The relationship between online gambling and the United States has always been a fractious one, just as the relationship between gambling as a whole and ‘the greatest country in the world’ has always been problematic. It seems strange that a country that seems so obsessed with wealth (so much so that they elected a billionaire with no political experience as their president) is so anti-gambling and anti-online gambling, but that’s the way it has been for decades.
True, the USA does have gambling hotspots. You cannot think of gambling in the USA without thinking of Las Vegas, plus on the east coast, you’ll find Atlantic City. But other than that, both Democratic and Republican governments throughout American history have repeatedly resisted temptations to fully legalise gambling in all forms.
There are three main reasons why gambling and online gambling in the US largely remains in a ‘prohibited’ status:
- Match-fixing: The US has a strange attitude to sport(s) as well as gambling. For a start, their four main sports – American football, baseball, basketball and (ice) hockey – can hardly be described as the most popular sports around the rest of the world. Sport in the US is seen as wholesome and athletic, and not one to be ‘corrupted’ by gambling. The ‘Chicago Black Sox’ scandal with saw the baseball World Series fixed for gambling purposes is still talked about today, even though it happened in 1919!
- Loss of revenue: Casinos are the only accepted way of gambling in many areas of the United States. Lobby groups repeatedly put pressure on the authorities to ban online gambling, fearful that if people gambled online, their revenues will be hit as a result.
- Money laundering: One way of ‘cleaning’ illicitly-gained funds is to use ‘dirty’ money to bet separately on both sides of the game contest (ties are extremely rare in all US sports, so most events only have two outcomes). You would get back virtually the same as you put in, plus the money you’d get back would be magically ‘cleaned’ as it is paid by the bookkeeper.
Despite these three fears countless people in the USA want to join people in most other jurisdictions in the world in being able to bet on sports online and to play casino games online. The US government has bowed to the pressure of late and now allows each state to decide upon its own laws concerning online gambling. Regulated gambling is a huge revenue-generator as licences are only issued to parties who agree to pay a hefty percentage of their profits to the licence-granting authorities.
Fears of match-fixing and money laundering have not gone away, though. The fear of the loss of revenue has been eased as online gambling licenses are generally only granted to organisations that run real-world casinos, for example. Such organisations have routinely found that their revenues have risen since they went online as opposed to falling.
Below are details of a few states where online gambling and sports-betting are permitted.
It’s no surprise to anyone that Nevada has a pretty lax attitude to online gambling, it is the state that hundreds of thousands of tourists flock to each year to experience the ‘adult playground’ of Las Vegas. Online sports betting has long been permitted via Nevada-based sportsbooks online, and more and more online casino activities are permitted, almost on a daily basis.
New Jersey has long had a very favourable attitude towards gambling, both online and off. This state is one of the ‘flag bearers’ in the United States for the legalisation of online sports betting and online casino games. New Jersey is actually currently the largest regulated online gambling market in the United States.
Along with New Jersey and Nevada, Pennsylvania makes up the third name in the ‘big three’ of online gambling regulation. After years of debate in ruling and court chambers, legalised online sports betting was finally permitted in May 2019, with online casino gambling following just two months later.
Indiana does not share Nevada and New Jersey’s reputation for an acceptance of gambling and casinos, but the state has proven to be very flexible when it comes to wagering online. In 2019 regulated sports betting was permitted in Indiana for the first time. Online casino play is still illegal though, but that’s likely to change in the very near future.
Legislation was finally passed in Rhode Island to permit sports betting in the spring of 2019, although the legal launch date has been repeatedly delayed. Rhode Island does though have horrendous licence tax expectations, making it an unattractive state for online wagering operators. Online casino play is still blocked, but casinos in the state are making inroads in trying to get this block overturned.
Delaware is another state with a favourable attitude towards gambling, but specifically and somewhat bizarrely, only with lotteries. Licensed sports betting has actually been legal in this state since 2012, but so far online casino play is still not permitted.
The legal processes for online wagering legalisation in Iowa have been painfully lethargic. So, far only sports betting has been legalised. It seems unlikely that legalised online casino play will follow any day soon.
West Virginia has legalised sports betting before but they then decided to ban it again … only to legalise it again! Sports betting in this state has been legal since December 2018. Online casino play should become permissible some time in 2021.
As well as these eight states, six other states had expressed an interest in permitting online sports betting and online casino play: Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Montana, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Could we soon see USA online casinos permitted across the entirety of the United States of America? Maybe one day, but that day is unlikely to come soon. Several states including Utah, Idaho and Alaska have said that they are not likely ever to introduce legalised and regulated gambling online in any form.
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Ari Waknine was born in Brooklyn, New York and was the founder of iGamble Group, an online gaming critique firm that helps players pick online gambling websites that fit their profile, as well as, helping them to increase their winnings. He is also the founder of NewCasinos.org, and is strictly focusing on this project making stronger and better than ever.