The Wire Act has regulated U.S. online casinos for a long time. This aging piece of the law bans sporting bets taken across national boundaries.
In 2011, the Department of Justice paved the door for individual states to enact their laws on online gaming. The first online casinos and poker rooms emerged in 2013, after Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware introduced online gaming regulations.
Online gambling has been prohibited in the U.S. until 2018. That year, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 1992 PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Safety Act), which banned online single-sport gaming. It paved the door for states to pass their sports betting legislation. Land-based and online sports betting is now legal in some U.S. states.
However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has recently concluded that the Wire Act applies to other forms of online gaming, such as casinos and poker.
The latest ruling is challenged in court, mainly by the New Hampshire Lottery Board. For the time being, individual states are required to approve online bets as long as they are put inside national boundaries.
Impact of State and Federal Gambling Laws
What is not always clearly clarified when addressing sports betting and other forms of gaming is how state and federal policy deals with each other? For instance, it might not be entirely apparent what it means to players in your state directly when you hear that the Supreme Court has placed a moratorium on federal sports betting.
In essence, there are two sets of laws that must be dealt with in any debate of sports betting or gaming. First, there are federal gaming regulations that extend to all nation-wide states. These are all the broad picture regulations that affect all fifty states. Federal laws set the general tone for gambling; however, they appear not to be overly precise in scope.
Some of the most influential federal betting regulations that have been enforced in the USA include:
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA): That was the policy that barred all states except Nevada from allowing conventional sports betting. Few states were given waivers for restricted forms of betting. However, overall, it was PASPA granted Nevada a virtual monopoly on online gambling. The Supreme Court notoriously struck down PASPA as unconstitutional in 2018.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006(UIGEA): This bill is intended to target illegal offshore gaming platforms that welcome American customers. The UIGEA does not criminalize online gaming; it forbids financial institutions from handling transfers to or from unauthorized online casinos.
The WIRE Act: The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 was implemented to target mafia gangs that managed sport betting operations across state lines. The Wire Act forbids the use of wire messages to aid in placing bets across state borders.
State gaming regulation affects activities at the state level, including anything that is not regulated by federal gaming legislation. State policy appears to be more precise in scope as it addresses the void created by federal law. States have enough leeway in deciding how to handle gaming and betting as long as it does not violate federal law.
States that have legal U.S. online gambling
There is more legal online gaming than ever before in the United States. The process has been sluggish, nonetheless, and since 2013, only four states have allowed online poker. A handful of states have since allowed sports betting and online casino gaming.
Here is a roadmap to the U.S. States that have allowed or are due to legalize online gaming in 2020. We also have a list of states where regulated online gaming may be on the agenda.
Regulator: N.J. Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJ DGE)
Legal: Sports betting, Daily fantasy sports, lottery, horse racing, online poker, and online casino.
New Jersey was the first nation to introduce online gaming laws back in 2013. More than a dozen legitimate New Jersey online gambling sites in New Jersey and some N.J. poker and New Jersey sports betting websites. You can also bet on horse racing and purchase online tickets for the lottery.
Regulator: Delaware Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE)
Legal: Daily fantasy sports and horse racing, online casino, and online poker
Delaware has approved video poker and casino play. There are some DFS available, and you can gamble on the D.E. Lottery online. For more detail, see the Delaware Online Gaming Guide and the Delaware Online Casino In-depth Guide.
Regulator: NGCB (Nevada Gaming Control Board)
Legal: Sports betting, online poker, and horse racing
Nevada was one of the first U.S. states that have legalized online gaming in the U.S. However, by 2020, Nevada also only provides legal online poker and restricted sports betting. Online casino gambling in Nevada is banned.
Regulator: PGCB (Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board
DFS, lottery, online poker, online casino, sports betting, and horse racing
You can lawfully go online in Pennsylvania for Regular Fantasy Football, sports betting, lottery, and casino play. Online poker has been trendy in Pennsylvania due to the existence of major brands such as PokerStars. Currently, there are a couple of online P.A. sports betting websites and P.A. online casinos functioning in the state of Keystone.
Regulator: WVL (West Virginia Lottery)
Legal: Lottery and sports betting
West Virginia legalized online gaming in the year 2019. The West Virginia Digital Lottery Wagering Act makes it legal to play multiplayer slots and table games, as well as poker and sports betting. At this time, three West Virginia online casinos live, and more are about to be introduced in the coming months.
Regulator: Colorado Division of Gaming
Legal: Lottery, DFS, and Sports betting
Colorado has online legal gaming since 5 Nov. 2019. Currently, players can experience Colorado online sports betting, DFS, and lotteries, as well as online casino contests and poker websites.
Regulator: MGCB (Michigan Gaming Control Board)
Legal: Sports betting, online casino, and online poker
Michigan has become the fifth U.S. state to legalize online poker in 2020. Michigan also legalizes casino gaming and sports betting. Only Michigan’s land-based casinos can apply for state gaming licenses. Every casino would be permitted to run one online poker room and one online casino. You can check the Michigan Online Gaming Guide for more details about what the state is providing.
Regulator: Department of Business Regulation (RI DBR)
Legal: Sports Betting
Rhode Island becomes the eighth territory in the United States to allow sports betting. The move came just months after the verdict of the Supreme Court of the United States regarding PASPA. Sports betting is permitted at Rhode Island’s land-based casinos, but online gaming apps can follow suit.
Regulator: IRGC (Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission)
Legal: Sports betting
Iowa approved online casinos on sports betting in May 2019. The first Iowa online sportsbooks and applications were released live in August 2019.
Regulator: MGC (Mississippi Gaming Commission)
Legal: Sports Betting
Sports betting was legalized in August 2018 in Mississippi. Nevertheless, wagers are exclusive to land-based casinos such as Beau Rivage and Gold Strike.
Legal: Sports Betting
Tennessee now has legal online casinos, although the state doesn’t even have legal land-based casinos.
States that are considering legalizing online casino gambling
When the first U.S. states became legal, some have been attempting to follow suit. Several proposals are trapped in the Senate hearings quagmire, but individual states could eventually legalize them in 2020.
New York now has the legal brick ‘n’ mortar card room, and the 2020 N.Y. online poker bill is imminent. California and Florida already have land-based poker rooms and are expected to regulate online poker in 2020.
Some states without conventional casinos are proposing online gaming regulations in 2020. That includes Massachusetts. Montana, Illinois, and Colorado have approved sports betting in 2019, but the particulars are still debatable. For the time being, regulated sports betting in these states will be limited to brick ‘n’ mortar casinos:
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- New York