There is much confusion over whether it is legal or illegal to gamble online in the USA. This is partly due to ambiguous legislation, and also because various states have their own laws and regulations. The first thing to state is that there is no Federal law against gambling online. There are other legislative barriers in the USA which we will cover later, and some states may have their own laws, but prosecutions are almost unheard of. The laws are intended to be applied to operators rather than individual bettors.
This might seem strange considering the proliferation of land-based casinos in the country, but things are quickly beginning to change. The state of New Jersey became the first state to fully legalize online casinos and poker in February 2013. Likewise Nevada and Delaware currently offer legal poker, though as of now are yet to sanction real money casino games in the state.
Eight other states are said to have bills in the pipeline, and the industry here in the US is expected to grow rapidly as regulations are changed. In the meantime, there are still plenty of USA casinos online which Americans can access completely legally to play blackjack, craps, slots and every other game you'd find at your local. We’ve put together a list of the best 100% legitimate, USA friendly sites below.
The legislative landscape is changing very quickly in the USA, and while the information in this article is correct at the time of writing, you should check the latest laws in your own state to get completely up-to-date.
As mentioned there is no law against an individual placing a bet online, but it is against Federal law for a website to accept a sports bet over the internet. This relates to the Federal Wire Act of 1961 which prohibits the use of a wire communication to place a bet on a sporting event or contest. Until recently the Department of Justice had interpreted this to include bets on ‘games of chance’ such as casino games and poker. However, in 2011 the DoJ publicly released a formal legal opinion stating that the law only applies to wire communications relating to a ‘sporting event or contest’.
The other complication for US players is that it is against Federal law for banks and payment processors to handle gambling transactions. This relates to the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, which made it illegal for banks to process transactions associated with online gaming. This has no effect on the player making the transaction, but prohibits banks and payment services from facilitating deposits and withdrawals. Thus playing at USA online casinos is not illegal, but processing transactions for them is.
New Jersey will be an interesting ‘test case’ and other states will be looking on keenly to see if Governor Chris Christie’s estimation of $1bn in revenue and 17% taxation is realised. Most are expected to follow suit, with some sources estimating that internet gambling could be completely legal in most US states by 2020. Some states, such as Washington, however, have moved in the opposite direction and banned it altogether, so once again we would recommend checking the specific laws in your state before playing.
This years winner of the VegasSlotsOnline.com award for the best slots site is Slotocash Casino. Our readers have spoken and Slotocash has come in top spot by a wide margin. Boasting the biggest games catalog in the US market, the fastest cashout times and the most reliable software and support teams, they have once again set the standard that all other online slots sites should aspire to. Congratulations to Slotocash.
If you happen to live in New Jersey, you can now play at casino websites as long as you are over 21. Most sites that currently accept US-based players are offshore and are not under US jurisdiction so may accept players aged 18 and above. However you should still check local state laws for age restrictions.
There are hundreds of online casinos for US players, but as they are based offshore they are not subject to any US regulations with regard to players’ funds or withdrawals. This means it is especially important to find a reputable web-based casino that has been in operation for several years, is fully licensed in its jurisdiction, and has a solid reputation built up over time.
Registering is a simple process that requires just a few personal details such as name and address. The most difficult barrier can be depositing money to your account, as here in the US we have less options than most other countries.
However, if you own a credit card, then you will have no problems. All the sites we recommend here accept Visa deposits, while many such as Slotocash, Uptown Aces and Silver Oak Casino accept Mastercard and AMEX too.
If you prefer not to use your credit card, then Western Union and Moneygram are both viable alternatives.
The easiest method of withdrawing winnings is via bank wire or check.
Many sites have now been turning to Bitcoin as a viable alternative. Bitcoin is a virtual currency that is not regulated by law in the same way as other currencies. It is largely anonymous, making it a popular choice for gambling transactions. Bitcoin friendly sites are popping up regularly, and it is very easy to purchase Bitcoins with a normal payment method then use them to fund a casino account.
The prohibition of gambling in the US has made it more difficult for people here to bet online. Due to a lack of federal regulation and the slowness of states to regulate the industry, the current climate is much like the Wild West - anything goes. While there are many safe online casinos for US players, unfortunately there are also a number of unscrupulous fly by night operations who will take deposits and refuse to pay winners.
Without the protection of US legislation, American players must be on their guard. It pays to check that operators are registered and licensed in their own jurisdiction, to read reviews about their services, and to check through all the terms and conditions of each site. Don’t worry if that sounds like a lot of work, because we’ve hand picked the best US casinos on this site, all of which are top spots to play at. Good luck.