wire Act applied to taking poker and casino stakes also. Then in 2011 they reversed themselves and stated the Wire Act applied only to sports. (Forbes) Subsequently in 2019 they reversed themselves again and returned to the previous position that the Wire Act indeed applies to accepting casino and poker stakes too. (source) Though again, placing bets stays perfectly legal under national law. The challenge would be finding a reputable place to playwith. Due to the legal issues, there aren’t many operators serving the entire U.S., and several of those which do are kind of sketchy. That’s why I advertise only Bovada on this site, because they’re the best one for U.S. players.
States can now offer sports gambling In May 2018, the Supreme Court overturned a law which illegal sports betting in all states but Nevada. This permits individual countries to legalize sports gambling if they choose to do so. However, the court’s ruling doesn’t talk to the Wire Act, therefore online sportsbooks nevertheless violate federal law (for the operator, not the participant ). (Forbes)
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