US Gambling Laws by State

Written by: Webster Lupton , Casino, Gambling, and Sports Journalist

There are 50 different states with governments that determine the gambling laws within their borders. Understanding the online gambling laws across the US can get confusing, to say the least, but don’t worry.

We are here to help.

Our team at OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com has researched each state’s gambling legislation and compiled our findings to create a concise rundown of everything you need to know.

We will share where you can wager online, what to avoid, and some interesting tidbits. This is our ultimate guide to the US online gambling laws.

The Ultimate US Casino Law Guide

Table of Contents: Jump into your preferred section!

States Where Gambling Is Legal

Online United States Casinos Survey Icon

If you include the lottery, 48 out of the 50 states in the US have some form of legal gambling.

The only places where gambling is completely banned are Hawaii and Utah. Otherwise, you can find land-based casinos, sportsbooks, race tracks, and poker rooms all throughout the country.

Below is a brief summary of how prevalent the most popular forms of gambling are.

Gambling Laws by State

If you’re curious about the online gambling laws in your state or others, look no further than our comprehensive list below.

Each page covers everything from state laws and restrictions to current land-based casinos, sportsbooks, and racetracks.

You can use the gambling laws summary below as a quick reference for what’s legal and what isn’t in each state.

US Gambling Key Takeaways

  • There are currently seven states with zero land-based casinos: Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.
  • The only states that don’t have a lottery are Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.
  • Out of the 50 states, 17 have casinos that are solely owned by tribes.
  • Sports betting is legal in some form in 36 states.
  • Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, and South Dakota only offer retail sports betting. There are not any online services yet.
  • Charitable gambling is not permitted only in 3 states: California, Hawaii, and, of course, Utah.
  • Dog racing is basically banned everywhere except in Alaska and West Virginia.
  • There are seven states that only have commercial casinos and zero tribal.
  • There are 18 states with a combination of commercial and tribal casinos.
  • Nevada has the most casinos at 345, followed by Montana, Louisiana, and Oklahoma.

States Where Online Gambling Is Legal

Online casinos are regulated by the state in Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia..

However, online gambling (casino gaming and sports betting) is a work in progress in the US. While gambling is legal at a federal level, it’s currently up to the states to legalize or prohibit online casinos

America is a vast country with laws, beliefs, and politics varying from state to state. While some are adamant about keeping gambling sites out of their borders, others are more welcoming.

But the most common scenario is that the state’s laws don’t address online gambling at all, leaving it in a legal grey area. Such is the case for 39 states currently.

Here’s a brief summary of the legal status of online gambling in the US.


Folder and Magnifying Glass Big Icon

What Does Gray Area Mean?

Not everything is black and white, even gambling laws. Owning and operating an online casino in most states is illegal, but there is a loophole for those looking to gamble online.

Sites that operate outside of the US can accept players.

How is that possible? Simply put, many state laws don’t address gambling at online casinos licensed outside of the country, making it a legal grey area

Safety Reputation Review Hub Icon

Are Offshore Casinos Safe? 

An offshore online casino is licensed in another country other than the US.

Just because they operate somewhere else doesn’t make them untrustworthy. Many offshore sites are perfectly safe and adhere to strict standards and fair practices.

Of course, there can be a few bad eggs. It’s essential to look for the telltale signs of a legitimate online casino before playing there, but it can be tricky to the untrained eye.

We Are Here to Help!

We’ve done the research for you. We are experts at examining gambling sites from top to bottom. We check for licenses, RNG technology, SSL encryption, quality games, fair terms and conditions, and responsive customer support. You can trust our recommendations have been thoroughly vetted.

Read our guides and reviews to discover legit real money online casinos.

States Where Sports Betting Is Legal

In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down a federal law that banned sports betting, opening the door for legalization at a state level. Since then, sports betting has been sweeping the nation, with 36 states now offering online or retail sportsbooks.

Here’s the breakdown.

Land-Based Casino Regulation

Land-based casinos are legal in almost every state across the United States. Only seven states do not offer land-based casinos: Georgia, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.

The rest offer a variety of physical establishments for gambling, such as riverboats, dockside sites, racinos, bars, clubs, or skill game establishments. These establishments are either regulated by the state or by Indian tribes.

