Is Online Gambling Legal in the USA?

Date Published

Authored by

Paul De Freitas

Legal online gambling

More and more people prefer to enjoy gambling online than in brick-and-mortar premises, as it is much more convenient and creates a lot of opportunities. As it is explained by Business Wire, the Research & Markets report shows that the online casino industry is expected to reach $92.9 billion by 2023, increasing at an annual compound rate of 11.6%. It is predicted that such rising technologies as Blockchain, VR, and IoT will develop the online gambling industry even further. North America is expected to follow the rest of the world, as its market will probably grow at a rate of 14.78% until 2025.

Gambling laws in the United States are constantly evolving, even today. The Wire Act of 1961 oversaw this industry in the US for the longest time. This piece of legislation was aimed at working with anti-racketeering laws many years before the internet was even invented, so it was not fully applicable to online casinos. For this reason, the Department of Justice (DOJ) allowed states to legalize online gambling in 2011.

Then, the US Supreme Court overruled the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 in 2018. As a result, the federal ban on online sports betting was canceled. Nonetheless, the DOJ has lately concluded that the 1961 Wire Act does extend to online betting, and offering such forms of online gambling became legal only to residents of a state if the local laws allow for it.

So, how have particular states regulated online gambling? Let's have a closer look!

Legal Online Gambling in Different States

Before you start enjoying sports betting or playing online poker, roulette, blackjack, slots, baccarat, or other fun casino games, you should check the local online gambling laws. Depending on a given state, online casinos may be fully accepted or come with some restrictions. To make sure if sports betting and other forms of gambling online are allowed in your state, check our guide below!

Maine

Unlawful gambling is punished in Maine, but there are no penalties referring to simply gambling online. Therefore, as these activities are not mentioned by the law, you can enjoy legal sports betting and online casinos.

Verdict: Not illegal.

New Hampshire

There are a few forms of gambling that the State allows, but apart from them, it is illegal to gamble - it is classified as a misdemeanor due to 647:2.

The State doesn't mention legal online gambling and sports betting, so it's considered not approved by the local law.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Vermont

In Vermont, only the state-sanctioned methods of gambling are allowed, and others can be punished by a fine of $10-$200. However, there is no incarceration punishment for playing online poker and other casino games on gambling sites or for online sports betting.

Verdict: Illegal, punished with a fine.

Massachusetts

Massachusetts is an interesting case because it has many laws that forbid gambling for operators. Take into account that the law says it is illegal to be involved in sports betting and casino games.

Another untypical thing here is that the fine depends on the amount of money you win while gambling online. The state law says that individuals who win five or more dollars while gambling (except for the legal gambling authorized by the state under Chapter 23K) can get a fine that doubles the amount of the reward.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, casino operators can be punished by law. It even happened that operators and people getting others to go to what can be called social games got a $500 fine.

While it may seem legal online gambling is not possible there, there are no specific penalties for players who use online casinos or sports betting apps - it appears to concern the operations only.

Verdict: Most likely not illegal.

Connecticut

When it comes to Connecticut, you can be absolutely sure that online gambling is not allowed there - it is classified as a Class B misdemeanor.

Unless the State directly says online casino games and sports betting are legal, they are forbidden by law. It is hard to speculate if the law is strictly enforced or not, though.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

New York

The state law in New York includes a specific definition of legal sports betting and gambling - only those activities that have been particularly mentioned by the state are allowed. However, when it comes to punishing other forms of online betting, the laws focus completely on the operators of online casinos, not their players.

Interestingly, there have been efforts to classify online poker as a game of skill, not luck, so this form of online gambling may turn legal even for the operators if such a bill is indeed accepted by the Senate.

Verdict: Not illegal.

New Jersey

New Jersey is one of the best states for online gambling and sports betting fans. Here, sports betting is legal, as well as online casinos, as long as they fall under the Licensing and Regulation of the State. However, remember that if a particular gambling activity is not specifically authorized by the State, it is considered unlawful.

However, laws associated with online casinos and sports betting in New Jersey focus not on the players but the operators.

Verdict: Not illegal.

Pennsylvania

In Pennsylvania, any forms of online gambling that are not authorized by the State are prohibited, but the penalties seem to concern only the operators, not the players.

Verdict: Not illegal.

Virginia

The laws in Virginia say that making a wager on anything associated in any way to chance is illegal unless it has been specifically approved by the State. It is also crucial to know that this state perceives using your computer, tablet, or smartphone as turning it into an online gambling device which can also be punished.

