USA Gambling Reference Resource Center

Online Gaming in the US

Gambling online in the USA can still be profitable, despite the litany of heartbreaks and headaches suffered by the industry in the last decade. The biggest danger to the average Internet gambler is still the actual gaming sites, as some sportsbooks and casinos exist for the role purpose of ripping off their customers. This can easily be sidestepped with a bit of research, however, as numerous reviews and watchdog sites exist to guide readers towards legitimate gaming operators.

While the total number of gambling sites available to American residents experienced a major decline in 2006, that number has been slowly climbing ever since. Whether you’re a fan of sports betting, blackjack, or poker, you should be able to find a site willing to accept your money without too much effort.

The Collapse of Online Gambling in America

While the early days of Internet gambling were profitable for almost everyone, the U.S. Justice Department eventually began to take a dim view of the practice. Despite court rulings that the Federal Wire Act did not prohibit Internet gambling on games of chance, the Justice Department preferred their own interpretation of the law.

The real trouble started when federal agents started rounding up executives from various online gaming sites. These actions were followed later in the year by the passage of the UIGEA, and it became clear that the American government wasn’t messing around when it came to online gambling. Numerous sites started suspending their operations within the United States, and those who didn’t risked having their websites seized or their employees imprisoned.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

Despite millions of words written on the subject, some people still cling to the notion that the UIGEA outlawed gambling in the United States. That’s simply not the case, so let’s put this fallacy to bed once and for all.

The UIGEA prohibits banks and similar financial institutions from making transactions to online gaming sites. This doesn’t make it illegal to gamble online, and the stated reason behind the legislation was to prevent shady offshore gaming operations—some of which had been linked to money laundering operations—from profiting off of U.S. citizens.

Licensed Online Gambling

In states such as Nevada and New Jersey, legislation has been passed to allow legal Internet gambling as long as two main qualifications are met. The first requires the operator to be licensed by the state, which is accomplished by paying a sizable annual fee and adhering to a number of quality control measures. The other dictates that players must be physically present within the borders of the state.

While this has lured some of the biggest names in online gambling back into the United States, the initial reception among players has been lukewarm. Annual revenue has consistently fallen short of projections, and a few of the licensed operations have been forced to either sell or go out of business.

Gambling with Unlicensed Sites

The average American player can gamble with any site that’s willing to accept their business, and they can do so without fear of running afoul of law enforcement. Most federal and state laws are designed to punish the gambling provider instead of the player, a fact which is often overlooked.

A notable exception is the state of Washington. The home of Starbucks and grunge music seems to have a special bone to pick with online gambling, and even private citizens can be jailed and fined if they’re found to be in violation of the law.

Luckily, it’s hard for police or federal authorities to catch someone gambling on the Internet in the privacy of their own home. As long as you’re not dumb enough to walk into a Seattle police station and start bragging about your winnings, you should be just fine. Even if you did, there’s still a good chance that the overworked and underpaid public servants would tell you to get lost.


Gambling online for real money in the US isn’t as difficult as some might initially think. While some of the leading Internet casinos and sportsbooks have pulled out of the American market, a number continue to offer their services. Before signing up, however, it’s wise to read as many reviews about a site as possible to make sure they’re reliable.

Licensed online gambling has resulted in some of the more famous gaming sites returning to US states such as Nevada and New Jersey, and other regions are considering similar measures. Within the next decade, there’s a strong chance that Internet casinos and sportsbooks should once again be widely available, although a handful of states are likely to continue their hardline stance against online gambling.