US Online Casinos
The online casino market in a country can normally be treated as a single entity, where a country can be approached a certain way by both the law, players, and online casino sites. The US is a lot like 52 different countries, where gambling gets decided entirely at the state and territory level and we end up with very different situations. Take advantage of our comprehensive guide and recommendations for all 52 of them that we’ve put together for you.
Introduction to US Online Gambling
People from all over the world spend more and more money on online casinos each year. It used to be that you would have to visit a physical location to do this, but playing your favorite slots and other casino games are now as close as your computer or mobile device. Americans can also bring top ranked casinos right into their home or to wherever they happen to be, in spite of all the misinformation out there about this.
Let us be your guide in navigating today’s US online casino landscape, where we will direct you away from all the propaganda and all the sites of lesser quality and toward the understanding that US players can play without fear at sites that warmly welcome them and truly value their business.
US States Online Casinos & Gambling Laws
Are US Online Casinos Legal?
Even after all these years, misinformation abounds about the legality of US residents enjoying online casino games. On one side we have government authorities at both the federal and state level, and especially the long arm of the federal government, looking to paint a distorted picture of the landscape and being eager to knowingly alter the truth. Many commentators on the internet have pointed out flaws such as the Wire Act and UIGEA not applying to players, and then just tell you this means its legal, which still doesn’t describe the situation well enough.
It is true that there has never been a federal law that could even be conceived to prohibit US residents from playing casino games online, even though the Wire Act placed restrictions on sports betting sites and the UIGEA restricted gambling-related financial transactions.
They told us that the Wire Act made online gambling illegal, even though it never applied to players or even online casino operators. They told us that the UIGEA made playing at an online casino against the law, even though this only applied to operators as well and requires that the gambling offered be illegal, by way of the Wire Act, which again doesn’t even apply to online casinos.
There are more issues at play here than whether federal law actually makes playing at online casinos illegal or not. Most of the power to regulate gambling is vested at the state level, and this is why it is legal and regulated in some states but not in most. Marijuana possession is clearly illegal under federal law for instance, but some states have legalized it because they control what goes on within their borders and the federal government is limited to interstate and international activities.
We also need to understand the difference between regulated and non-regulated activities, where regulation may permit something but a lack of regulation may not prohibit it. Regulation defines acceptable practices in the absence of a law against something, but when there is no explicit legal prohibition, there is no regulation but no law against it either.
We also need to define legal in a practical context, and distinguish between laws that merely convey the government’s displeasure with something but is unenforced or unenforceable with those laws that result in real consequences of running afoul of.
US Online Casino Regulatory History
The US has had legal online gambling in various forms throughout its history, from playing poker in a saloon in the Old West to modern-day Las Vegas and the relatively new state regulated online gambling that we now have. It used to be that the only legal casinos in the USA were in Las Vegas, and later, Atlantic City, but land-based casino gambling is now very widespread throughout the country, thanks to more relaxed attitudes by the states over the last few years.
Land-based gaming is clearly an intrastate activity, fully under control of states, although the federal government has a say as far as restricting information or money travelling across state lines. The Wire Act sought to restrict information related to sports betting from being transmitted this way, and the UIGEA sought to do the same thing with financial transactions provided that the activity consisted of illegal gambling, although did not in itself speak to the legality of online gambling.
While it was decided by the courts many years ago that the Wire Act does not apply to online casinos, the UIGEA can still be used against those processing financial transactions related to online casino gambling if it is found to be illegal at the state level. State laws aren’t that clear on this though although there are some that are clear enough or lean that way, such as in the State of New York, that the Department of Justice has swung this UIGEA sword at operators from time to time.
These federal laws have mostly been used as a means of intimidation though, and while offshore operators aren’t even subject to US law, and it may be perfectly legal to do what they are doing where they are located, the mere threat of arresting operators who may visit the US has been enough to scare plenty of operators away from this big market.
Just like online gamblers can’t just look at the law without seeking to understand its practical implications, needing to know both what the law might be telling us and what that may mean to us, how our activities may be affected by this, we also need to look at this from the perspective of operators, where the government’s bark may be bigger than they bite but the barking may be seen as scary enough to be influential.
The Current US Online Casino Scene
While it’s always important to get the facts about a decision prior to making it, the impact of the resistance against online casinos in the United States has served to really cut down the field, and when your choices are more limited, it’s even more important to be properly informed.