Illegal sports betting and casino games are considered a Class III Misdemeanor by the State of Virginia.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

West Virginia

West Virginia is a very specific case as it has legalized a lot of slot parlors and casinos, but any other techniques of gambling are not legal, even home games. An illegal wager in this state can cost you a fine of $5-$300, and if not paid on time, it may lead to 10-30 days in prison.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Washington, D.C.

In Washington D.C., the only form of gambling that is allowed by the state is the lottery. Local drawings are held a few times every day, and there are also three interstate lotto drawings, but online sports betting and casinos are not allowed.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Delaware

Online gambling laws are very unclear in Delaware. On the one hand, regulated online sports betting and casinos are legal, but on the other, it is illegal to own a "gambling device." If this device can be extended to a smartphone, tablet, or computer, it may not be safe to play online poker or involve in any other gambling activities on it. Therefore, online gambling is most likely legal in Delaware, but these laws need clarification.

Verdict: Probably legal

Maryland

In Maryland, there is a similar problem with a "gambling device." Sports betting and online gambling on an electronic device may lead up to various fines or even up to two years in jail.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

North Carolina

In North Carolina, any game of chance is classified as gambling, and if it is not a game specifically approved by the state, playing is considered a Class II misdemeanor.

Moreover, any funds you get in online poker, sports betting, or any other form of online gambling can be legally seized.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

South Carolina

In the laws of South Carolina, online gambling operators and people engaged in home games can get a fine of up to $100 or 30 days in prison.

However, individuals who are involved in sports betting or online casino games have not been mentioned, so it is very ambiguous.

Verdict: Ambiguous.

Georgia

Some people may say that Georgia does not specifically mention online gambling in its laws, so it should be considered legal. However, it needs to be taken into consideration that this state has prohibited basically any way one can gamble on the internet, including online poker, blackjack, slots, sports betting, and more, so in fact, it is not allowed.

Verdict: Probably illegal.

Florida

There are forms of regulated gambling in Florida, but other methods are considered a Second-Degree misdemeanor. Unfortunately, online poker and other popular games played in casinos outside of the State of Florida are not legal. However, it is hard to say if this law is really enforced.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Michigan

Winning money in online sports betting or other forms of gambling on the internet is not allowed in Michigan. However, if you win less than $50, this misdemeanor seems not to be punished. Higher rewards may be punished with a fine of up to $1,000 or a year of imprisonment.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Ohio

The State of Ohio allows only chosen games to be played publically, but it also does not prescribe any punishment that could clearly be extended to gambling online.

However, it is illegal to involve in gambling as a substantial source of income or livelihood. It includes sports betting with a bookmaker as well.

Verdict: Conditionally illegal.

Kentucky

In Kentucky, it is not legal to "advance gambling activity," which sounds like something that applies to online casino operators, not the players. The mere act of gambling online does not seem to be punished in this state.

Verdict: Not illegal.

Tennessee

Only those forms of gambling that are specified by the state laws are legal in Tennessee. Other kinds of betting can be classified as a misdemeanor. Also, it is illegal to own a gambling device, and in the case of online casinos, it can be a tablet, smartphone, or computer.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Alabama

In Alabama, unlawful gambling activities are illegal, but it is not specified if online casinos and sports betting fall into that category. One thing that is clear here is that a gambling company cannot operate in this state and make a profit.

Verdict: Ambiguous.

Indiana

It is definitely not recommended to have an online gambling business in Indiana. When it comes to the players, involving in illegal gambling is a Class B misdemeanor. Also, a device used for playing in online casinos can be considered illegal.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Wisconsin

There are also certain forms of gambling allowed in Wisconsin. Other than that, this activity is a Class B misdemeanor for online casino players.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Illinois

According to the Illinois laws, playing other games of chance or skill for money than those regulated by the state is illegal. Under the law, it is a misdemeanor, but it is difficult to say if it is strictly enforced.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Mississippi

Apart from the state-authorized activities, it is not legal to gamble in Mississippi. It can be punished with a fine of up to $500, and if it goes unpaid, one can face up to 90 days of imprisonment.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Minnesota

Online gambling in Minnesota may be legal, as its penalties for "Gross Misdemeanors" seem not to apply to players of online casinos. However, betting and possessing gambling devices are mentioned as misdemeanors, so one needs to be careful about that.

Verdict: Ambiguous

Iowa

In Iowa, you can find one of the strictest laws on online gambling. They say that making any bet is not legal and can even be considered a felony in case of big wins. Moreover, all the rewards won in online casino games are subject to seizure. However, it is unknown if these laws are often enforced.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Missouri

Missouri allows only chosen gambling forms, and others are not allowed. They can be classified as misdemeanors.

