U.S. Legal Online Betting Guide

In the US, each state is empowered to draft its own gambling laws. From brick-and-mortar casinos and poker rooms to retail and online sportsbooks and beyond, every local government has different rules and regulations regarding these markets. What’s legal in one region may be illegal in another, and this lack of consistency often leaves American gamblers in the dark. To add to the inconsistency, legal online gambling is not addressed one way or the other in most individual state gambling laws. There are literally hundreds of laws to navigate from sea to shining sea.

To that end, we’ve made it our mission to take you by the hand and explain, in layman’s terms, the legal gambling situation for each market in each state. And though the laws all differ, there is one constant: It is almost universally legal for US players to gamble online with safe, regulated, offshore betting sites. Our guide will provide insight into the legal status and quality of the online gambling market both domestically and offshore, and how you can safely and legally navigate it, resulting in the most secure, enjoyable and lucrative online gambling experience possible.

US Gambling Laws - What You Need To Know

As of 2020, there are many states that now offer legal and regulated online gambling. If you are a player who doesn't live in one of these states, the good news is there are no current laws or prohibitions in the federal code that would make online gambling illegal in the US. Even US Attorney Catherine Hanaway openly admitted this in a 2007 congressional hearing

Learn more below in our FAQ section.

Domestically, there are only three states where gambling is legal online: DE, NJ, and PA. And because gamblers actually need to be inside these states to play, that leaves most US residents out in the cold. However, offshore operators offer legal online gambling to the majority of Americans, and signing up is quick and easy.

There are only two domestic US gambling laws that apply to Internet-based play: the Interstate Wire Act and the UIGEA.

Wire Act (1961)

The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 is a law barring interstate sports betting. It does not impact individual bettors, and it does not make sports betting illegal. The Wire Act simply says that no domestic sportsbook may accept wagers from across state lines. This is why a bettor in FL cannot participate in NJ online gambling.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (2006)

Despite its scary name, the UIGEA does not target individual gamblers or casinos. It merely prevents US banks from knowingly processing payments to or from unregulated casinos. The UIGEA is why the best online gambling sites operate offshore and allow Bitcoin for both deposits and payouts.

Gambling Laws By State

Legal Gavel WIth USA BackgroundEach state has its own gambling laws. Most states allow some form of legal gambling, but a few do not, and there is no national uniformity in their laws. The legal gambling age in each state is different (18-21), and some states have sports betting while others are limited to casino gaming, horse betting, or bingo and lotteries.

You can learn more about each state’s casino and sportsbook laws by browsing our States index. For online play, only two US states have outlawed the practice:

  • Connecticut
  • Washington

That said, the best online betting sites will accept members from both of these states, and we’ve never heard of any resident from CT or WA being fined or arrested for gambling online. Still, please follow all local gaming laws.

Legal US Online Casinos

USA Friendly Shield

For most Americans, the only way to legally play casino games online is to use an offshore gambling site. These are real online casino operations that employ cutting-edge RNG (random number generation) technology and offer real-money play to the vast majority of US residents. The ones listed here are all operating legally within the industry and they are – for all intents and purposes – the only game in town.

Our legal online casinos guide provides a deeper look at the online casino market in the United States.

Bovada Casino Screenshot

Bovada Casino
#1 Rated Online Casino For American Players

Pros
  • Operates under renowned Bodog brand

  • Bitcoin + Bitcoin Cash accepted with same day payouts

  • $3000 welcome bonus with favorable wagering requirements

  • Over 200 casino games from multiple software providers

  • Offers casino, poker, sports betting and racebook

Cons
  • Residents of DE, MD, NJ and NV not accepted

  • Limited deposit options compared to other sites

Top Rated Legal Online Casinos For USA Players

Most Popular Casino Games For 2020

The best legal casinos are constantly updating their RNG game offerings to give their customers plenty of choice. New online casino games are launched regularly, but the most popular games of 2020 so far are the virtual slot titles “Gods of Luxor” and “Pandas Go Wild,” both of which can be found in the Bovada network of sites.

