The legality of online casino gaming in America is as changing as ever. Some states allow online betting if it’s operated by an existing land-based casino located within the state. While other states give online operators free reign to offer online casinos to its state residents along with all the perks like online casino bonus codes - such as our very own Grande Vegas Casino. Other states allow only online gambling with no retail casinos existing at all in the state.
How does legalized online casino gambling operate in today’s America?
The ‘90s saw the introduction of the first internet gambling sites. These sites operated out of the Caribbean where Antigua and Barbuda’s Free Trade and Processing Act allowed the islands to grant licenses to online casino sites. This spawned a new industry and over time, other nations, including the Island of Man, Curacao and Malta. Some countries didn’t regulate online betting and others regulated it in a variety of ways. That created a situation that meant that the service providers were operating in an atmosphere of America’s old Wild West.
In America, Internet gaming was hampered by Congress’s 1996 passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This law made it illegal to deposit and withdraw funds to and from any Internet gambling site. Online poker and other Internet gambling sites closed down or withdrew their services from US players. UIGEA didn't make gambling online illegal in and of itself. Instead, it restricted payment processing companies from processing payments from anyone in the United States for gambling activities conducted online.
Some sites, including Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and PokerStars did try to keep operating but in 2011, the US government cracked down and shut down their sites. PokerStars engaged in a decade-long battle with the United States government over this and eventually agreed to pay a fine so that they could return to operation (in 2020).
Now, with the expansion of sports betting and the introduction of online sports betting, gambling advocates are hoping that they have a mandate to reinterpret the legal foundations upon which UIGEA was passed so that they can add online gaming to the mix. Meanwhile, several U.S. States, including Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey and Nevada, are trying to create regulations that would allow operators in their states to offer online poker. For many states, this would allow them to bring in some of the funds that have been drained from their budgets in recent months.
UIGEA and Sports Betting
The question may be asked, if UIGEA made it illegal for online banks to facilitate deposits and withdrawals from gambling sites, how have states regulated online sports betting operations? Of the 19 states (plus Washington DC) that have legalized sports betting including Nevada, New Jersey, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Rhode Island, Iowa, Oregon, Indiana, New Hampshire, Illinois, Colorado, Tennessee and Washington DC. In Tennessee and New Hampshire, sports betting is mobile-only. How are these jurisdictions processing sports bets in light of UIGEA?
It’s important to remember that the UIGEA ban is on payments made to unauthorized gambling sites. The Act does not outlaw online gaming since it applies only to illegal gambling operations. Online sportsbooks, online casinos and online poker sites that are licensed in the United States are exempt. That’s one of the reasons that foreign casino and sportsbook operators like William Hill and Unibet have partnered with American betting operators to run online betting operations in a number of states.
Currently, everything regarding sports betting in America is regulated on a state level but increasingly, calls are coming for Congress to regulate it on a national level. A bill has been introduced in Congress by Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch that would require states to receive federal approval to legislate for sports-betting in their jurisdiction. The bill, the senators say, would protect sports integrity and protect consumers.
If passed, the legislation would require sportsbooks use only game data that comes from the professional leagues. This is already happening through deals that casinos are making with leagues and teams but the legislation would mandate such a requirement for official data. The professional leagues support the legislation while betting operators oppose it. The legislation was proposed in 2018, shortly after the Supreme Court gave states the go-ahead to legislate sports betting for their states. Orrin Hatch has retired from the Senate but Schumer says that he will continue to push for it.
In the meantime, the expansion of online sports betting has promoted online casino gaming in many of the states. In some states that legislated for mobile betting, the gaming operators who are running the sportsbooks have also begun to add other types of online games to the listing of available gaming options. Currently, nineteen states have some type of sports betting up and running and four others have passed sports betting bills and are in the process of preparing the regulatory framework so that sports betting can begin.
The betting laws vary widely from one state to the next. A quick overview of where the states stand
- Louisiana – sports betting will be legal in some Louisiana parishes but not all
- Iowa, Colorado, Washington DC, Oregon, Indiana, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, Michigan, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, West Virginia – allow sports betting at both retail sites and through mobile
- Delaware, Mississippi, New Mexico, Arkansas, New York, Montana – allow only in–person betting at state brick-and-mortar casinos
- New Hampshire and Tennessee – mobile-only sports betting
- New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware, Nevada – online casino games are featured on the online betting sites