Legal US Gambling
USGambling.com aims to be the ultimate resource for US gamblers, we offer news and industry updates across all 50 states for all types of gambling.
We consider ourselves advocates for regulated access to fair, safe, and secure online gambling in the United States. It is our aim to be a resource dedicated to that and more. We also support responsible gambling and encourage the industry to support measures to address problem gambling.
Visit our state-specific resources, catch up on the latest industry news, current legal developments, or one of our comprehensive and unbiased reviews.
Along the way, we hope to share some interesting news and developments with you from around the country.
US Gambling Sites and Apps
State Specific Gambling Information
The US gambling market is segmented state by state, what’s available in one state may not be offered in another – laws, regulations, and operators vary in each US state. We cover state-specific developments industry-wide, listed below are the states we are currently monitoring:
Stay tuned as we add more states to our news coverage.
US Sports Betting
Sports betting is legal in the United States thanks to a May 2018 Supreme Court ruling that found the federal sports betting prohibition unconstitutional. What was once the sole purview of Nevada is now legal in ten states and counting.
With the Supreme Court ruling, individual states have gained the legal authority to legalize and regulate sports betting as they see fit.
Some states have legalized sportsbooks with in-person betting only while others have also legalized sports betting sites with mobile and online betting. Most states have opted to take a measured approach by first legalizing in-person wagering before considering online betting, although a handful of states have legalized both in one shot.
US Daily Fantasy Sports
Daily fantasy sports exploded in popularity throughout the US from 2014-2015 as leading fantasy sites FanDuel and DraftKings competed viciously to acquire new customers during the industry’s boom phase. At one point, the two companies spent a combined $27 million for roughly 8,000 ad spots during the NFL’s 2015 opening week.
The mad scramble for new customers has calmed since then, but daily fantasy remains a major industry in the USA even as actual sports betting grows in popularity. Part of daily fantasy’s staying power may be related to it being the next best thing to actual sports betting for people who live in states that have not yet legalized online sportsbooks.
Today, daily fantasy sports are legal in most US states.
Gambling has proliferated across the USA over the past few decades and now most states have commercial casinos, tribal casinos or both.
Online gambling in the United States has been slower to grow, but a handful of states have legalized online casinos in the to date.
The management of legal US casinos varies from state to state. In some states, gambling is controlled by tribal interests. In other states, commercial operators run the show. And in some states, there’s a little bit of both.
A new trend is the emergence of “Social Casinos” that hide behind sweepstakes laws to offer real money games in states that have not legalized online casinos, USG recommends being cautious about trusting these sites with your funds.
US Horse Racing Betting
It is true the US horse racing betting industry has seen better days and that many tracks would struggle to stay afloat without being authorized to offer other forms of gaming such as slots, but there are still bright spots to this day.
The Triple Crown races and Kentucky Derby remain some of the biggest betting events of the year in the United States and the spread of online horse racing betting in the US has pumped valuable dollars back into the horse racing economy.
Track attendance may be down, but online and mobile horse racing betting is alive and well in the United States.
Poker in the United States is usually lumped in with gambling when it comes to legal issues surrounding the game. In most states, poker is legal wherever other forms of gambling are legal (namely at licensed casinos or gambling sites).
However, there are some exceptions. California and Florida, for example, both have legal card rooms that stand separate from actual casinos. In most other states, poker and casino gambling are closely intertwined.
The average American spends more than $220 a year on lottery tickets, and with an increasing number of states taking their lotteries online to keep up with the times, there is little doubt that the number will continue to rise.
Online lotteries have been introduced in a handful of states so far and legislators in additional states are flirting with the idea. Some states have gone full steam ahead with lottery websites that offer everything from tickets into drawings and instant win games to online keno while other states have proceeded more slowly with a very limited offering of online ticket sales.
Our US lottery guide provides insight into what games and formats are played in each state.