With so many of the better-known names gone, players need to rely on good independent advice to not only be guided toward the better gaming experiences over the lesser ones, but especially to avoid the less reputable operators. It is not enough to just try to do this yourself as the sites themselves or their associates online aren’t going to tell you that they are untrustworthy or have many unhappy customers.
The upshot of the UIGEA legislation wasn’t to keep Americans from gambling online, and although many were confused and thought you couldn’t, many have continued to play at online casinos to their heart’s content, those who knew where to go. This legislation did drive away some of the bigger casinos, but there were other sites that stepped up to fill the void.
One of the benefits of this is seeing these newer casinos on the block be more progressive, where the larger and more successful casinos had the luxury of resting on their laurels, relying on the giant software companies like Playtech and Microgaming who themselves had become complacent. These newer casinos had to fight for people’s business more and this meant more focus on providing the latest and greatest slots and other games and the ability to select from a number of software providers like Realtime Gaming and BetSoft instead of ones that were in need of updating.
This law also made it harder for Americans to deposit and withdraw at offshore online casinos, as this law was specifically designed to scare away companies who processed online gambling transactions, such as Visa and Mastercard, who also are headquartered in the US and do have to worry about US law.
Once again though, if there is a void, the market will seek to fill it, and operators just found some other ways to allow us to deposit and withdrawal. Maybe you can’t use your credit card directly at online casinos anymore, because your bank or credit card provider had to shut this down, but there’s always been several ways to deposit, and these offshore casinos have been more than happy to be accommodating, because this means more business for them.
Prepaid Visa and MasterCard branded gift cards became an immediate hit among American players, because while some didn’t allow casino deposits, many did, and all you had to do is go to the store and buy one and you would be enjoying your favorite online casino games in minutes.
These online casinos would even do things to help players like having their people receive Western Union payments to another name other than the casinos so that Western Union was none the wiser as what the money was for, and while this is perfectly safe at a trustworthy casino, this is another reason why you can’t just jump on the first one you see.
The New Frontier of USA Online Casinos
The coming of Bitcoin and other digital currencies was a major change in online casino transactions, especially among American players. These payments are anonymous by design, specifically designed to protect your privacy by keeping these transactions away from the prying eyes of the authorities, who can learn all of your financial details by the paper trail your plastic leaves, but these digital payments leave no trail at all.
Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies therefore have been a perfect solution to all this UIGEA and other regulatory infringement upon our liberty and privacy, and have beckoned a new day in Americans gambling online, with or without state regulated gaming.
With only a few states onboard, a lot of people in other states have been waiting for quite a while now for their state to finally get with the program, but there never has been a reason to wait, provided that you are in the know.
US authorities consider offshore sites unregulated, but that’s not true at all, as they are regulated, just not by them. Only a small percentage of the overall online gambling that has gone on through the years has been US regulated, with the vast majority of it being regulated in other jurisdictions. Thinking that only US regulation is real regulation is both pompous and mistaken.
Quality Really Matters Here
We do need to be careful with this though as the jurisdictions that regulate US friendly offshore casinos do vary by quality. Some see the fact that they are located in very small countries as a knock, but some of these regulators are top notch, even though some are far from it and provide little or no oversight.
A gaming license from the better ones is worth something, and this industry is to a large degree self-regulating, as if they lose a good license, the other better regulators probably don’t want to give them one either as they could hurt their reputation as well. Reliable regulators are pickier with who they accept, unlike some places who are happy enough as long as they are paid their licensing fees. It pays to know the difference and not be one of the ones that are disappointed, or worse.
Another thing to be aware of is how fair their software is, and we don’t just want to take the casino’s word for it. This is why the good ones have their software regularly tested by trusted third party software verification companies, to make sure that no one tries to pull a fast one on us. Some sites do try to trick us, and we definitely want to stay away from those.
There is a lot to consider when you are looking to select a good USA friendly online casino, starting with what the good ones actually are, instead of needing to guess too much. One of the great things about online gambling is that it happens online, people share their experiences online, and it’s even easier to stay on top of what is going on.
You want to play the best slot and other casino games online at the best sites, with customer service that shows they actually do value your business and run their sites like they mean it. They set good bonus deals up for you and they live up to them. They promise to give you your winnings and they do. They want to keep you happy and coming back and it shows.
