US Online Casino & Gambling Legalities
Whether you are from the United States or not, chances are you have heard at least something with regard to the confusing landscape that is the online casino industry in the United States. To be fair, the parameters of online casinos in the United States are in a constant state of flux, so the confusion shrouding most people is easily understood.
In the following few sections, we will break down the history, changes to the law, and how the law is worded currently as it relates to online casinos. Though all of this information may seem too confusing and convoluted for anyone to understand, we will break it down in as simple a manner as possible.
Legal Status By State
History of US Online Casinos
The origins of US online casinos has almost nothing to do with the United States itself. In fact, a combination of two of the most obscure nations—Antigua & Barbuda and the Isle of Man—helped created the online casino industry that we are familiar with today. In 1994, Antigua& Barbuda passed an Act that would allow for the licensing of online gambling organizations within the country’s borders. This Act was passed in direct response to Isle of Man-based software company Microgaming creating some of the first casino software.
If you flash forward a few years to 1996, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission was established and served the purpose of licensing and regulating online gaming the world over. The reason for the regulation was to introduce a bit of transparency into the industry, as many people found it difficult to believe that online casinos were not rigged to scam players. Nowadays, there are many regulatory bodies that all serve this same purpose.
By the end of the 20th century’s final decade, online casinos and the industry as a whole was bringing in annual revenue well over $800 million. During the 1990s, many online casinos meant to serve a US audience began popping up and becoming popular. Before long, however, certain moves on the part of the US government made online gambling incredibly more difficult and, in many ways, risky.
Federal Wire Act, UIGEA, and Games of Chance
By the turn of the 21st century, any American citizen could turn on t heir TV and be immediately subjected to countless advertisements promoting a wide variety of online gambling sites. This went on for a few more years, but by 2002, the US Court of Appeals ruled that the Federal Wire Act—a law from the early 1960s—prohibited the processing and transfer of sports betting wagers and information. At this point in time, wagering on sports online became an activity that many people thought might land them in prison.
Even though the 2002 ruling made it clear that betting on sports online was not permissible by the Department of Justice, it was made very clear that this ruling and t he Federal Wire Act in general do not apply to games of chance. So while the sports betting industry was dealt a blow, the greater realm of online casinos in the United States remained intact. Despite this ruling in 2002, the US Department of Justice has time and time again taken the stance that all forms of online gambling, including games of chance, are illegal.
In response to this stance, major search engines began removing online casino advertisements from their websites. Specifically, these websites were responding to comments made by the Department of Justice in 2004 which alluded that online casino advertisements could be viewed as aiding an illegal activity. Though no one has ever been prosecuted for having advertised online casinos on a website, major US search engines still restrict casino advertisements to this day.
In 2006, the US online casino landscape was dealt another blow, this time in the form of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 being passed. As its name implies, the Act was intended to thwart financial institutions from dealing with any funds that are or may be related to online gambling. The reasoning behind this was that if players could not use their bank accounts to fund an account at an online casino, no one would be able to gamble online. What really upsets people, however, is that UIGEA was passed as a minor addition to a much larger Bill that had absolutely nothing to do with online casinos. The piece of legislation about which we speak is the Safe Port Act, which made changes to security measures at ports in the United States. UIGEA was tacked on to the end of this Bill at the last second and, according to many, was not even fully understood by some of the people who voted in favor of its passing.
The Wake of UIGEA
After UIGEA was passed, it may seem difficult to believe but many online gambling sites remained in existence and even still offered their services to US players. With that being said, there were many operators who chose to abandon US-facing services in the wake of the 2006 Act.
Though fragmented, online casinos continued to offer real money games to US players through the next few years. In 2009, however, nearly 30,000 online players had their player accounts frozen and funds stripped from them thanks to the US Department of Justice. This move was made in response to major operators’ supposedly illegal actions with regard to real money casino transactions. AS you might have expected, the seizure of accounts and funds resulted in yet another exodus of casino operators from the United States.
Since then, however, the incidence of law enforcement stepping in to thwart online casino activity in the United States has disappeared almost entirely. Though the US online casino scene is still absent some of the biggest names in the global casino industry, there are still hundreds of places at which you can play.
US Gambling Legalities Guide
- A Brief History of Gambling in the United States
- Differences Between Land Based and Online Gambling
- Gambling Prohibition and Regulation
- The Political Barriers To Gambling in The United States
- Who Has The Jurisdiction To Make Gambling Laws in the US?
- Early Efforts By The US to Curtail Online Gambling
- How Do US Gambling Laws Apply to Other Countries
- The Federal Wire Act of 1961
- The US Anti Gambling Propaganda Machine
- Offshore Online Gambling Regulation
- Actions By The US Government to Stop Online Gambling
- Overview Of Federal Law That May Apply To Online Gambling
- The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA)
- The Impact of the UIGEA
- The Southern District of NY Takes On Poker Players
- United States v. Scheinberg, aka Black Friday
- The Aftermath of Black Friday
- California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians
- The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act
- The Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act
- The Internet Poker Freedom Act
- Why These Internet Gambling Bills Don’t Really Matter
- States Start Regulating Online Gambling
- The Challenges of Regulated Online Gambling
- The Arguments Against Online Gambling
- The Arguments In Favor of Online Gambling
- Toward A Comprehensive Regulatory System in the US
- The Department of Justice Changes Its Mind About the Wire Act
- The Workarounds for Offshore Online Gambling Sites
- The Threats of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act
- The Future of Online Gambling in the US
Current Legal Status of Online Casinos
After hearing about all this legislation and opposition to online gambling on the part of the US government, it might seem impossible to believe that online casinos are still operating and offering their services to US citizens.
The fact of the matter, however, is that this is exactly the case. There are hundreds of online casinos in existence that offer real money casino games to US players, and that number is only seeming to grow with each passing year. Since the seizure of accounts in 2009 nothing similar has occurred and is likely not going to. Now we are seeing states set up their own legal, regulated online casino networks and the general attitude towards gambling has seemed to have lightened up.
Legal US Online Casinos FAQ
Will my bank account be seized if I play at US online casinos?
Though what happened to player accounts in 2009 might scare you, the fact is no one has ever had their bank account frozen for having played online. Even when online casino accounts were frozen in 2009, those affected players did not have their personal bank accounts frozen.
Are there reputable online casinos to play at in the US?
Yes. Even though some of the most well-known names may not offer their services to US citizens, there are plenty of reputable online casinos available for US players.
What kind of casino games can I play for real money online in the United States?
There is no real answer to this question because there are so many varieties of games offered by varying casinos. When it comes down to it, however, you will be hard-pressed to find a game that isn’t available online in the United States.
How do I find reputable online casinos?
By taking a bit of time to do research and uncover which online casinos are highly rated by players, you will find the sites that have the best reputations. It all comes down to how much time you dedicate to finding a site that best suits your individual needs.