US Online Gambling vs Land Based Establishments
Land-based gambling is well-established at this point in the US with most states having multiple forms of gambling, whether it be brick-and-mortar casinos, lotteries, racetracks, sportsbooks, bingo halls, card rooms or some combination of the above.
Now online gambling playing catch-up to what is legal in the real world. There has been a significant amount of resistance to expanded gambling, but the trend is clear: online gambling is following the path first forged by real-world gaming.
Interestingly, it was the government and not the private sector that first opened the door to online gambling in the United States.
In 2009, officials from New York and Illinois wrote a letter to the Department of Justice asking if their plans to authorize the sale of online lottery tickets would violate the Federal Wire Act.
The DOJ issued an opinion two years later that not only ruled in favor of online lotteries, but also opined that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting. This decision gave the green light to online casinos and online poker sites in addition to online lotteries.
Since that fateful opinion, multiple states have launched legal US gambling sites including online casinos, poker sites, and lotteries to get the ball rolling on internet gaming. A handful of lawmakers are still pushing to restore the original DOJ interpretation of the Wire Act to put the genie back in the bottle, but right now it seems pro-online gaming advocates have momentum on their side – especially as states and private operators get accustomed to that new source of revenue.
Even online sports betting has been authorized in multiple states despite the still-standing Wire Act. Whether or not the Wire Act still applies to online sports betting is a matter of debate, but the fact is multiple states have already proceeded with online betting on an intrastate basis and more are considering following suit.
US Gambling Laws Explained
Gambling is regulated in the United States by a combination of federal laws, state laws and gaming compacts between states and gaming tribes. Additionally, tribal gaming commissions regulate casinos on tribal lands.
Federal gaming laws are for the most part wide-ranging in nature while state and tribal laws fill in the details. The four key federal gaming laws that shape the gambling landscape are:
- Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA): Law passed in 2006 designed to crack down on offshore gambling sites that illegally offer their services to Americans. The UIGEA does not criminalize the act of gambling online, but instead prohibits financial institutions from conducting business with unlicensed, offshore gambling sites.
- Interstate Wire Act of 1961 (Wire Act): The Wire Act was passed in 1961 to prohibit the use of “wire communication” facilities for the purpose of transmitting bets or information assisting in placing bets on sports events or contests. The Wire Act for a long time was interpreted to prohibit all forms of online gambling, but a DOJ legal opinion issued in 2011 reinterpreted the act to only apply to sports betting. This opinion cleared the way for states to legalize online lotteries, casinos and poker sites.
- Interstate Horseracing Act of 1978 (IHA): The IHA formally legalized and regulated off-track betting. It was updated in 2000 to include online racing betting and that led to the abundance of legal online racing betting sites we have today.
- Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA): PASPA was the federal law that prohibited sports betting in all states but Nevada. PASPA also made a few exceptions for certain types of sports lotteries run in a few states, but Nevada had a monopoly over traditional sports betting for decades. The Supreme Court struck down PASPA as unconstitutional in 2018 to clear the way for states to legalize sports betting.
How Much is the US Gambling Industry Worth?
The US gambling industry is massive. A report conducted by Oxford Economics on behalf of the American Gaming Association found that in 2017 alone, the US gaming industry:
- Produced total economic output (business sales) of $261.4 billion
- Contributed $40.8 billion in federal, state and local taxes
- Supported total employment of 1.8 million jobs, including 559,000 casino employees
That report did not even cover economic activity generated by parimutuel horse racing, slots and other games located in bars and cruise ships or lotteries and charitable gaming. Needless to say, gaming plays a significant role in the US economy.
Problem Gambling Help
As much as we like to encourage responsible gambling, the fact remains a small percentage of players are prone to developing problematic gambling habits. If you’re worried you or a loved one has a gambling problem, there are places to get help and advice.
- Gamblers Anonymous
- Gam-Anon (for loved ones of problem gamblers)
Mike Murphy is the founder of USGambling.com and several other recognized gambling information websites. Mike was an early entrant to the regulated online gambling market in the United States and has been a stakeholder in the industry since 2008.