As of January 2021 over 20 US states have fully legalized online sports betting; with another handful of states already in the process of legalization. Here is everything you need to know about the legal status of online gambling in the United States.
Is sports betting legal in the United States?
Contrary to popular belief, there are no federal laws that prohibit US residents from placing bets online. This means it is not against the law to bet on sports using offshore betting sites that are licensed in countries that have legal online gambling. There are only two states that have laws against betting online are Connecticut and Washington (even though neither of those states have enforced those respective laws). In recent years many states have begun passing legislation that would legalize internet gambling. As of January 2021 over 20 states have achieved legal status, with an additional 20 currently in the legislative process. Even if you live in a state that has not legalized online gambling you can still safely bet offshore without any trouble.
What states have legal online gambling?
While many states are legalizing gambling, only a handful of states have state-regulated online betting sites:
While each of these states currently offer state regulated online betting sites, many residents continue to use offshore sportsbooks. The larger selection of offshore books leads to more competition between betting sites; giving the player access to more competitive odds.
What are the US laws against gambling?
In order to understand the history of gambling legalization in the United States there are a few notable federal laws that must be examined further.
The Federal Wire Act (1961)
The Federal Wire Act made it illegal to bet across state lines through telephone or telegraph. This federal law was meant to target illegally ran bookmakers which carried mafia involvement. The Federal Wire Act was focused on the individuals taking bets and not those that were placing them. US residents could therefore still gamble safely offshore or across state lines without getting in trouble. The risk lied solely on those who were running the bookmaking operations.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (abbreviated PASPA) was a federal law that aimed to make sports betting illegal. This was done with the goal of maintaining the integrity of professional and collegiate sports leagues. PASPA prevented the sports betting industry from expanding through the United States. The only states that were exempt from this federal law were Delaware, Montana, Oregon, and Nevada as they were already offering licensed sports betting and lotteries.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) hindered online gambling sites by targeting their methods of processing payments. Online poker began increasing in popularity around 2004. At the time of UIGEA passing, many betting sites were unsure if they would able to offer consistent deposits and withdrawals to their customers. The gambling industry survived by switching to more reliable payment processors in order to comply with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Similar to the previous federal laws discussed, it was still not illegal for Americans to place bets online. Bookmaking services simply had to be more selective in their offered payment options.
DOJ Interpretation (2011)
As the internet became more popular many states wanted to start offering online gambling to their residents. At the time some states offered regulated internet lotteries while others were still restricted. The Department of Justice was asked to clarify previous federal rulings on whether each state carries the right to make their own decisions regarding online gambling. The DOJ ruled in favor of the states; saying that the federal government had no right preventing states from sanctioning internet gambling.
PASPA Repeal (2018)
PASPA was repealed in 2018 which gave every US state the ability to legalize any form of online gambling. As of January 2021 a few states have taken advantage of this, with more projected to follow suit in the coming years.
The important thing to remember is that there has never been a federal law that made it illegal for American citizens to bet on sports. While to question of whether it’s legal to bet on sports from the United States must be answered on a state-by-state basis, US residents will always be able to safely bet through offshore sportsbooks. For a list of betting sites available in each state as well as each state’s specific online gambling laws check out our interactive betting map or select your state from the list below.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia