Legal US sports betting has been a big hit in its brief history so far. New Jersey has especially been a huge success story, generating $300 million in 2019 revenue on a $4.6 billion handle.
As well as the market is doing so far, though, many gamblers still have major questions. They especially want to know if they’re allowed to use a state’s online sportsbooks if they’re not physically located there.
I’ll answer this question by briefly recapping the current sports gambling structure in America and whether it’s okay to bet from anywhere in the US.
What States Offer Legal Online Sports Betting?
Dozens of states have pondered legalizing sports wagering. Here are the ones that have actually done so at the time of this post:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
Most of these states already have their markets up and running. Others, such as Illinois and Michigan, will soon offer legal sportsbooks.
These states are fairly spread out across the US.
If your state hasn’t already legalized the matter, then they could very well do so within the next 5-10 years. Over 40 states are expected to offer regulated sports wagering by then.
Can You Place Legal Bets From Out of State?
Each state features nuances from the next regarding their sports betting laws. Indiana, for example, has excluded esports from its market due to concerns regarding underage pros.
However, such states all agree on one matter: you must be physically located in a state’s borders to gamble at its online sportsbooks.
Multiple reasons fuel this universal stipulation:
- The US Supreme Court only repealed a federal ban PASPA on sports gambling—they didn’t legalize betting.
- States don’t want legal conflicts with other states.
- They also don’t want to battle over who deserves sports betting revenue.
Regarding the first point, the Supreme Court struck down PASPA in May 2018. This decision paved the way for states to individually choose if they want legal sports gambling.
However, their decision didn’t legalize sports betting across the board. If Iowa lets Minnesotans gamble with their bookmakers, for example, then it creates a potential legal conflict between IA and MN.
Likewise, they’d argue over who should get the revenue from the bets. This messy hypothetical scenario doesn’t exist as long as states confine their markets within their own borders.
How Do States Determine if You’re within Their Borders?
Each state utilizes geolocation to verify that gamblers are within their borders. Geolocation uses a bettor’s Wi-Fi signal to pinpoint their location.
This technology was shaky when Nevada and New Jersey first rolled it in the mid-2010s after legalizing real money online gambling. However, geolocation has become much more accurate in recent years.
It can pick up if you’re within the borders of a state or just outside. In the latter case, you won’t be allowed to place online wagers.
Assuming you’re using a sports betting app, then you won’t need to do anything special to enact the geolocation software. It will be built into the app.
When using a browser-based sportsbook, though, you may have to download a geolocation app. For example, GeoGuard from GeoComply is a popular product so far.
Will You Be Arrested for Betting Out of State?
Each state with regulated sports gambling legally requires you to be within their boundaries before betting. You’re breaking the law if you fail to comply.
Your potential punishment depends upon the relevant state. Generally speaking, though, they could arrest you for illegal gambling if they want.
The first step involves a simple warning. If you try gambling from out of state, you’ll receive a popup stating that you can’t legally place bets.
The popup may even convey that your IP address will be logged and any future attempts to make wagers could result in legal action.
Can You Sign Up for an Online Sportsbook from Another State?
You don’t need to be located in a state just to register for one or more of their online betting sites. After all, you’re not actually wagering during this process.
Registration is largely the same across each state. You fill in the required fields and submit your account for approval.
You should be fine as long as you’re of age and not on a gambling self-exclusion list. Remote registration is perfect if you’re planning on visiting another state and want to be prepared ahead of time before betting.
How to Place Legal Online Bets
I’ve touched on many aspects of how to stay within the confines of the law when wagering on sports. Now, I’ll summarize these points in a step-by-step manner.
1 – Be In a State with Regulated Sports Gambling
As discussed earlier, every state requires you to be inside their boundaries before making legal wagers. They use geolocation to track your Wi-Fi and figure out where you are.
Provided you’re within a state’s boundaries, then you have nothing to worry about on this front. The respective bookmaker will send a warning if you try betting from outside state lines.
2 – Register at an Online Sportsbook
Each internet bookmaker across America features the same type of signup process. If you’ve registered at one, then you’ll have no trouble getting started at others.
Sportsbooks also ask for the last four digits of your social security number. This request is used for further identification purposes and to ensure that you’re not on any excluded gambler’s lists.
3 – Get Your Bonus (Optional)
Bookmakers often feature a field for a bonus code during registration. Here, you enter the relevant code so that you can qualify for a bonus.
US sports betting bonuses can include some or all of the following perks:
- Free bet – If you lose your first bet, you can earn the losses back.
- Match bonus – You receive a bonus worth a match percentage (e.g. 100%) of your deposit amount.
- No deposit bonus – You receive free funds (e.g. $20) to place real bets with.
All of these bonuses come with terms and conditions that you must satisfy before cashing out. You’ll typically find, though, that US sportsbook bonuses offer favorable T&Cs when compared to other markets.
4 – Make a Deposit
You must have funds in your account before placing bets. Online sportsbooks give you several options for making deposits.
Here are common banking methods available at US bookmakers:
- ACH – You use an eCheck to send funds from your bank to the sportsbook.
- Cash – Some online betting sites let you deposit with cash at their land-based partners.
- Credit card – You use a Visa or Mastercard debit/credit card to instantly deposit.
- E-wallet – You use Neteller, PayPal, or Skrill to fund your account.
- PayNearMe – Available at 7-Eleven, this option lets you deposit with cash.
5 – Place Your Bets
Once you have available funds, you’re free to gamble at online betting sites. Of course, you should take time to familiarize yourself with the sportsbook before jumping into the wagering process.
Specifically, you want to get used to the betting slips and avoid accidentally risking too much. After all, you can’t cancel a bet once you place and confirm it.
What Are Your Options if Your State Doesn’t Offer Legal Sports Betting?
Most states don’t yet feature regulated sports wagering. If you’re in this boat, then you can take one of the following actions to gamble on sports.
Visit a Nearby State
With the exceptions of Alaska and Florida, every state has at least one neighbor with legal sports wagering. Therefore, you can visit a nearby state to place bets.
Of course, this option may not be feasible if you live in the middle of a vast place like Wyoming. But the states with legal betting are at least dispersed well throughout the country.
Bet at an Offshore Sportsbook
Offshore betting sites continue to serve many states. They present an alternative if you don’t have access to regulated bookmakers.
You must be more careful with these operators, though. They only adhere to the laws of their gambling jurisdiction (e.g. Costa Rica)—not your local state laws.
Federally regulated sports betting would be so much easier. Unfortunately, this type of market doesn’t exist in America.
You’re forced to deal with one and a half dozen states that each have their own laws on the matter. The one universal rule, though, is that you must be within a state to place online or live bets.
I don’t recommend breaking this rule either. Otherwise, you’ll be in violation of a given state’s laws.