Arkansas

It is not certain how strictly it is actually enforced, but the law in this state says that you can't gamble on anything to win money or properties.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Louisiana

The law in Louisiana is very clear about online betting, and it says that anyone who uses their computer for gambling needs to get a fine of up to $5oo or 6 months of imprisonment.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

North Dakota

North Dakota is quite an interesting case because apart from State-approved gambling, it is also legal to gamble as long as you don't exceed $25 a hand. When you place a higher bet than that, it can be considered an infraction, and if it exceeds $500, it will be a Class A misdemeanor.

Verdict: Conditionally illegal.

South Dakota

In South Dakota, only state-approved gambling is legal. Other than that, it can be classified as a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Nebraska

Any game that includes an element of chance and any form of gambling that has not been approved by the State of Nebraska is illegal. A player who bets less than $500 in one day may be faced with a Class IV misdemeanor, and if they exceed this sum, they can be punished for Promoting Gambling in the Second Degree.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Kansas

The Kansas laws say that making a bet is a Class B misdemeanor, except for the state-allowed forms of gambling. However, it seems those laws are rarely enforced.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Oklahoma

In this state, a person who is involved in any kind of gambling (apart from the forms approved by the local law) can face a fine of $25-$100 or 1-30 days in prison.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Texas

Statute 47.01(1) says that in Texas, it is not legal to be involved in any games decided partially or completely by chance, apart from those approved by the state. Illegal gambling is considered a Class C misdemeanor.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Montana

The punishment for illegal gambling is pretty complex as the penalties depend on several factors. When the bet is smaller than $750, it is a misdemeanor, and if it exceeds that sum, it can even be a felony.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Wyoming

There are some kinds of gambling (such as social gambling) allowed in Wyoming, but unfortunately, this state doesn't allow online casinos. Playing in them can be punished with a fine of up to $750 or up to 6 months in jail.

Verdict: Clearly illegal

Colorado

Other betting forms than social gambling or activities approved by the state are illegal in Colorado. However, illegal gambling is just a Class 1 petty offense, and it is punished with minor penalties.

Verdict: Clearly illegal, but punished with minor penalties.

New Mexico

Any gambling activities that involve making a bet and are not mentioned in the state laws are illegal and can be classified as a misdemeanor.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Idaho

Only those kinds of gambling that are approved by the State are legal in Idaho. Other than that, betting can be punished as a misdemeanor, but it is hard to tell if this law is really enforced in the case of online casinos.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Utah

In Utah, unfortunately, any form of gambling is illegal. Its law was even amended to specifically include online sports betting and casino games and consider playing them on the internet a Class B misdemeanor.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Arizona

The Arizona State Law says that benefitting from gambling is a Class I misdemeanor. Only social gambling is allowed there.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Nevada

In Nevada, you can only use state-licensed online poker sites legally. Other forms of wagering online can be classified as a misdemeanor.

Verdict: Illegal apart from state-licensed online poker platforms.

Washington

You might expect Washington to have a liberal attitude to gambling sites as HB 1114 keeps getting reintroduced in an effort to make online poker fully legalized and regulated but unfortunately, it is not true.

Apart from the forms of gambling approved by the State, this activity is illegal. It is worth noting that it is a Class C felony in Washington to transfer or get gambling information electronically, with emphasis put on the Internet.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

Oregon

Except for the legal gambling activities specifically mentioned by the State, you are not allowed to place your bets. Online casino games and sports betting are, therefore, considered Unlawful Gambling and classified as Class A misdemeanor.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

California

The laws for gambling online in California are ambiguous. There is no state law that would openly forbid online casinos and sports betting, but lower levels of the government can enact legislation making this activity illegal. For this reason, an online gambling enthusiast from California should always do their research to check if it is allowed in their area.

Verdict: Not illegal in general, but can be locally illegal.

Alaska

In Alaska, any kind of "unlawful gambling" (meaning any gambling activities that are not officially permitted by the State) is illegal - at the first time, it is just a violation, but subsequent violations result in a Class B misdemeanor. However, it is not certain if online gambling falls into this category because it is not specifically mentioned.

Verdict: Ambiguous.

Hawaii

Sadly, despite being a popular tourist destination, the State of Hawaii doesn't allow other gambling activities than just social gambling or home games.

Verdict: Clearly illegal.

How to Gamble Online Safely in the US?

As you can see, many states are not yet open to online gambling. However, there are always ways to handle that, such as using a VPN to change your IP. In this way, you can appear as if you were located in a state that does not have any problems with online casinos and sports betting. Hopefully, the gambling laws will be evolving and allowing more and more people to enjoy their favorite casino games as long as they are adults.

Here you can find the list of the most recommended online casinos that accept players from the US:

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