Is Online Gambling Legal
in the United States?

     Date: June 17, 2018     Written By: Heather Ferris


      This is a tricky question to answer and for anyone who is researching this on the internet, my best advice to you, would be to make sure that you check the dates on any articles you’re reading. There are a wide variety of answers on the internet, but amazingly no updated, definite, concrete explanation. But, that’s what this article is here for. My goal is to straighten out the facts and make it easy for you to understand what’s going on.

      Online casinos started around the same time as AOL, chat rooms and internet porn did, in the early 90’s. Since then it’s been on a rocky legal road with many ups and downs in the process, which contributes to all of this confusion. For anyone who is young enough not to remember the 90’s, let’s just say that it would be fair to compare it to the days of the wild west, where everything was legal on this brand new, amazing invention called the internet. The American government tried several times to pass bills that would make online gambling illegal, however they all failed to pass, as online casinos continued to flourish.

      Online casinos thrived during this era and new sites, like Online Blackjack, were a big hit with the American consumer. It wasn’t until September of 2006 that Congress was finally able to pass a bill outlawing online gambling. On October 13, 2006, President George W. Bush signed into law the SAFE Port Act which ended up expanding the scope of the Wire Act. Seven and a half months later, the FBI released this intimidating article stating that all online gambling was illegal. In reality, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 only makes online gambling illegal if the transaction was made between a person/bank entity and an online gambling site. This law is only aimed towards banks and banking issues and there are various work arounds in order to get by this law. Which is why, for example, Bitcoin has become so popular in recent years with online gamblers. By using Bitcoin, this allows American citizens to bypass this law.

      Other than the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, no other Federal laws have been passed regarding Online Gambling, which leaves it to the individual states to fill in the gaps. New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware and Pennsylvania have all pioneered the way towards legalized online gambling, while California, New York, Massachusetts and Michigan are currently in the process of trying to pass similar bills. If you want to know where your state stands on this issue, the Wizard of Odds has an up-to-date list of all of the states and their laws.

      In 2011, President Barack Obama’s Justice Department released an opinion that changed the agency’s long-held understanding that online gambling was prohibited under Federal law. The Department’s new interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act was to only apply to sports betting, instead of the all-encompassing online gambling arena. It ruled that online gambling within the states, that does not involve sporting events, would not violate the 2006 Wire Act. In November of 2017, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) were pushing Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein into taking action and reversing this opinion. To be frank, they want to make Online Gambling illegal in the United States, expressing concern that, “Internet gambling goes too far. It preys on children and society’s most vulnerable.”

      In March of 2018, in response to Feinstein and Graham’s actions, Representative Dina Titus (D–Nevada) also sent a letter to the Attorney General’s office urging him to go down a different path and make online gambling legal. “In Las Vegas, we have seen that a regulated market is always better than an illegal one,” Titus wrote, “Internet gambling will not go away with a reversal of Wire Act guidance, it will merely push more consumers into black markets.” A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment to the Associated Press about Titus’s letter and would not say whether the department is considering changes to its stance regarding internet gambling. President Trump, who is also a former casino owner, told the Associated Press that he has not taken a position on the matter of Online Gambling, siting that he had friends on both sides.

      In 2018, the Supreme Court decided that Sports Betting is legal across America and that is where we will need to stop at the moment. It’ll be interesting to see how the provision in the 2006 Wire Act will be followed now that sports betting is legal, but for right now we’re in legal limbo waiting for a final decision on whether Online Gambling is completely legal in the United States, or not.