Are Unregulated Online Casinos Really Unregulated?

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The United States’ online gambling laws are all over the place. The federal government doesn’t deem internet gaming illegal, but they do have a couple of deterring laws on the matter like the UIGEA and Federal Wire Act.

States have the authorization to legalize various forms internet gambling, including online casinos within their borders. Delaware, Michigan, and New Jersey are among those that have taken advantage of this situation.

But when it comes to internet casino games, the majority of states have no stance on the matter. Unregulated gaming sites serve most of the same states.

“Unregulated” heavily implies that these casinos operate in a lawless zone. As you’ll see in this post, though, this term doesn’t exactly mean what it implies.

What’s Considered an Unregulated Casino?

The term unregulated casino is quite prevalent in the online gaming world. But what exactly does it mean?

Simply put, an unregulated casino is one that serves a jurisdiction where it’s not licensed and approved. It operates in states that don’t have a definitive stance on internet gambling.

The same casinos typically avoid the following types of states:

  • Those that have declared online gambling to be illegal.
  • States that don’t have a concrete stance on the matter but have taken legal action against offshore casinos (e.g. Kentucky).
  • Those that have regulated online casino markets and explicitly ban unlicensed operators (e.g. New Jersey).

Unfortunately, most states still haven’t regulated internet gaming. The vast majority of Americans don’t have access to legal and licensed online casinos.

They normally wouldn’t be able to exercise their freedoms to play internet casino games at home. Offshore casinos have stepped in to fill these roles.

What’s Considered a Regulated Casino?

The term “offshore online casinos” is often used interchangeably with unregulated online casinos. It doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing as unregulated, but it has become a popular term to describe unlicensed gaming sites.

People commonly refer to these casinos as being offshore due to their operating locations. The majority of unregulated gaming sites that serve Americans are found in Antigua, Belize, and Costa Rica.

The countries all have their own legal online gambling setups. In exchange for licensing fees and taxes, they allow internet casinos to operate out of their countries.

Of course, the same gaming sites could try operating out of America. But they’ll assuredly be busted at some point for offering illegal gambling.

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While some states don’t have definitive stances on internet gaming, every state has a definition of an illegal gambling operator. Any US resident/visitor who tries running an unlawful gaming sites will face legal scrutiny sooner or later.

That said, unlicensed operators who want to serve a country’s online gamblers relocate to offshore locations. They can get away with their unregulated operations when they’re in another legal jurisdiction.

Are Online Casinos in Places Like Belize Really Unregulated?

Not all internet gaming jurisdictions are created equal. Some are more prestigious than others when it comes to screening out potentially crooked operators and only accepting reputable companies.

The jurisdictions that I’ve covered so far, including Costa Rica, Belize, and Antigua, don’t have a very good reputation throughout the gaming world. Curacao, which bans its operators from serving Americans, but also allows them to serve many other grey markets, falls into the same category.

These jurisdictions don’t have, or at least don’t exercise, much control over their licenses. Instead, they mainly collect taxes and application fees.

They take a hands-off approach to operators. After all, they don’t want to be overly harsh on real money online casinos and risk scaring them and their money off.

Casinos that hold licenses with these jurisdictions don’t immediately inspire much confidence. They must prove themselves by offering good service and fair games over a number of years.

Then again, the same casinos aren’t completely unregulated. They do have to spend anywhere from four to six figures to gain licensing in one of these jurisdictions.

While throwing money at the Belize or Costa Rican government doesn’t prove one’s worth, it does serve as an initial barrier. Operators must be willing to risk thousands of dollars to gain such licensing.

Why Do Gamblers Choose Unregulated Gaming Sites?

You can see that offshore casino are a mixed bag. They must pay licensing fees and can be reputable under certain circumstances.

On the other hand, their licensing jurisdictions don’t require much out of them. You take your chances when playing at an unregulated casino.

That said, you may wonder why these casinos have remained so popular over the years. Here are the main reasons why gamblers continue choosing unregulated gaming sites.

Many Players Live in Unregulated Jurisdictions/States

Not everybody lives in highly regulated casino states like New Jersey or Delaware. Instead, many Americans reside in places that haven’t bothered to define their internet gaming laws.

The same people can’t play at a New Jersey online casino if they’re not located within the Garden State. After all, NJ gambling laws only apply within its own border.

They also don’t have any options within their own states. Therefore, offshore gaming sites remain their only answer.

Unregulated casinos are in an arms race to see who can offer the biggest and most-ridiculous bonuses. For example, some sites offer welcome bonuses worth up to $10,000.

How in the world is this possible? These casinos typically feature tough bonus terms and conditions that make it hard to earn anywhere near $10k.

Some of the more-crooked operators may provide little chance to cash out any online casino bonus money at all. These casinos invoke ambiguous terms and conditions to prevent players from withdrawing funds.

Luckily, these situations aren’t always the case. You can find some legitimate big bonuses at offshore operators.

But I strongly urge you to carefully read T&Cs before going for these offers. Upon seeing anything that’s ambiguous, you should find another casino.

They Haven’t Experienced Any Troubles with Unregulated Sites

Again, many offshore casinos don’t have strong licensing jurisdictions to answer to. As long as they pay their fees, they can get away with a lot.

However, some unregulated operators are actually interested in long-term profits. They can’t achieve this goal if they treat customers like crap.

That said, the majority of gamblers don’t experience any huge problems when using offshore casinos. They’ll continue using these same sites as long as the status quo continues.

Is It Safe to Play at Unregulated Casinos?

I can’t guarantee your safety when you play at an offshore gaming site. Too many variables come into play when making this determination.

Much depends upon the actual casino you’re dealing with. If you pick a little-known Bitcoin site that just popped up last month, you have virtually no idea on if you’ll receive any potential winnings.

On the other hand, you stand a much-better chance of having a good experience at a longtime, reputable operator.

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The word unregulated doesn’t have to translate to shady casino. Well-meaning operators do exist in the offshore world.

I strongly urge you to read reviews before signing up and depositing at a particular unregulated casino. Doing so will help you filter out the reputable from rogue gaming sites.

Reviews become extremely important when betting with offshore operators. After all, you’re not dealing with New Jersey online casinos, which have the DGE to answer to.

Finally, reviews don’t guarantee that you’ll always have a great internet gambling experience. Even some of the better unregulated casinos experience their lapses.

Long story short, the offshore gambling market is more unsettled than regulated markets. But you can be safe when betting at the right offshore casinos.


The vast majority of offshore online casinos aren’t technically unregulated. They hold licensing with one or more jurisdictions.

Again, the same casinos may be subject to very little oversight or intervention from there licensing bodies. In this way, they are somewhat unregulated.

The only way to gamble online safely is by playing in a highly regulated market. The latter have strong licensing jurisdictions that reprimand operators who violate state laws.

If you don’t live in or near such a state, though, offshore sites are your only options for online casino games. In these cases, you really want to do your research on any prospective casino before placing a deposit.