Online Casino Games

All the top sites include the following selection of online casino games for real money:

Slots

Blackjack

Roulette

Baccarat

Video poker

Live dealer

Legal US Online Poker

USA Friendly Shield

US legal online poker is extremely popular, though it’s largely unavailable from domestic operators. For most American players, Texas Holdem poker online is only available offshore, as are other popular poker games like Omaha and Omaha Hi-Lo. You can play real money poker online using any of the sites listed here.

For more information, check out our legal online poker guide for USA players.

Ignition Poker

Ignition Poker
America's #1 Rated Online Poker Room

Pros
  • Bitcoin supported with same day payouts

  • Cash tables and multi-table play

  • Mobile friendly poker app

  • Full casino included

  • Generous welcome bonus up to $1000 to new players

Cons
  • Players from DE, MD, NJ and NV not accepted

  • No sportsbook or racebook

Top Rated Legal Online Poker Sites For USA Players

SiteReviewBonus OfferUSAVisit
Ignition LogoRead Review100% Max $1,000Play now
Bovada Sportsbook And CasinoRead Review100% Max $500Play now
Betonline LogoRead Review100% Max $1,000Play now

Legal US Online Sports Betting

USA Friendly Shield

While legal online sports betting is taking off in America since PASPA’s 2018 overturn, most states still don’t offer domestic sports wagering. To enjoy legal sports betting, USA residents can bet on every contest the world over at the best offshore sportsbooks. And they’ll get better lines, too!

For a more in-depth look at sportsbook gambling, our legal online sports betting guide will take you through all the ins and outs of legally betting on sports in the US.

Bovada Sports

Bovada Sportsbook
America's Favorite Online Sportsbook

Pros
  • Most popular sportsbook in the industry

  • Betting odds on every sport

  • Political, Entertainment, Esports and virtual odds as well

  • Live betting + mobile betting app

  • Enjoy sports betting, poker, casino and racebook

Cons
  • Residents of DE, MD, NJ and NV not accepted

  • Limited deposit options compared to other sites

Top Rated Legal Online Sportsbooks For USA Players

SiteReviewBonus OfferUSAVisit
Bovada Sportsbook And CasinoRead Review50% Max $250Play now
Betonline LogoRead Review50% Max $1,000Play now
mybookie logoRead Review100% Max $1,000Play now
Bookmaker LogoRead Review15% Max $600Play now
Sportsbetting LogoRead Review50% Max $1,000Play now

Current Betting Trends In 2020

The biggest trend of 2020 is that more people than ever are participating in mobile sports betting. But that’s a given.

For this year specifically, eSports betting, virtual sports betting, and wagering on video game sports simulations have seen drastic upticks in popularity due to the coronavirus outbreak that suspended real-world sports globally. Hopefully, these markets will still thrive once traditional sports betting comes back.

Right now, a few sports leagues are gearing up to make their returns after the extended COVID-19 hiatus. Right now you can wager on the following sports events:

NFL Futures

NCAAF Futures

MMA

Virtual Sports

Political Futures

Entertainment

NHL

Tennis

More Sports Betting Options By Category

Many bettors think that legal online sportsbooks only offer the basics like NFL betting, NBA odds, NCAA action, various international fare, and so on. However, all the best online betting sites operating offshore also host the following popular markets:

Online Virtual Sports Betting

Virtual sports are RNG simulations that pit generic teams against one another. Bettors get all the standard lines to wager on, games last only 2-3 minutes, and entire “seasons” play out in a day’s time. These contests are 100% computer-controlled with no human input.

Online Sports Sim Betting

Sports sims are just like virtual sports (i.e. no human input), but when you wager on simulated sports, you’re betting on real players and teams from popular video game series like Madden, FIFA, NBA 2K, and more. These games play out in real-time, and you can use real-world research to get an edge as you watch the livestreamed action unfold.

Online eSports Betting

eSports is a popular market where professional video game players compete in AAA games, and you can bet on the outcomes. eSports games aren’t strictly related to sports, either. In addition to the Madden, FIFA, and NBA 2K series, eSports include FPS games, RTS games, and other competitive titles.

