Is Sports Gambling Legal In Usa

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 put a federal ban on state-authorized sports gambling in every state that did not meet already legalize sports betting by the 1991 deadline.

  1. Legal online sport betting websites to bet sports online in USA. Now, each state has the ability to allow legalized sports betting for its residents. With the right to decide the sports betting issue remanded to the state level, a number of states, including New Jersey, Mississippi, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Iowa, New York, Indiana, Oregon, New Mexico and West Virginia, joined.
  2. This is merely the tip of the iceberg, though, as the proliferation of online casino gambling has created even more places to place bets 24/7, 365 days a year. There is also sports betting, lotteries, Bingo, and other games, and gambling laws vary by state.


Sports betting laws in the United States are changing rapidly. While wagering on sports has long been an American tradition, many folks have been under the impression that the activity is largely against the law. Well, that used to be true; however, on May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA, 1992), lifting the ban on states being able to establish their own sports wagering industries. No longer does Nevada (primarily Las Vegas) have a monopoly on legal sports betting in the country and states are finally free to set up their own betting rules and regulations. Many already have.

Despite these positive developments, there are still federal laws on the book regarding sports wagering. The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 both remain in effect. Both are limited in their application to gambling operators physically located within the United States, so bettors are still able to freely gamble despite those laws. As sports betting continues to become a more widely accepted in American culture, these laws will undoubtedly evolve, and they will likely eventually be repealed. Although no American laws prevent you from gambling, it would still benefit you to learn about them. Information is power, after all.

PASPA – The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, was passed in 1992 and went into effect on January 1, 1993. This law, since its inception to its ultimate SCOTUS overturn, has long been the sole real hurdle for eager American sports bettors. In practice, PASPA essentially allowed Nevada to have a total monopoly on single-game sports betting (aka full-service sports betting or “Vegas-style” sports betting). Given the overwhelming popularity of sports betting in the US, PASPA was a financial catastrophe. Not only did the law basically bankrupt major casino districts like those in Atlantic City, NJ, and Biloxi, MS, PASPA actually cost the government (both state and federal) an estimated $400-500 billion a year in taxable expenditure. It is not a stretch to suggest that during the law’s existence (1992-2018), PASPA has cost the state hundreds of billions of dollars (if not trillions of dollars) in potential tax revenue. Of all the sports betting laws in the United States throughout its history, PASPA was by far the biggest, most obvious mistake.

During PASPA’s reign, Nevada – the only legal bastion for real sports wagering – was estimated to receive only 1-3% of the total sports betting handle turned by US bettors. The rest of that action was either going underground or being sent to offshore sportsbooks (which, despite PASPA and other US anti-gambling laws, were and are able to operate legally, as they are based overseas and outside of US jurisdiction). Naturally, PASPA has been something of a massive financial boondoggle for the US, and now that the law is overturned, there is hope that much of that action being sent overseas can be recovered and kept in the US economy. As for the lingering effects of PASPA? Good riddance to bad rubbish!

Read Our Article: What Is Papsa?

UIGEA – Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) was written to deter US financial institutions from processing payments related to Internet gambling. Included in the SAFE Port Act 2006, the UIGEA is a provision that requires banks and other payment processors to monitor designated payment systems such as cards, checks, and bank wires for “restricted transactions”, While the UIGEA will make it more difficult when using your Visa or MasterCard to make a deposit at an online sportsbook, there are certain sites that have higher success rates than others. Like most federal sports betting laws, the UIGEA only applies to businesses and not the individuals placing bets.

While the UIGEA sounds scary and intimidating, it doesn’t actually do much to stop “unlawful Internet gambling”. That’s probably because most of the gambling it actually addresses isn’t unlawful in the first place, given that offshore sportsbooks accessible over the Internet do not constitute illegal bookmakers. The law is further neutered by the advent of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which allow bettors to fund their accounts and receive payouts without ever going through a banking service on either end. All in all, the UIGEA is the poster child for ineffective legislation to address nonexistent problems. Hopefully, the law will be eradicated in due time, but until then, if you ever have a card declined while trying to fund your sports betting account, simply wait a bit and try again, use a different card (like an Internet Visa prepaid/gift card), or just use Bitcoin or another supported altcoin. Indeed, there is some debate about the origin of Bitcoin itself, with many analysts claiming that the catalysts for its creation were the strict sports betting laws in the United States.

