US Gambling & Casinos Guide

There are TONS of land-based casinos in America. In fact, most states have some kind of brick and mortar casinos – usually on Indian reservations. Just do a Google search and chances are you’ll find a casino near you. But what about the most popular casinos? The most popular gambling destinations?

Here are the cities you’ll want to check out:

You’ll find plenty to do in any one of those cities, let alone all five of them.

But what if you can’t make the casino?

If you’re interested in playing casino games for real money without having to travel to a casino destination, check out our list of the best online casinos for US players.

Another option is to play from home – usually referred to as ‘social’ gambling. These are legal in roughly 2/3 of states. It’s only allowed if no one profits from running the game, which includes charging a fee, raking the pot, or charging people for food/beverages.

Definitely do your homework first, though. Some states DO NOT allow home poker games and are aggressive in stopping them – with SWAT. And, no, I am NOT joking.

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US Casino Locator

Below you can browse casinos by state, or scroll down to learn more about some of the most popular gambling locations in the world.

Most Popular US Gambling Destinations

Nevada (Las Vegas & Reno)

Known to many as the casino capital of the world, Las Vegas is the number one destination city for casinos and everything that goes along with them. For a long time, Las Vegas was the only place you went if you wanted to gamble in the US, as it legalized gambling in 1931. Today, people flock to Las Vegas’ strip from all over the world in order to visit some of the most highly distinguished casinos.

Each and every year, Las Vegas plays host to the most prestigious event in the casino world, and that is the World Series of Poker. This mid-summer event attracts millions of visitors and participants who hope to leave Sin City the poker professional they wished to be when they arrived.

When most people look into visiting casinos in Nevada, they often think of Las Vegas. Though Vegas may be considered a gambling mecca, Reno is extremely popular in its own right. Each year, Reno draws in over 5 million visitors. The city is home to a wide variety of resort-style casinos that offer 24/7 gambling in the form of table games, sportsbooks and class III games.

Atlantic City, New Jersey

Atlantic City opened up its first legal casinos in the late 1970s after they were finally granted permission to exist by the state. The first casino to open its doors in Atlantic City was named Resorts and is still standing to this day. At the time Atlantic City legalized gambling in casinos, the only other place in the United States with legalized gambling was Las Vegas. For people who lived closer to the North East, Atlantic City was a much more viable vacation destination than Las Vegas. Not only that, but the proximity to the ocean made Atlantic City a more reasonable vacation destination to take the whole family.

Now, more than 30 years after the first casino opened up, Atlantic City remains the most popular casino destination on the Eastern side of the United States.

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California

California is arguably the most well-known state in all of the United States, so it makes sense that they offer a wide selection of casinos. Since 2000, casinos in the state have been growing faster than ever. While there has been card rooms and horse tracks for a long time, mega-casinos are starting to pop up throughout the state. The most unique dynamic of California is found in its different types of casinos. Some destinations have hundreds or thousands of machines, while others have zero. Learn what makes this state’s casinos so attractive and unique.

Casinos in California exist in much the same way as they do in Florida and other states, with one general exception. Though it is true that the only conventional casinos are owned by Native Americans, and thus exist in obscure locations (for the most part), the other half of the story is that instead of gambling solely at dog and horse tracks, California has a growing number of card rooms.

Card rooms are essentially casinos which only offer table games like blackjack and poker. In California, many card rooms are located at racetracks, but more recently a growing number of them are thriving as standalone establishments as well.

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania (along with Delaware and Maryland) has become the primary competition to Atlantic City, which once stood as the only place on the East Coast to gamble. Casinos in Pennsylvania originally offered only slot machines, however, they now offer virtually every table game that you will find in other large gambling cities like Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Casinos in Pennsylvania saw their biggest growth between the mid to late 2000s, and almost every area of the state has at least one casino in its region, with the Eastern region being most heavily populated.

Florida

Casinos in Florida exist sparsely when compared to places like Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Unlike New Jersey and Las Vegas, the only casinos that exist are under the control of the Native American tribes. While these casinos are fine to play at, they do not exist in abundance and because of this Floridians and those traveling there are confined to dog racetracks if they hope to gamble at an establishment now owned by Native Americans. With that being said, apart from some poker rooms and slot machines, many of these dog tracks are ill-equipped in terms of table games and slot machines.

Ohio

Ohio is another US territory that sees brick and mortar gambling as a very modern addition. As is the case with states like Delaware and Pennsylvania, this state only recently began to offer slots and ultimately table games.

Ohio is unique in that it is not near a heavily concentrated gambling destination, as you would find with PA or DE as they relate to Atlantic City or Las Vegas when it competes with California Ohio has a number of different gaming brands represented within the state.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma first started offering traditional casinos in 2004 and has since become one of the largest gambling destinations in the USA. Today it features over 90 different Native American casinos, including the largest casino in the United States.

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South Dakota

Some towns are not nearly as well known as others, but they still are most renowned for their gambling options. One such area where this is true is South Dakota. These cities are outlined and broken down on their own one-page articles which can be found in this section.

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What the Future Holds for US Online Casinos

Now that two 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.