Online Entertainment Betting

If you want to bet on American Idol, The Voice, DWTS, the Academy Awards, or any other major television event, that’s all covered by the entertainment betting market at online betting sites. No domestic US sportsbook offers these odds, which is just another great reason to play offshore.

Online Political Betting

Election odds and political betting are only available from offshore betting sites. If you want to wager on impeachment odds, debate odds, political props, and Presidential elections, you can “stuff the ballot box” at any reputable offshore betting site.

Online Horse Betting

Horse racing betting online is extremely popular, and every top-rated legal online sportsbook offers a full racebook. If you want the best horse betting app experience, the sites listed here are all Thoroughbred champions!

 

Mobile Betting Apps

While none of the legal online betting sites operating offshore have traditional iPhone or Android betting apps, they each provide their members with browser-based mobile interfaces that mimic the look and feel of the best native App Store or Google Play offerings.

These web applications are the best online gambling apps anywhere, and you can get the following experiences at most top-tier gambling sites, all of which are web based for maximum device compatibility and require no downloads or updates of any kind:

CASINO APPS

Live Dealer Casino Apps

LIVE DEALER APPS

POKER APPS

SPORTS BETTING APPS

HORSE BETTING APPS

LOTTERY APPS

Latest Gambling News

Legal Online Gambling FAQ's

Which federal online gambling laws impact United States players?

There are only three major US federal gambling laws that affect US players who wish to participate in online casinos, poker rooms, sportsbooks, and racebooks. Fortunately, the act of gambling with offshore sites doesn’t violate any of the following, nor do these laws target individual gamblers in any way:

  • Federal Wire Act of 1961 – This law, discussed above, prevents domestic sportsbooks from accepting wagers across state lines. Because the best offshore sports betting sites all operate outside of US jurisdiction and are fully licensed and regulated in their home countries, US residents are able to use these services safely and legally.
  • Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 – The UIGEA is also discussed above, and it is a banking regulation that applies to domestic financial institutions, preventing them from knowingly processing payments to or from non-US-regulated online casinos and sportsbooks. The UIGEA does not target individual players, but it can cause a credit or debit deposit to be declined on rare occasions.
  • The Interstate Horse Racing Act of 1978 – This law allows horse racing betting to take place via OTBs and simulcast services across state lines. The Wire Act, at one time, prevented this, but the pari-mutuel nature of horse betting allowed legislators to put it in a different category with its own regulations. Not all states allow access to domestic online horse betting, however. The IHRA does not criminalize US residents from betting with offshore racebooks in any way.
Is online gambling legal in the United States?

Yes! Domestically, only three states allow online casino gambling, while nearly 20 states allow online sports betting and over 40 states allow online horse racing betting. Online poker is only available in three states, despite being arguably the most popular form of gambling in America.

However, if you use a reputable offshore gambling site, you can safely and legally enjoy all these markets – and more! – from the convenience of your own home, 24/7.  

Is online sports betting legal in the US? 

Yes, it is. And it’s also the fastest-growing legal betting market in the country. However, it will be many years before all (or even most) US states have their own sports betting regulations in place, so for the foreseeable future, legal offshore sportsbooks are the best way to bet on your favorite players and teams.

Additionally, online sportsbooks in America do not offer political betting odds or entertainment betting, which means offshore sites are polling higher – and have better ratings – than ever!

Why do certain gambling sites not allow American players?

There are some extra hoops that online betting sites must jump through in order to legally service the United States gambling market. It is a hefty investment and a lot of work to offer US friendly online gambling, and not all brands are in a position to meet the standards necessary for success. 

Gambling related financial transactions for US gamblers must be done using only reputable, US friendly funding options that utilize multiple, high quality payment processors in order to operate successfully within the confines of the UIGEA – and only the most established and committed gambling sites are going to be able to pull that off. For many – its just easier to stay out of the US market altogether.

What is offshore gambling?

