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The Legal Landscape of Online Gambling in America

When asked, ‘Is it legal to gamble online in America?’ the answer can be ‘yes’ or ‘no’ depending on where you are. The easy way to assess the landscape of online gambling in this great country is to look at it on a state-by-state level. Things are complicated a little further as the term ‘online gambling’ is rather general as it covers sports betting, poker and casino gambling, which are separated into their own categories by state lawmakers.

While the picture is constantly changing with more and more US states in the process of building a regulatory framework or considering it, this article will provide an overview of how things stand in the first months of 2021.

Open for business – regulated states

If you’re planning a road trip to a state where it’s legal to gamble online, these are the places you want to pinpoint on the map.

New Jersey – the Garden State is currently the frontrunner in the US online gambling sector, with revenue exceeding $225 million a year. With more than 14 licensed and regulated online operators, patrons can enjoy online casinos, sports betting, and poker.

In addition to New Jersey, several other states also offer casinos, sports and poker gambling online. They are Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware, and Michigan. 

Next, let’s look at other states that offer some types of online gambling, but not all of the three mentioned above.

  • Indiana, Ohio, New Hampshire, Oregon, Colorado, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Montana, Illinois and Washington D.C.: online sports betting is legal, but no plans for online casinos or poker.
  • Nevada: online sports betting and online poker are legal, but no plans for online casinos, unsurprisingly.

That’s fifteen of fifty states to date where some form of online gambling is legal, and while sports betting is clearly leading the charge, there are five states now with online casinos in operation. Currently, North Carolina is on the list of potential places to legalize online gambling next.

What about the rest?

A growing number of states are softening to retail sports betting, but there are no plans to allow any forms of online gambling. This leaves the door open to ‘play for fun’ casinos, which offer a variety of fun and exciting games. There are also sites that use their own tokens, and these tokens can be redeemed for real cash prizes. How is this possible if gambling isn’t legal? Players do not have to pay for the tokens, so it’s technically not gambling in that sense. These websites and mobile apps generate income from advertising revenue, and this allows them to pay out cash.

Of course, offshore casinos are another option. Many of these accept US players, with a small handful of states excluded. Naturally, such sites are not licensed or regulated on US soil, so it’s a risk in itself to use them. We are not saying they are rogue and should be blacklisted, but players don’t have any protections to cover them in case something does go wrong.

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