Commercial Casinos

These casinos are state-regulated and can be found in 25 states, with popular locations in Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

Major brands such as Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and MGM own and operate them.

  • Class III “Las Vegas style” games
  • Report payback percentages
  • Follow beverage restrictions

Native Tribe Casinos

These operations are overseen by the National Indian Gaming Commission. Native peoples run these gambling businesses across the United States.

A total of 524 tribal casinos operate in 35 of the 50 US states.

Federal Gambling Laws

There were a few pivotal federal gambling laws in the history of the US. Let’s take a look at three that shaped the way we play today. 

Federal Wire Act

The Federal Wire Act of 1961 prohibits knowingly using wire communication to transmit wagers or betting information on any sporting event or contest across state or international lines.

Since then, the courts have determined that includes the Internet.

This act is the reason why US sportsbooks must ensure they only accept bets from states they’re licensed in.

PASPA

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 restricted almost all states from legalizing sports betting.

In 2018, the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional, giving states the power to decide whether to permit sports betting.

UIGEA

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 prohibits gambling businesses from knowingly accepting payments for wagers over the Internet.

It doesn’t ban online gambling but rather targets banks and credit card companies, making it illegal to process payments to unlawful gambling sites.

It has impacted the payment methods available at some offshore casinos, but many still operate without problem.

American Gambling History

The US has a long history of gambling, from the first colonial settlers to modern online casinos. The timeline below contains some influential moments in America’s past that brought us to our current state.

1638

The Puritans of Massachusetts passed the first law against gambling in America, banning cards, dice, and gambling devices.

1776

Continental Congress organized a 5 million dollar lottery that helped finance the Revolutionary War.

1800

Craps gained popularity in America with riverboat workers and farmers.

1827

The Crescent City House opened in New Orleans, making it the first American casino.

1895

The first slot machine, called the Liberty Bell, was invented by Charles Fey.

1931

Commercial gaming was legalized in Nevada, paving the way for the development of Las Vegas.

1961

Congress passed the Federal Wire Act, making it illegal to share betting information across state lines.

1988

Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, allowing Native American tribes to open casinos in states with legal gambling.

1994

Microgaming introduced the world to iGaming with the launch of the first online casino software.

1996

Kahnawake Gaming Commission is founded and begins licensing online casinos worldwide.

1998

The online casino industry was growing, with over 700 gambling sites in operation worldwide.

2006

Despite the passage of the UIGEA, online gambling is booming, and there are over 2,300 sites around the globe generating $12 billion in revenue. 

2012

Delaware became the first state in the US to make online casinos legal within its borders.

2018

The Supreme Court gave states the right to legalize sports betting.

The Future of Online Gambling in the US – What to Expect? 

Gambling in the US has been a journey with many ups and downs. Prohibitive laws were passed, then reversed, then passed again.

But the winding path has, for the most part, led to an acceptance of gambling, with most states now having some form of legalized wagering.

Sports betting is booming all over the country, and more states are opening up to the idea every day. Some have even launched regulated online casinos.

It’s easy to deduce the future is headed towards widespread embracement of gambling. However, it’s hard to say how long it will take to get there.

In the meantime, offshore sites offer a way for US players to gamble online. By operating outside of the country, these sites are able to provide the casino experience to those who don’t have access to state-run casinos yet.

Frequently Asked Questions About Casino Laws

If you have more questions, check out the US online gambling FAQs below.

Do you pay taxes on gambling winnings outside the us?

Any gambling winnings, including those won outside of the US, are subject to taxes.

What was the first state to legalize online gambling?

In 2013, Delaware, Nevada (poker only), and New Jersey became the first states to legalize online gambling. 

Can online casinos be trusted?

Yes, online casinos can be trusted as long as they are legitimate sites. It’s important to look for some crucial signs like a license, RNG technology, and reliable banking methods. 

Webster Lupton

Webster Lupton Casino, Gambling, and Sports Journalist

Webster Lupton is a journalist and expert sports and casino writer with over 30 years of experience. He is a seasoned researcher and a published author that enjoys the outdoors and birdwatching.

Learn More About Webster