USA Gambling Laws

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The main question regarding online gambling in the U.S. is, quite simply, whether it is legal or not. The question only exists because of the sheer variety in the industry, the way the laws regarding online gambling in the United States are phrased, and the different ways in which these laws are implemented at the Federal and State level.

The online gambling industry can trace its roots back to the year 1995, but it was only in 2006 the Federal government wrote a law that specifically pertained to online gambling. Some states have written their own laws to deal with online gambling, while many have been relying on their laws pertaining to gambling and applied them to online gambling as well. This has however not been used a lot as most gambling websites are based off shore.

Federal Laws Regarding Online Gambling

As of now, there are two primary Federal laws that deal with online gambling. They are the Wire Act (1961) and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (2006).

The Wire Act of 1961 essentially places a ban on online sports betting. While the Wire Act was written before the advent of the internet, the courts have ruled that it can in fact be applied to online sportsbooks as well, primarily because the internet matches the description of a connection as described in the law. The law includes the words “of wire, cable or any like connection” in its description of a wire transfer, and this applies to the Internet.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 was slipped in along with an act that dealt with port security. While UIGEA did not make online gambling illegal, what it did was make any payments related to online gambling illegal. This has made sure that many offshore online betting sites have now stopped serving the American market altogether.

Current Status

Online Gambling Laws for USA residents is just as complex as any other state or federal law, hard to understand. According to the courts, the Wire Act can only be applied to sports gambling, which leaves online casinos and online poker unaffected. The UIGEA has also been contested on a number of occasions with people alleging that the law is unconstitutional. As a response the courts ruled that it is for the states to decide whether they wish to apply this law in their states or not.

It is a pretty safe bet that any player using an online gambling site will not be prosecuted through Federal laws, as the intention behind these laws is to prevent these sites from operating in the first place. However, some states like Nevada, Washington etc. have enacted their own laws in order to prevent players from joining these sites as a response to their inability to prosecute these sites due to them being located offshore.

As of now, states like Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, Montana, South Dakota, Oregon, Wisconsin and Washington have all seen fit to criminalize online gambling. However, places like Washington D.C. have released their own online gambling websites in order to counter this issue. No matter how you look at the legality of online gambling in the United States, online gamblers will want to research their state laws and the USA online gambling laws before proceeding to any USA online gambling sites.

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