Read Our Article: What Is The UIGEA

RAWA – The Restoration of America’s Wire Act

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act, or RAWA, was designed to strengthen and broaden the Wire Act after the DOJ ruled in 2011 that the law only applied to sports betting. While this received some notable support in the legislature after its initial proposal in 2014 (co-sponsored by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Utah representative Jason Chaffetz), the bill gained no support and never advanced.

The necessity for RAWA, in effect, at least temporarily obviated when the DOJ, in 2018, reversed course, stating that the original Wire Act did indeed apply to all common forms of gambling. This, it seems, has deprioritized the issue, albeit a DOJ statement is not nearly as binding as an official law (and, as shown, can be reversed at any time). Lobbyist and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was the main driving force behind RAWA, as online gambling threatens his land-based casino interests.

The Interstate Wire Act

The Interstate Wire Act (also called the Federal Wire Act, the Interstate Anti-Crime Act, or simply the Wire Act) was a piece of legislation signed into law in 1961 by former president John F. Kennedy at the behest of his brother Robert F., who was the US Attorney General at the time. Sold to the public as a means to stop the proliferation of mafia-related numbers rackets across state borders, the real impetus for the very first of the US sports betting laws was to stop sports gambling and underground lotteries from competing with state-sanctioned lotteries. Naturally, the states could not abide competition in this arena, as their own lotteries provided huge amounts of income to fund their programs and schemes.

The way that the Wire Act seeks to curb unlawful interstate gaming is to make it illegal to use wire communications (hence the law’s name) to accept sports wagers or other kinds of bets over things like telephones and telegraph systems. Indeed, semaphore is even outlawed! Slot attendant jobs cruise ships passengers. Naturally, with the advent of the Internet, this new communications form, traveling over wires, was also covered by the Wire Act, as is wireless wagering in our modern times. In 2011, the US DOJ stated that the Wire Act applied only to sports wagering. However, in 2018, the same US DOJ stated that the Wire Act does in fact apply to other forms of gambling, as well.

The only real effect of the Wire Act now, however, is that it prevents residents in one state from picking up the phone or logging onto the Internet to place a sports bet in another state. This is called geo-fencing, and even the casino and sports betting apps in Nevada are bound by GPS to only allow those physically in the state to place wagers. This problem, of course, doesn’t exist with legal offshore sportsbooks, as they operate entirely outside of the reach of US laws, and the Wire Act conveniently applies only to bookies, not individual bettors. That’s why these overseas books exist and continue to thrive.

Read Our Article: What Is The Wire Act?

Proposed Federal Gambling Laws

There is one particular sports betting law that is in the works, although it has not been officially filed as of yet. Back in September of 2019, US Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitt Romney began working on a form of legislation with the goal to create federal standards or guidelines for states who plan to regulate sports betting in the future. Currently, in the US, sports betting is handled on a state by state basis, making the rules vary drastically from one state to another. The proposed bill would make a unified sports betting set of rules that any state who regulates sports betting would then follow. Schumer initially tried to create a similar sports betting law earlier in the year but was ultimately a waste as the bill went nowhere. This newer proposed bill has more potential going forward, however.

Potential For Similar Laws In The Future

Will there ever be a PASPA style law passed in the future within the United States? The likeliest of answers is no. The US has lived both in a PASPA world and a post-PASPA world and the economy has thrived in one more than it has in the other. Sports betting will always be something that Americans participate in. To ban it would only be hurting the country and the revenue it gains from the industry. It wouldn’t hurt the consumer as there are outside outlets to gamble are sporting events that are completely legal.

The only difference if another ban were to occur would be the US not profiting from those outlets the way they do in a post-PASPA world with their own platforms, which is why it would be highly unlikely that any legislation would pass like that of PASPA in the future. That’s not to say that there won’t be proposals that will come along as some people will always be opposed to legal sports betting but to go as far as becoming a law again, a betting man would wager on the side of “No.” The legal sports wagering industry is just too lucrative in the US to ever be banned again.

GAME Act – Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act

Introduced by Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), the GAME Act was intended to effectively repeal and replace PASPA. Introduced in 2017 as HR 4530, the GAME Act sought to return to the states their rights to legislate their own sports betting rules. There were other considerations involved, namely a passage codifying daily fantasy sports (DFS) as “gambling,” which the DFS lobby is vehemently against. Needless to say, the Supreme Court overturn of PASPA temporarily derailed the GAME Act, though it may come about if the federal government wishes to regulate gaming nationwide. Hopefully, the states – which all now have total gambling sovereignty – will resist any efforts to bring sports betting back under the umbrella of the US government.

Read Our Article: What Is The GAME Act?

