Best online casinos in USA
Sports are a keystone of American culture and with sports comes the inclination to bet on them. And let’s not forget Las Vegas, that mecca of gambling activity with a past that sounds almost like legend instead of reality. All this to say that gambling in America is a big deal, if the many films based on the topic hadn’t made it evident already.
That said, there are some aspects of the American legal system, as it pertains to gambling, that players should be aware of. While it can seem like there are no restrictions at all while you’re casually walking from one Nevada casino to another, the world of online gambling in particular is a different kettle of fish.
This page will cover the following topics:
- Gambling laws in the USA
- Gambling culture in the USA
- Land-based casinos in the USA
- Online gambling in the USA
- How we review online casinos
Gambling laws in the USA
The US government’s stance on gambling has gone back and forth over the past hundred years. The gold rush, the Restoration and the Prohibition era moulded how legislators viewed gambling and the laws they drafted in response, in some cases forming the relationship between gambling and organised crime that still lives on today.
One particularly interesting nugget of information is that Nevada, with its famously liberal approach to gambling, was just as intolerant towards these activities as most of the country was in the 1920s. But then the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929 happened and Nevada legalised most forms of gambling as a way to inject cash back into the economy, which was also suffering under the financial strain of the Hoover Dam construction project. And that’s how Las Vegas got its casinos!
Like gambling laws in Australia and the casino laws in Canada, the US government has laws at a federal level but each of the 50 states has the freedom to restrict or allow gambling activities as well. This makes for a rather confusing patchwork of laws that change as soon as you cross state lines. Federal laws are aimed mainly at controlling organised crime rather than moral policing but players are affected by these tight restrictions. These differ depending if you are playing in the states or playing at international online casinos.
Online gambling is illegal in the majority of American states but four states (so far) have changed their laws recently, allowing players access to certain online products. We’ll get to those in a minute.
Gambling culture in the USA
If you had to take a look down the Las Vegas strip on a Friday night, you would definitely say that America has a big gambling culture. To some extent, that is true. 23 of the 50 United States allow land-based gambling and there are hundreds of venues around the country.
Lotteries and scratchcard games are also wildly popular, with the latter being widely available in convenience stores, gas stations and the like. There’s no denying that there is easy access to certain forms of gambling in America.
When it comes to online gambling, things are a little different but the American public is no less enthusiastic. Recent legislation has loosened some restrictions on sports betting that involves collegiate and professional sporting events. Esports remains a slightly tricky subject, again dependent on individual state legislation.
Land-based casinos in the USA
There are casinos in 39 states at present, with the total number of casinos coming in at 460 during the 2018 census. Of course the first thing that comes to mind when you think of American casinos is Las Vegas. While it’s true that there are several venues concentrated in one fairly small part of the American West, there are hundreds of casinos dotted around the country.
These casinos vary in size and in what they offer patrons. The really big ones in Vegas are massive resorts that frequently host world-famous entertainment acts, have multiple dining options as casino floors that go as far as the eye can see. Others are smaller, with fewer amenities, but most offer at least dining options, further enhancing their appeal to non-gambling visitors.
Online gambling in the USA
The history of online gambling legislation in the US actually goes way back to a time before the internet was even invented. Yes, you read that correctly! In fact, two bits of legislation, both written in 1961, still affect how online gambling restrictions play out today.
The first was the Wire Act. The purpose of this one was to make it harder for criminals to move the proceeds of their illegal gambling rackets around but it has repercussions to this day because the language is so broad.
The second was the succinctly titled Interstate Transportation of Wagering Paraphernalia Act. Again aimed at trying to control criminal activities, this barred the transportation of anything to do with gambling across state lines. The term ‘paraphernalia’ can include anything from a bet slip or certificate to betting records and bills. This complicates things today precisely because it is up to the courts to decide whether online transmission of this data falls under these laws.
The next law of importance is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act. This was written in 2006 and targets operators rather than players. Its intention was to prevent money laundering and fraud by prohibiting gambling operators from accepting payments from banks and credit cards. It essentially torpedoed the online gambling industry without touching it directly. What followed was a mass exodus of operators from the US and to this day, American players will find it extremely difficult to find offshore casinos that will accept them.
That wasn’t the end of online players’ troubles. The 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) restricted all but a few states from allowing sports betting. These draconian laws mean that players intent on making sports bets will be more likely to do so through shady operations, many of which have ties to organised crime.
Luckily, there has been some positive movement in recent years. In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down PASPA, allowing states to decide for themselves if they wanted to allow online sports betting. A number of states clearly did and so far, New Jersey, Nevada, West Virginia and Rhode Island moved fairly quickly to legislate in favour of allowing online sports betting. Mississippi allows sports betting to take place as long as it happens within the confines of a land-based or water-based (in the case of riverboats) casinos.
The future of esports betting in this ecosystem is uncertain but it’s safe to assume that operators will be looking into the possibilities with interest.
Online casino licensing
It’s no surprise that there are no regulators for online casinos in the United States. When it comes to the few states that do allow online gambling, this is only to the extent that land-based casinos can offer their services via a player’s desktop or mobile device – fully virtual online gambling operations are still illegal in the US.
Due to the country’s tough stance on financial transactions, many international operators are reluctant to accept US players, precisely because one does not want to mess with the American legal system and there are harsh penalties for anyone caught in breach of the law.
Gambling age restrictions
Like most other things to do with gambling, the legal gambling age differs by state. To complicate matters, casinos that serve alcohol also implement a second age limit.
The national age limit to consume alcohol in the US is 21. The minimum age for gambling is 18 in some states and 19 in others. Some states differentiate between gambling activities. In Florida, for instance, you must be 21 or over to visit a casino but only 18 or over to visit a poker room. When it comes to online gambling, limited as it is, the state determines that legal minimum age.
How we review online casinos
At RightCasino, we always want to do the best by our readers. That’s why you will only find reputable brands on our site. Unfortunately, given that so few online casinos do accept US players, we are not able to offer specific recommendations for such sites.
That said, we hope that our guidance on licensing, security, safety and other FAQs can help US-based players make the right decision for them. We always encourage players to stick with trustworthy and reliable online casinos.