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Last Updated: February 8, 2017

Online Gambling in the United States

2006

On September 30, 2006, the United States congress passed a port security bill on the last day before they recessed for the mid-term elections. Hastily tacked onto this bill was something called the "Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006." President George W. Bush signed it 13 days later, on October 13.

The law basically says that nobody in the business of wagering may accept payments for it. So, contrary to popular belief, it doesn't make Internet gambling illegal but accepting payments for the purpose of wagering. In other words, in layman's interpretation, the depositing or playing is not illegal, but only the acceptance of the deposit for doing so. I welcome you to form your own opinion. Here is the text from the United States Code, title 31, chapter 53, subchapter IV, section 5361:

The Law

No person engaged in the business of betting or wagering may knowingly accept, in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful Internet gambling—

  1. credit, or the proceeds of credit, extended to or on behalf of such other person (including credit extended through the use of a credit card);
  2. an electronic fund transfer, or funds transmitted by or through a money transmitting business, or the proceeds of an electronic fund transfer or money transmitting service, from or on behalf of such other person;
  3. any check, draft, or similar instrument which is drawn by or on behalf of such other person and is drawn on or payable at or through any financial institution; or
  4. the proceeds of any other form of financial transaction, as the Secretary and the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System may jointly prescribe by regulation, which involves a financial institution as a payor or financial intermediary on behalf of or for the benefit of such other person.

For a while there was a lot of uncertainty if this law was just for show or if the anti-Gambling Republicans in Washington really meant it. While some Internet gambling sites shut their doors to U.S. players out of an abundance of caution others kept them open.

2011

Then, on April 15, 2011, a date known in the online gambling business as "Black Friday" things changed. The U.S. closed three of the largest U.S. poker sites and froze their bank accounts. At least that ended the ambiguity. Many smaller operators immediately closed their doors to U.S. players. However, not everybody did.

Though online gambling appeared to be facing a death knell in the United States after Black Friday, a bit of hope came after Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice filed a legal opinion near the end of the year that declared online gambling in of itself did not violate The Wire Act. This opinion meant that internet betting in of itself was not considered illegal on a federal level, and instead opened the door for individual states to legalize and regulate their own online gaming laws.

To date, the states of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware are the only jurisdictions in the United States to have legalized online gambling in some fashion. Nevada has legalized online poker, while New Jersey and Delaware have legalized and regulated online casino games as well as online poker for players.

2015

I would estimate that about 90% of Internet casinos, sports books, and poker sites are closed to U.S. players. However, there are still about 10% that evidently find the U.S. market too lucrative to pass up. It is not difficult to find such casinos. Here at the Wizard of Odds and sister sites Latest Casino Bonuses & Casino Listings we endeavor to make it easy to find U.S. friendly Internet casinos.

2016

So far in 2016, there has been a lot of chatter related to online gaming in the United States, but little progress has been made into regulating the activity in more states. There has been talk of California adopting online poker, and Pennsylvania as well as Michigan have undertaken bills to legalize and regulate the activity.

On a federal level, the Restoration of America’s Wire Act has been introduced to Congress. The bill would effectively overturn the opinion by the Department of Justice in 2011 by making internet gambling illegal as it would stipulate that the activity violates The Wire Act. This bill was backed by Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson, who bought influence using political donations to the Republican party. The bill stalled out due to lack of interest by congressmen.

What is somewhat of a pain is making deposits to said casinos. Through the years different ways have been more convenient than others. It has basically been a cat and mouse game. A whole side business of "payment processing" has bubbled up to move money from player to casino. These payment processors frequently change names and banks, seeking to disguise themselves as generic sounding businesses.

For a while, that worked pretty well. Players made credit card payments to generic sounding companies who then funneled the money to the casino. However, slowly but surely the credit card companies started declining such deposits. Visa debit cards, easily purchased at any drug store, also used to be pretty trustworthy, but now they all seem to prohibit any International purchase.

What is a player to do in 2016? Different casinos use different ways. Whatever casino you may choose, I'm sure their customer support is happy to advise on making a deposit. For such advice, you should call them. Do not send an Email or use online chat, which leave more of an evidence trail.

US Deposit Methods

Here are some things they may recommend:

Bitcoin

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin provides perhaps the best method to deposit or withdraw funds with a casino if you’re an American. The method sees each player account being given a unique address to send deposits to, and deposits are processed within seconds, with funds credited to your account instantly. We have a list of casinos that accept American and support bitcoin transactions.

Western Union

The way it works is the casino will give you somebody's name, city, and country. Said person will likely be somewhere like Costa Rica or the Philippines. You'll have about 24 hours to make a payment to this person. After you do, notify customer support to collect the payment. They rotate through lots of people to collect said payments so that Western Union doesn't get too suspicious about any one person. It is normal for any respectable size deposit, like $300 or more, for the casino to also all the Western Union expense to your balance.

A downside to this method is you have to get the details from the casino who to send the money to, travel to a Western Union branch (note that not all do International transfers), potentially wait in line, fill out the form, notify the casino, and then wait for the casino to confirm receipt of the money.

List of online casinos accepting Western Union

Gift Cards

The casino may suggest you purchase some gift cards at a seemingly unrelated business. For example, one that might sell artwork from Costa Rica. After you buy the gift card, tell the casino the gift card number and they will credit your casino account with the value of the card.

List of casinos accepting Gift Cards

Federal Express

I've seen less of this lately, but sometimes the casino may prefer you to send postal money orders by Federal Express. They usually specifically ask for Federal Express, as opposed to UPS or the U.S. International Express mail. As with Western Union, the casino will likely credit your account with any expenses paid.

A downside to this method is that it is tedious and time consuming buying postal money orders. The casino will usually ask that each one not exceed a certain small amount, like $100, so you'll have to get lots of them for a large deposit. There is then the bother of filling out the Federal Express forms and potentially standing in another line.

Fortunately, making withdrawals is a lot easier. Most of the time you'll get a check from a Canadian bank, made out in U.S. funds, delivered via a courier service, within a week or so. A word of advice -- don't deposit said checks in an ATM. Often foreign checks must be deposited in person.

Conclusion

In summary, making deposits from the U.S. to any Internet casino that will accept American players is kind of a pain but happens all the time. Again, just contact customer service over the phone for their advice. They don't like to state how to make deposits on their web site. Given the time and fuss, I'd suggest making fewer and larger deposits if you are so inclined. Then make it last a while.

Remember, as with anything, where there is a will, there is a way.


Written by: Michael Shackleford

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