History of Legal U.S. Gambling

Eleven years after the end of prohibition, a new challenge to American morality was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in the form of organized, legal gambling.  Famed gangster Bugsy Seigel opened the Flamingo Hotel in 1946 thus beginning our history and love affair with legalized games of chance and opportunity.  The exploration, discovery, and establishment of new casinos throughout our country then grew for the most part uninhibited by governmental interference.

Monumental inventions in mobile communications led to the concept of online betting. A new idea, it was not explicitly prohibited by state or federal laws. But in 1961 Wire Act was passed to limit bookies’ use of interstate telegraphs, prohibited all forms of betting online. The Justice Department argued that law included all forms of online betting, but were opposed by others who argued that the act only explicitly related to sporting events. The issue remained unresolved, and a small number of companies began offering online casino games and sports betting to American players beginning in the late 1990s. These gambling sites mainly operated from unregulated offshore locations.

In 2011 the Justice Department took another crack with the Wire Act when they sued several of the biggest operators of online poker.  The government accused these offshore operators of defrauding banks which were prohibited from processing online gambling payments and hiding transactions worth billions. On what became known as the Black Friday of online gambling, the companies settled the suit without admitting guilt.

The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has weighed in on the Wire Act, ruling that the transmission of wagers applies only to sports betting and not other types of online gambling. The Supreme Court has not made a ruling or interpretation of the Federal Wire Act as it pertains to online gambling.

US Gambling Regulation History

For the longest time, the Department of Justice led us to believe online gambling was illegal because of the Wire Act.

Then they had a change of heart. In December 2011 they released a memo saying that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting (which is how most of the world interpreted it to begin with).

This was a huge turning point. From that point forward it was and still is, up to each state to determine what their laws are for (online) gambling.

3 states so far have seized that opportunity. Nevada launched its first legal website in May 2013. Delaware launched theirs in October and New Jersey launched 6 of their own the following November.

And more are expected to pass legislation and launch sites within the next couple of years. Right now experts think California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and Colorado will pass some type of law in the next 12-18 months.

As for everyone else?

Well, the laws vary from state to state. But the general rule of thumb is that if your state hasn’t deemed online poker (or gambling) legal, then by default it’s illegal.

That said – you can still get away with playing online, as only a handful of states have laws against online gambling, let alone actively go after people breaking the law.

The Politics Behind Online Gambling in the USA

Similar to early American Explorers these adventurers dream of taking advantage of this new gold-laden horizon. Savvy, wealthy individuals and corporations are willing to risk it all for a chance in this new, unchartered territory, and with the promise of billions on the line, they are ready to go full swing into an internet gambling war.

Although still largely banned nationwide the opportunity for additional revenue is influencing casinos and state governments to take their fight to Congress. Three states began licensing online gambling last year, and Congress is facing increasing pressure to either bar or regulate the growing industry.

Interest groups on both sides have bombarded political representatives utilizing the power of the PAC funds to sway the online gambling decision. One of the biggest players in the game is Sheldon Adelson, head of the Las Vegas Sands Casino Empire, and a resourceful political super PAC donor. He has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to get a congressional ban on online gambling.

In March 2015, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced a bill, written with the help of Adelson’s lobbyists, to achieve that goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s name has been associated with internet gambling.

Bwin.party, which currently holds about 40 percent of New Jersey’s Internet gambling market in its partnership with the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City is very active in disrupting Sheldon Adelson’s message of banning internet gambling (his group is responsible for posting a message on Facebook displaying a young child in front of the computer with a tagline “threat to kids).”

Deciding to bet on the future of legalized online gambling, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts have partnered in an effort to vie for position in the growing market, while the Isle-of-Man-based PokerStars and other foreign players are steadily working behind the scenes to steer political decisions in their direction.

The casino industry has jointly given $287.6 million to state and federal campaigns from 2009 to 2012, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Most have hired lobbyists to who quietly and very skillfully network on their behalf in Washington. Clearly, these individuals and groups are looking for a large return on their political investments.

Gambling Laws at the State Level

The idea of internet gambling leaves a bad taste in the minds and hearts of a lot of state representatives. In order to help them overcome their aversion, lobbyists have begun dangling monetary carrots to attract the attention of fledgling states fighting to meet their budgets.

New Jersey, who have been hurt by their struggling land-based casinos’, views this new form of gambling as a way to draw younger clientele. Governor Chris Christie signed amended legislation in 2013 allowing limited intrastate gambling.

Nevada (who only legalized online poker) and Delaware have passed their own online gambling laws, and other states, including Massachusetts, California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Mississippi are exploring legislation.

The debate in Pennsylvania has taken on an entirely different façade. Weighing heavily on Pennsylvania lawmakers is the $1 billion dollar deficit that the state is facing. The legalization of gambling in 2004 gave the state a financial boost it badly needed, but competition from Delaware and New Jersey has frozen what was a growing industry.  The state is in bad need of the 55 percent of revenue from slots and 14 percent from table games.