That’s not asking for too much actually, although you have to ask the right people, those who are actually in a position to help you. Your online gambling happiness depends on it.
USA Online Casinos FAQ
- Is it legal for Americans to gamble at offshore online casinos?
Wondering if something is legal really means worrying about legal consequences, and no American has ever been even charged with gambling at offshore sites. Even the most authoritarian regimes can’t stop online gambling, and only North Korea has been able to do it, by just stopping people from going online period. There’s never been a federal law against this, and it’s a grey area at best in most states. If it is illegal, this isn’t a law they could ever enforce anyway.
- Doesn’t the UIGEA and the Wire Act make it illegal for US residents to gamble online?
The Department of Justice sure hopes that you think that these laws have made online gambling against the law, and have shamelessly lied to the public about this for years. Propaganda can be pretty effective though. The UIGEA does not even remotely apply to individuals, and doesn’t even make gambling illegal, it only addresses financial transactions found to be illegal by way of other laws. The Wire Act does not apply to either individuals or casino games.
- Didn’t the good online casinos stop taking Americans years ago?
After the UIGEA, the big names in the online casino business left, some good ones and some not so good ones. Not all casinos chose to leave though and a number of them remained to ensure that US online casino players were not defeated. More joined as the revival continued, with some of course being better than others. Today, there are several fine online casinos that happily serve Americans. Casino gambling is repeat business, and the better ones have worked hard to want to make us stay.
- Who decides which online casinos USA Players can play at?
Whether an online casino decides to accept American players or not is a decision that is made at the level of the individual online casino. These casinos, which operate outside the United States, are therefore not subject to US regulation or control and instead are subject to the laws and regulations of the country that they reside in or are regulated in. They may choose or not to choose to offer play to Americans. The US is a huge market for online gambling so many do.
- Doesn’t international law have the power to stop offshore casino gambling?
This issue came up early on in the history of online gambling, where the U.S Department of Justice believed they had domain over the internet. They sought to prohibit outside jurisdictions from offering play to their residents and asked the World Trade Organization to intervene. The WTO ruled against the American government, time after time, recognizing that these offshore gambling operations were acting within the law and the preferences of the American government did not apply.
- Do we need to worry about our casinos being regulated elsewhere?
All reputable online casinos are regulated by various regulatory bodies located in various parts of the world, and the better ones have an incentive to achieve and maintain public confidence and especially the confidence of the industry. The good ones work hard to engender and maintain public trust, where a casino being in their fold means something, making their licenses more desirable and valuable. This alone will assure they avoid and weed out lower quality operators so that their reputation isn’t damaged.
- Are we limited to a lesser quality online gaming experience now?
Bigger is not always better, and this especially is true with online casinos. Some of the best online casinos out there are of the smaller variety, and this even includes new ones that are even more eager to make you happy and ensure that their site is a success. Larger and more successful operations may have become too complacent and can get away with more if they choose to, where your business counts less to them because they have so many other players in their fold.
- Do these smaller casinos offer a good selection of different games?
In earlier times, there were only two major online casino software providers. Sites entered into exclusive licensing agreements with them. As the online casino business has evolved, several new and innovative software companies entered the scene, and the better ones produced games that became big hits and also offered players a great selection of high-quality games. Due to these changes, smaller casinos have not only caught up to the big ones, they often surpass them in game selection.
- How difficult is it to deposit at USA friendly online casinos these days?
Even during the early days of the UIGEA, when the industry was seen to be in turmoil and many less in the know were pronouncing US online casino gaming dead, it was never difficult for Americans to deposit at these casinos. They may not have been able to use their credit cards and may have had to use gift cards or other means to do it, but it’s always been pretty easy. Now that we have Bitcoin and other digital currencies, which many online casinos are happy to take, it’s gotten even easier.
- Why can’t the US Government stop us from playing at online casinos?
There are several reasons why we never had to worry about the US government interfering with our online casino playing directly. Our online play itself isn’t within federal jurisdiction, and the most they can do is go after providers of some sort. Gambling in our state is under state control, but states have no power or say with the operators. Some jurisdictions have had internet providers block offshore sites, but people just connect through a VPN. There’s nothing they can do to stop us.