Sports Betting Laws By State

Most states (all of them except Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware) used to be bound by the same sports wagering prohibitions set forth by PASPA. However, now that each state is free to make its own rules for wagering on athletic contests, you can expect a host of divergent laws to apply, depending on where you are. Analyzing the sports betting laws by state is something that you will have to do if you plan on hitting the road to do some sports wagering in the future. But that’s OK, because – while the laws might vary a bit – all the states with sports betting (or those pending sports betting legislation) will generally follow the same mold. In most cases, you can expect the legal minimum age to bet on sports at these venues to be 21, and you can expect land-based wagering to launch before Internet sports betting follows suit.

If you don’t want to do the research and just want to get to the bets, however, you should use a legal offshore sportsbook. These sites operate in all 50 states (with very limited exceptions, in the case of Bovada), and they’re as good as or better than any land-based venue you’re likely to come across. Really, the only reason to bet on sports at a brick-and-mortar book is to soak up the ritzy atmosphere of the casino and to watch the games in its sports betting lounge. If you simply want to wager and get on with your day (or night), then don’t worry about any sports betting laws in the United States and simply sign up at an overseas Internet sportsbook.

States With Legal Sports Betting (Land-Based)

  • Nevada
  • Delaware
  • New Jersey
  • Mississippi
  • West Virginia
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • New Mexico
  • Arkansas
  • New York
  • Iowa
  • Oregon
  • Indiana
  • Illinois
  • Montana
  • Michigan
  • Colorado (pending)
  • New Hampshire (pending)
  • North Carolina (pending)
  • Connecticut (pending)
  • Washington DC (Pending)
  • Washington (Pending)

States With Legal Sports Betting (Online)

  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Iowa
  • Oregon
  • Indiana
  • Rhode Island
  • New Hampshire
  • Colorado
  • Illinois (pending)
  • Delaware (pending)
  • Tennessee (pending)
  • Michigan (pending)

States Currently Considering Sports Betting Legalization

  • Alabama
  • Arizona
  • Kansas*
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland*
  • Massachusetts*
  • Missouri
  • Ohio*
  • South Dakota*
  • Virginia*

* States that gave legal sports betting a serious consideration and are expected to be the next wave of sports betting legalization.

As explained under the PASPA section, state sports betting laws in the United States are set on the state level. This can cause very different industries offered despite states being neighbors to each other. For example, bettors in Rhode Island can begin wagering at 18, while those in New Jersey must be 21 to get started. Likewise, bettors in Iowa are not permitted to wager on prop bets involving collegiate athletes, while a state like Oregon allows for betting on any collegiate sport, depending on which sportsbook in the state you use. Finding out these differences can be a challenge but we have designed this entire page for your benefit. Use them as your reference but as always, consult a legal professional about your current situation if you are unsure.

One major thing to understand is that, while some restrictions are placed on the sportsbooks (for example, Iowa’s rules against prop betting), some restrictions are placed on you (for example, legal gambling age). The restrictions that are placed on the sportsbooks can be resolved by using a sportsbook outside of the US, but the restrictions that are placed on you cannot be resolved. Using those examples, if you wanted to bet on college prop bets in Iowa, you could use a sportsbook located outside of the US, that was not subject to those restrictions. However, if you wanted to bet before you turned 21 in New Jersey, you cannot do that regardless of where the sportsbook you are using is located.

Legal Sports Betting Across The Nation

As of 2020, there are 23 states in the country that have some form of state-sanctioned legal sports betting. More states are in the process of trying to legalize industries of their own since PASPA was overturned in 2018. But, with or without a legal sportsbook presence in any state in the nation, gambling on sporting events is still legal. How? With the use of offshore internet sportsbooks. These sports betting sites have been in business for decades and are available nationwide for a safe, legal, and regulated sports betting option for the people of the United States. Regardless of where a state lies on the issue of wagering on sports matchups, these platforms will always be legal for sports bettors to use for gambling on sports.

Legal Sports Betting Age In The United States

No matter what state you live in, you must adhere to the legal sports betting age in the United States. While most people think this is generally set at 21, they would be incorrect. Most states do permit players to enter casinos and other gambling establishments at age 21 to bet on sports, but there are a handful of states that allow players as young as 18 to gamble. It doesn’t matter whether the sports bettor is using a mobile device or visiting the land-based facility, the sportsbook age is set by the state.

