The Complete Overview of the US Gambling Laws

You want to know how things stand when legalizing gambling in America is in question? Here, we offer you a simplified explanation of the US gambling laws and a list of states that made gambling legal.

The US Gambling Laws Nowadays

There is no easy answer to the question “Is gambling legal in America?” because even though there are some federal laws that regulate this extremely profitable industry, the states have the right to independently regulate it as well.

We are going to address this issue in two different ways. First, let’s take a look at the history of the US gambling laws, and then, we are going to see how gambling is treated in different federal states.

The Wire Act as a Forefather of Online Gambling Laws

This act was the first to prohibit placing a bet on various sports events through “wire transfer.” Everyone who ignored this act would have been fined or even imprisoned. The Wire Act served as a foundation to the notorious UIGEA — the act that expanded this ban to all mobile networks and the World Wide Web.

This Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act originally included the prohibition of all games related to chance, which would also include all lottery games. Fortunately for all lottery lovers, a milder form of this act was agreed upon, and the Congress passed it as a law in 2006.

The passing of the UIGEA presented a severe blow to a flourishing online gambling industry in the USA. Not long after, all the major gambling sites operating in the States withdrew from the market, leaving numerous American gamblers bitterly disappointed and angry at the authorities.

“Black Friday” for Online Poker Lovers



Things had gone from bad to worse for gambling lovers in America in 2011. In April 2011, the Department of Justice shut down all online poker sites in America. The event poker players all over America ominously refer to as “Black Friday” had finally put an end to online poker playing, which had managed to stay under the radar until then.

Another restrictive act that prohibited wagering on sports events, including both professional and amateur sports, known as the PASPA, appeared in 1992. The supporters of this strict act claimed that the growing popularity of sports betting across the United States has started showing harmful effects on society, especially on the American youth.

This ridiculously designed law was finally overturned in 2018, when sports betting and sportsbooks were made legal again, both in real life and online. The Supreme Court ruling to legalize sports betting brought a glimpse of hope to the US gambling community that this was a first step towards making all the other forms of gambling legal.

Another positive sign that the American authorities have softened their strict attitude towards

gambling was the legalization of the growingly popular Online Fantasy Sports Games in the USA.

This was a little throwback to remind us how things stand when federal gambling laws are in question. Now, let’s see now how different American states handled various issues related to gambling.

Gambling Laws by States

There are four federal states that made their first steps towards legalization of gambling. Thus, they’ve paved the way for other states to follow.


This American state is considered to be the cradle of gambling since it was the first to offer legal casino games to players. It all started with the construction of the famous Hoover Dam. That was when the first gambling houses appeared, at first offering showgirls and casino games to workers on the Dam.

Gambling Laws by nevada

This was the early history of Las Vegas — the city that has since become the gambling capital of the world. The profit made from gambling during the years of Depression saved the budget of the state of Nevada, so no one ever talked about the drawbacks of gambling.

Nevada was also the first place in America to legalize sports betting and horse racing in 1948. Additionally, it was one of the rare states that were excluded from the PASPA that had forbidden sportsbooks all over America. This enabled Nevada to hold a monopoly on placing wagers on sports and to additionally fill their budget.

While this state was the first to legalize gambling in land-based casinos, the only form of online gambling accepted in Nevada is online poker playing. The pioneer in this gambling field was Station Casino’s Ultimate Poker that started working in the spring of 2013. However, WSOP. com Nevada appeared on the online gambling scene in September the same year and stole the show. This site uses WSOP tournaments and events to promote their services.

On another note, although you can bet on your favorite sports events in “real” sportsbooks in Nevada, there is no way to do the same online because there are no sites that offer such services in this state.

New Jersey

New Jersey was the second in line to legalize casinos and gambling for the same reasons Nevada did. Gambling provided the necessary income for the state of New Jersey to survive the severe economic crisis caused by a disastrous New York stock market crash in the 1920s.

What Las Vegas is for Nevada, Atlantic City is for New Jersey. So if you want a fun and lucrative gambling experience, make sure to put this city on your must-visit list.

The online gambling law was put in action in 2013, thus enabling Atlantic City casinos to start hosting poker tournaments and other online gambling events. On top of that, there are eight sports betting places in New Jersey, accompanied by the same number of online betting sites that offer their services on the Jersey territory.

Finally, there are two more American states that made a serious effort to legalize gambling on their territory, and these are Delaware and Mississippi.


Delaware is often referred to as the “first state” because they were the first to make significant steps in making online gambling legal. They started implementing online gambling laws a year before all others in 2012. On top of that, they were also the first to make sports betting legal in 2018 when they launched their first online sportsbook. All of these actions are commendable because their main goal was to boost the economy of this small American state.

Delaware Gambling Laws


So now, you can find numerous table games like Blackjack or Roulette in some of the online casinos hosted by the three state’s sportsbooks. And you can even find online Video Poker and slot machines at these online gambling sites.


Mississippi was the fourth in line of the American states to regulate sports betting by providing a legal frame for this form of gambling. This state made sports betting possible in 2017. Consequently, a large number of this state’s casinos embraced this lucrative opportunity to enlarge their profit and incorporated betting on professional and amateur sports into their offer. This made this state’s gambling market the third most profitable in the USA.

And when other states saw how blooming and profitable online gambling can be, as well as how much money various gambling activities can infuse into the state budget, many of them rushed to devise various rules and regulations to legalize online gambling. Some of these states that have made gambling possible by passing state laws are Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.

Inventive Ways to Evade Gambling Restrictions

Native Americans were the first to open casinos on the reservation grounds that are considered to be sovereign territory. This simply means that the Native Americans’ territories don’t fall under the United States federal jurisdiction. So they took advantage of this “independence” and started opening casinos that offered a wide range of well-known casino games.

However, the government didn’t let the Indians collect the gambling revenue and keep it all to themselves for a long time. That’s why the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed. This act still allowed the Native American casinos to independently operate, as long as the tribes made a compact, i.e., a specific agreement with the federal authorities.

The other crafty way Americans invented to avoid gambling restrictions are the so-called “riverboat casinos.” Once gambling was banned on land, riverboats with casinos on them started mushrooming along the Mississippi River. There was an agreement between these casino owners and the government that these establishments could work legally, as long as they were floating on the water. However, many of these unconventional casinos have turned a deaf ear on this regulation and stayed anchored on the river docks.

Final Word

It seems that the American legislation and authorities are slowly becoming aware of how powerful online gambling industry has become over the years. Now, this vibrant and ever-expanding industry is bringing in millions of dollars a year. Maybe 2019 will be the crucial year for making huge steps toward legalizing gambling in the USA, both on a state and federal level.