Are Online Casinos Legal?
No matter who you are or where you are from, chances are you have heard mixed opinions regarding the legality of playing real money casino games online. Some people will tell you that you are completely free to do so, others will say the opposite, and many more will admit that they haven’t the slightest clue whether gambling online is legal or not.
The fact of the matter is that the gambling landscape—especially in the United States—is fluid, confusing, and oftentimes quite difficult to make sense of. The following few sections will do well to break down the legality of online casinos in the United States such that you have a better idea of what you can and cannot do. To be blunt, a lot of the things you might have heard over the years is patently untrue. Rumors have spread to such a point that there exist many misconceptions regarding this industry as a whole, and this article will work to dispel those rumors.
Online Gambling Legal Situation in the United States
When we talk about the legality of online casinos, or any type of real money online gambling, in the United States, the only timeline you have to worry about begins in 2006. It was at this time that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed as part of a much larger bill. As an aside, plenty of people have issue with UIGEA being passed at all because it was snuck into a larger bill that had everything to do with US trade and nothing to do with gambling at all. For this reason, many people think that it would have never been passed as a standalone piece of legislation.
The big misconception relating to UIGEA is that so many people believe this piece of legislation made it illegal, on the Federal level, to participate in any sort of real money gambling online—including slots, blackjack, sports betting, poker, and just about everything else. To make a long story short, UIGEA made it illegal for financial institutions (see: banks) to handle, store, or move any funds relating to wagers that were made illegally. So, for example, if a state has a complete and total ban on all sorts of online gambling, it would be illegal for banks to even touch gambling money coming from that state. Apart from this, the bill says absolutely nothing about it being illegal to place bets and win real money.
To continue off of this point, the absence of law prohibiting online casinos from existing is exactly what allows them to exist. Basically, until there is a law passed stating that online casinos are illegal, you, as a player, will never have to worry about facing legal repercussions as a result of a placed blackjack bet or wager on a sporting event. No matter what your friends tell you, or what you read on the internet, the fact of the matter is that if you are granted access to an online casino and are able to make a deposit, you are doing absolutely nothing that is illegal and should have nothing to worry about.
Legalized, Regulated Online Casinos
While the major reason behind why you are able to play freely at online casinos in the United States is the lack of law prohibiting it, there are some states who have passed legislation that makes it completely and totally legal to play casino games. It may seem confusing that states would have to do this, but the big difference between the casinos you encounter in states like New Jersey and Nevada (both of which have regulated, legalized intrastate online casino networks) and everywhere else is the regulation. If you are gambling online in Pennsylvania, for example, you will be forced to play at sites that may not be regulated and are assuredly based and headquartered outside of the United States. What this really means is that you, in the event of some sort of financial or informational dispute, would have no legal recourse in the US. For example, if hypothetical Overseas Casino A uses your banking information to steal money from your account, there is little to nothing you can do to get it back. This is especially true if the online casino in question is headquartered in a country that does not have a well-developed legal system. Even though most online casinos nowadays operate transparently and fairly, you are still taking a risk each and every time you log on.
For this reason, we encourage you to do your research to ensure that you are only playing real money casino games at sites with a proven track record and that treat their customers fairly. Failure to put in the time to do this research may result in dire consequences for you.
In New Jersey and Nevada, legalized and regulated networks of online casinos have been up and running for a few years now. We could go on and on about what makes the casinos in New Jersey and Nevada different from the ones you will encounter in just about every other state, but the reality is that the online casino experiences do not differ much at all. As was previously touched on, the only real difference is with regard to the regulation involved. Gaming commissions in both states oversea online gambling activity to make sure it is functioning within the realm of the newly established laws and that players are being treated fairly.
What the Future Holds for US Online Casinos
Now that 2 US states have established intrastate online casino networks, the thought is that many others will soon follow. With that said, however, the push has been, at best, slow. While states like Pennsylvania and California have had serious discussions regarding the implementation of such a legalized framework, little to nothing has come to fruition as of yet.
Our opinion is that, as states continue to run budget deficits, the easy, additional tax revenues that can be earned through the legalization and regulation of online casinos cannot be ignored. In New Jersey alone, individual online casinos are seeing month on month revenue gains exceeding 20%; and this is something that has happened for a few years now. Clearly, there is an interest in online gambling being legalized, whether states choose to jump on board or not, however, remains to be seen. Regardless of this, there exists thousands of online casino options for people located anywhere within the United States. Until a Federal law is passed that changes this, you are able to place real money wagers as freely as you would like.