Lobbyists consider the state a free for all and have spent $7.4 million trying to influence gambling in Keystone State. Another unique inhibitor for the state is opposition on both sides of the political power structure. Republicans in the House have not only introduced bills to ban internet gambling but also to create criminal penalties for gambling online.

Additionally, Adelson of Nevada Strip fame also has a casino in Pennsylvania and has been fighting against legalizing internet gambling. But the battle for this state is far from won. Competition from PA neighbors who are readying to enter the gambling internet game will probably force the state legislators to make a decision in the near future.

The Benefits of Federally Regulated Online Gambling

So what exactly does all this politics and capitalism have to do with you, the average citizen? First of all, we believe that as U.S. residents, you have the right to do what you want with your money – as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Put another way – the U.S. government shouldn’t be able to restrict your ability to gamble online with your own money.

Better Treatment of Players

Also, similar to historical advancements in America after landmark real estate purchases during the 1700s, the legalization of internet gambling would open a door of chance and prosperity to the average citizen. If the ban is lifted, government oversight will force operators of online casinos and betting sites to treat gamblers fairly.

More Innovative Games and Betting Platforms

Instead of US players being stuck with mediocre choices of games and betting options, regulation would open up the door to competition which would lead to more innovative games and sites with better odds. As Tom Bell of the National Gambling Impact Study Commission mentions in his testimony on Internet Gambling: Prohibition v. Legislation,

Internet gambling will encourage the private sector to develop network capacity and commerce. Just as real-world casinos have competed to build the most innovative and appealing environments, so too will Internet gaming services compete to offer the flashiest graphics and most sophisticated user interfaces. That competition will, as a nice side-benefit, result in broader bandwidth and better software for all sorts of Internet applications.

More State Revenue Would Improve School and Infrastructure Funding

But more importantly, the monetary benefits of pecuniary advancements will go a long way in assisting fund-starved states. According to a review by Chapman Law School titled Breaking the Bank: The Tax Benefits of Legalizing Online Gambling

The legalization and taxation of online gambling will be insufficient to solve all of the current state and federal deficit problems—but it is a start. The fact is that a number of American citizens already participate in illegal gambling activity online, and will continue to do so. In addition to putting players in harm’s way, this behavior results in a loss of tax revenue for state and federal governments, which are already struggling to make ends meet. While the advent of online gambling should not strip the states of the ability to determine if legal gambling occurs within their borders, the federal government is best able to establish a national framework and regulate the market. Ultimately, the tax rate adopted will determine the success of a federal scheme, which will require the consideration and balancing of multiple competing factors.

More Convenience and Choices for Players

Regulated Internet gambling will allow you the option of playing a home and monitor your winnings and loses easily since you pay with a bank account or credit card. Finally, you will be playing with freedom not currently offered to those who wish to place their bets privately and safely from their homes.

US Casinos & Gambling Laws by State

Alabama Casinos
Alaska Casinos
Arizona Casinos
Arkansas Casinos
California Casinos
Colorado Casinos
Connecticut Casinos
Delaware Casinos
Florida Casinos
Georgia Casinos
Hawaii Casinos
Idaho Casinos
Illinois Casinos
Indiana Casinos
Iowa Casinos
Kansas Casinos
Kentucky Casinos
Louisiana Casinos
Maine Casinos
Maryland Casinos
Massachusetts Casinos
Michigan Casinos
Minnesota Casinos
Mississippi Casinos
Missouri Casinos
Montana Casinos
Nebraska Casinos
Nevada Casinos
New Hampshire Casinos
New Jersey Gambling
New Jersey (Atlantic City) Casinos
New Mexico Casinos
New York Casinos
North Carolina Casinos
North Dakota Casinos
Ohio Casinos
Oklahoma Casinos
Oregon Casinos
Pennsylvania Casinos
Rhode Island Casinos
South Carolina Casinos
South Dakota Casinos (see also Deadwood Casinos)
Tennessee Casinos
Texas Casinos
Utah Casinos
Vermont Casinos
Virginia Casinos
Washington Casinos
West Virginia Casinos
Wisconsin Casinos
Wyoming Casinos

Major US Gambling Developments Over the Past Few Years

Unlike our other country pages, there is no shortage of gambling news breaking in America.

  • Canadian-based software company Amaya bought PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for $4.9 billion. They completed the sale in August 2014. This matters to Americans because the move was an attempt to get PokerStars involved in the regulated US market.
  • Ultimate Poker closed its doors. They were the first legal poker site to launch in both Nevada and in the history of the US. They decided to close their doors because their profits have fallen short of projections and that the state-to-state approach to gambling caps their overall potential.
  • California has seen major progress towards online poker regulation. For starters, the congressmen and key tribal leaders have reached a (soft) agreement as to what the laws should be. Next, PokerStars and Caesars have been working together recently to oppose Sheldon Adelson and efforts to ban online poker.
  • Even after operating in America for years – in some cases more than a decade – several Merge Gaming skins have decided to ban players from Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware to comply with local laws.
  • This is probably the biggest news in the last year. Nearly two years after Black Friday, Full Tilt customers are getting paid. The first payments started going out February 27th/28th. The Garden City Group was initially expected to pay out $82 million.