This includes when players use offshore betting sites for their gambling needs. Nearly every sportsbook will allow those who are 18 to sign up and begin wagering at their sites but it is up to the player to determine their own legality. If one is betting on horses, they would legally be permitted to wager at 18, however, those who are attempting to bet on sports should wait until they are following the local laws. Despite being able to wager, those who are 21 and caught underage sports betting will have their account terminated and potentially may have their winnings confiscated as well.

How Old Do I Need To Be To Play NCAA Tournament Bracket Games For Cash?

Playing bracket games or Super Bowl squares may come off as gambling and, in a technical sense, it is. For those playing for smaller prize pools and are entertaining a group of friends, it is unlikely that anything will happen to you when setting up and playing these types of games. Nobody’s going to call the feds on your office pool. Even if large prize pools are involved, the state can determine the game to be considered gambling. However, in most cases, these setups are considered social gambling, where states may limit how much a buy-in or how much the total winner can collect from the game.

Legal

The basic rule is that as long as the house isn’t taking a cut, there should be no issues when looking to play NCAA tournament bracket games for cash. Similarly, there are plenty of online sportsbooks that offer NCAA tournament bracket games, and those sportsbooks are generally legal to use. When it comes to age, you’ll want to be above the legal gambling age in your state. If your state does not define that age, assume it to be 21. Most states do have a defined legal gambling age, however, and it is usually either 18 or 21. If you’re older than 21, you’re good - just make sure you’re obeying the law.

Federal Wire Act And The Effect It Has On Internet Sports Gambling

The Federal Wire Act was put into law in 1961 and is one of the biggest issues in the sports betting industry today. As the law was established in the 1960s, it is quite outdated, yet the US government still uses it to crack down on gambling establishments. In short, this law prevents sportsbooks from accepting a wager from those who are not physically located within the state – and this includes the use of mobile betting.

States that have approved mobile sports betting will geolocate a user’s phone before accepting their wager and there is literally zero way around this law. The Wire Act does not target the gambler, so those who are attempting to wager from outside of state lines should not worry, but instead, it focuses on the sportsbook itself. This law was established to prevent mobsters and underground sports betting operations from hiding their money and transferring it across state lines. While this is not the issue that the law control today, it still holds true and may inhibit your ability to bet on sports. As for the offshore betting sites, this US law has zero jurisdiction over the overseas sportsbooks, so they will accept bettors from anywhere within the US.

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

Perhaps the most important law in the sports betting world, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) seemed like the end of the gambling industry in the country. This law (in order to protect the integrity of professional and collegiate sports) made it that states could not offer a state-operated sports betting industry. States like Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana were exempt from this law, as they already had sports betting laws on their books and were grandfathered in. However, as Nevada was the only state that accepted single-game wagering and not a parlay style game, it quickly became the sports betting monopoly it is known for.

Now that PASPA has been repealed (May 2018), states have the right to facilitate their own sports betting laws and regulate their own industry how they see fit. With PASPA gone, many states were quick to legalize sports betting and a handful more are researching the best methods to bring the industry into a tax contributing necessity. This law being repealed is the only reason why the sports betting market has continued to grow immensely since 2018.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) may seem like a law that prevents sports betting from happening but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Designed to scare bettors, this law worked for many years until sports bettors realized just exactly what the law entailed. Despite the strong wording in its name, UIGEA only prevents US banks from knowingly processing payments to offshore gambling sites. This includes sports betting sites as well as horse racing betting sites and even online casinos.

UIGEA may be a deterrent for sports bettors but there are many ways around it. To know if you have been a victim of UIGEA is quite easy, as your credit card will be declined when you attempt to deposit with one of our recommended sites. Don’t worry, your card will still be operational and nobody will be coming knocking on your door. Instead, call up the desired sportsbook and they will explain their various deposit (and withdrawal) methods that are welcomed without a bank being the middle man. Methods like Bitcoin, Money Orders, and other possibilities exist, as the sportsbook and the gambler can make their connection and get you, the sports bettor, started.

State Sports Betting Laws In The United States

As explained under the PASPA section, state sports betting laws in the United States are set on the state level. This can cause for very different industries offered despite states being neighbors to each other. For example, bettors in Rhode Island can begin wagering at 18, while those in New Jersey must be 21 to get started. Likewise, bettors in Iowa are not permitted to wager on prop bets involving collegiate athletes, while a state like Oregon allows for betting on any collegiate sport, depending on which sportsbook in the state you use. Finding out these differences can be a challenge but we have designed this entire page for your benefit. Use them as your reference but as always, consult a legal professional about your current situation if you are unsure.

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