Offshore gambling is simply the act of participating in real money casino games, poker games, sports betting, and horse racing betting at casinos, poker rooms, sportsbooks, and racebooks that operate from outside of the United States.

These companies are often headquartered in places like Costa Rica, Curacao, the Isle of Man, and other global regions that allow them to offer such amusements to an international clientele.

There are no US laws that criminalize offshore gambling, and there are no domestic online gambling sites that even come close to offering the variety of games, odds, and lines that offshore operators provide.

Are online gambling sites safe?

If you use the legitimate gambling services listed here, you are guaranteed a safe, secure betting experience. Because these sites use state-of-the-art SSL and TLS encryption standards – and because they never share or sell private information with third parties – you can rest easy knowing that your gambling hobby is not only legal but secure, as well.

Are online gambling sites legitimate?

All the operators we recommend are legit online gambling sites with years of experience in the industry and millions of satisfied customers.

These sites may not be bound by US law, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to be licensed or comply with regulations in their own home countries.

We will never suggest playing with an operator that doesn’t meet these standards, and you should make sure that any site you choose is totally transparent about all its licensing credentials.

Are casinos rigged at online gambling sites?

Not if you use the best online casinos and sportsbooks in the business. These sites all employ sophisticated, audited RNG (random number generation) technology in their computer-controlled games, and they’re all regularly audited to ensure that your chances to win are identical to the odds you’d get at a state-regulated brick-and-mortar establishment.

Are online casino games rigged?

All the best online casino games at the top offshore sites are created and maintained by developers like Realtime Gaming, Rival, and Betsoft. These are world-class, hugely respected brands in the casino industry, and retail casinos the world over employ their services to design the RNG electronic slots and casino titles you see at the best Vegas, AC, Monaco, and Macau casino resorts.

Are online casino games fair?

Yes! If you’re looking for a fair casino online experience, all the sites listed here offer that – and more! Every offshore gambling site we recommend is dedicated to fair play, and they employ third-party auditors to ensure full iGaming certification and compliance.

For casino games, that means that the chances you have to win are exactly the same as they would be in brick-and-mortar casinos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, while for sports betting, it means that the lines you see are the lines you get.

Poker, like the above casino games, is governed by provably fair RNG technology, and the racebooks also pay out exactly as they would at any real-life racetrack.

What gambling banking methods are available for US players?

Most reputable gambling operators in the offshore industry offer a number of banking options to US players. While each comes with different fees, minimum and maximum limits, and transfer times, you can usually select from the following for deposits and withdrawals:

  • Deposits – Bitcoin, altcoins (Litecoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Bitcoin Cash, Dash, etc.), credit/debit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express), international gift cards, cashier’s checks, money orders, bank wires, person-to-person services (Western Union, MoneyGram), Zelle-to-BTC
  • Withdrawals – Bitcoin, altcoins, courier checks, money orders, bank wires, person-to-person transfer services

Note: Bitcoin (BTC) is the only way to deposit and withdraw offshore gambling funds without incurring any added fees, and BTC is the only same-day payout method available from any offshore operator.

What does the future hold for online betting regulations in America?

Nobody knows for sure, as the political climate in the US – and the social attitude towards accessible online gambling – is constantly changing.

While states are embracing online sports betting in large numbers thanks to the PASPA overturn, they are less likely to legalize online casino gambling and online poker. We don’t think this is going to change any time soon.  

Can I bet with Bitcoin at offshore gambling sites?

Yes! But if you’re new to cryptocurrencies, you might first ask

“What is Bitcoin?”

Well, in technical terms, its tough to explain, as it’s a new paradigm in digital currency and is the most secure banking method in history. Essentially, Bitcoin (BTC) is a financial transaction and trade platform that uses an “open ledger” to process transfers in a way that is “quantum-hacking resistant.”

For those interested in Bitcoin betting, there is no more secure way to fund your account, and BTC offers the only way to claim same-day payouts. Plus, Bitcoin gets you the very best casino bonuses and sportsbook bonuses, so not only can you wager with BTC, but all the top sites prefer that you do!

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