Share this

Wizard Recommends

Last Updated: February 8, 2017

The Legality of Online Gambling in the US

The State of the States

One topic that is of interest to the millions of individual United States citizens out there is whether or not online gambling is legal in their respective jurisdictions, or as some wonder, whether or not it is legal anywhere in the United States.

The first myth that should immediately be dispelled is that online gambling (by the gambler himself/herself) is in anyway prohibited by Federal law. That myth is absolutely untrue and stems from a poor understanding of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. One of the provisions of this act has to do with Wire Transfers, and it essentially states that no person or entity may knowingly accept any funds associated with a person participating in illegal online gambling. The key component of the wording is that they may not, "Accept," your money, it has no bearing on your ability to send the money.

Furthermore, the fact that this law can even exist is patently ridiculous because it was nothing more than an add-on piece of Legislation to the SAFE Port Act The SAFE Port Act was a necessary piece of Legislation for various reasons, and it passed the Senate unanimously and passed the House of Representatives almost unanimously (two Nays). Unfortunately, this Act was tacked on by a group of Republicans who, I am guessing, do not identify as Libertarian. While the SAFE Port Act was essential, the UIGEA was not, but many Legislators complained that they did not even have the opportunity to read it. With that said, it is highly unlikely that, if they had, the SAFE Port Act would have failed.

It is for this reason that Payment Processing companies are often used to facilitate money transfers from the players to Online Gambling sites. Many of these operators (and virtually all of the key players for the gambling sites) live and operate outside of the U.S. due to this law. Furthermore, it also creates a need for the Payment Processing companies themselves as opposed to a player being able to simply put his Credit Card information in on any online gambling website the player chooses and transferring funds.

This language is often misinterpreted as making it illegal for players to knowingly transfer funds to online casinos located outside of the United States, to use their own Credit Cards in order to do so, or to knowingly send money through a payment processor for the purpose of gambling online. At the Federal level, none of these statements could possibly be less true. The UIGEA has no provisions in it whatsoever that would call for the penalization of individual players who choose to gamble online or transfer funds for same.

The first thing that one should do, if one feels uncomfortable with online gambling and is not in a State in which it is expressly legal, is to research your Municipal or County rules and see if there is a prohibition against it. Beyond that, you might try to determine whether or not anyone in your State has faced charges for Gambling Online. It might technically be illegal, but essentially unenforced. Many of these laws were also written prior to the existence of the Internet and have not been updated, likely because the lawmakers do not consider this a high priority, and also, many of the laws are Puritanical in nature.

With that said, however, there are many States that have laws and provisions that either allow or disallow online gambling, so let's take a look at some of those:

Online Gambling is treated differently throughout the United States with some States having declared it completely illegal, some have actually legalized it, and some have Legislation in the works to legalize it. Without further ado, let's go by each State and see what the status of online gambling actually is:

Alabama

There are a couple of laws in the State of Alabama that would seem to make online gambling illegal. One makes it a Class C Misdemeanor to, "Knowingly advances or profit from unlawful gambling activity as a player." However, if there is nothing specifically in the Alabama code to make online gambling patently illegal, then I would suggest one is not engaged in, "Unlawful gambling activity." There is another statute that prohibits, "Possession of a gambling device," which is a Class A Misdemeanor. However, the gambling device is illegal if it is, "Any other gambling device, with the intention that it be used in the advancement of an unlawful gambling activity."

Absent anything in Alabama law actually declaring online gambling to fall under the purview of, "Unlawful Gambling Activity." The only thing related to online gambling that Alabama law makes clear is that an individual or company cannot operate Online Gambling within the State, but that is because an individual or company cannot operate for-profit gambling on any kind within the State.

With all of that said, it is extremely unlikely that anyone will ever be prosecuted in Alabama for gambling online, or that any interested agencies (assuming any would care) have any real way of finding out someone is doing it.

RANK: Ambiguous

Alaska

A person commits the offense of gambling in Alaska if the person engages in, "Unlawful gambling," which is defined as any gambling not specifically allowed by law. Because Alaska has not yet explicitly legalized Internet gambling, (as they have for social gambling) my personal opinion is that Online Gambling in Alaska is probably illegal. Fortunately, the penalty for the first violation of the law is nothing more than a, "Violation," but it jumps to a Class B Misdemeanor for subsequent violations.

My suggestion would be, since the first offense is a mere violation...in the unlikely event that gambling online gets you in any trouble in Alaska, simply don't do it again after you get the violation.

RANK: Ambiguous, but Probably Illegal.

Arizona

Whether or not it would ever be enforced, the language of Arizona State Law (which allows Social Gambling) makes it pretty clear that online gambling is illegal. "Benefiting from Gambling," is a Class I Misdemeanor, and it is defined as, "Except for amusement or regulated gambling, a person commits benefiting from gambling if he obtains any benefit from gambling." It is not stated whether ot not that is solely constrained to financial benefit, so if you gamble online in Arizona and get any benefit from it whatsoever (including, enjoyment?) you are guilty of, 'Benefiting from Gambling.'

RANK: Slightly Ambiguous, but Almost Definitely Illegal

Arkansas

Questions of actual enforcement aside, Arkansas law makes it patently illegal to gamble on anything in which, "Any money or property may be won." Here is an excellent legal paper that goes more in-depth:

http://lawnotes.law.uark.edu/wp-content/uploads/Norwood-Gambling-in-Arkansas-in-the-Post-Lottery-Environment-Arkansas-Law-Notes-2010.pdf

RANK: Patently Illegal.

California

California had four different bills introduced in 2015 that would have legalized and set a regulatory framework for intrastate online poker, but all four bills died a Legislative death due to inaction as of a few months ago. New bills may be reintroduced.

Beyond that, California is completely ambiguous because there is no State law that would serve to explicitly prohibit players from gambling online, (operators would be doing something illegal under California State Law) but lower levels of Government than the State itself could enact Legislation making such an act illegal. Therefore, I would suggest that any California player would want to research to determine if there are any laws in his/her locality prohibiting online gambling.

RANK: State: Not Illegal for Players, Locally: Could be Illegal.

Colorado

The State of Colorado dictates that anti-gambling laws be construed, "Liberally," and other than Social Gambling or Gambling authorized by the State, any other form of gambling (as a player) is a petty offense that could result in a fine. Gambling constitutes a Class 1 Petty Offense. The Colorado Department of Revenue site makes this clear:

https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/enforcement/what-legal-gambling-questions-colorado

RANK: Patently Illegal, but Minor Penalty.

Connecticut

Connecticut law is completely clear and unambiguous that Gambling is a crime, specifically, a Class B Misdemeanor. Until the State explicitly makes online gambling (in any form) legal, it is illegal. It is difficult to speculate whether or not the law is strictly enforced.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Delaware

Regulated online gambling is legal in Delaware, and nothing in that bill would tend to make it appear illegal to play at unregulated sites. However, it is illegal under Delaware law to own a, 'Gambling Device,' and is a Class A Misdemeanor. On the other hand, if they wanted to extend the definition of, 'Gambling Device,' to be a computer, then you could not play at their regulated sites which are definitely legal!

I would encourage anyone in the State of Delaware to research the State Laws and decide for yourselves, but I would say it is probably legal to gamble online in Delaware.

RANK: Probably Quite Legal.

Florida

Florida has some regulated gambling, and it is a Second-Degree Misdemeanor to engage in any form of unregulated gambling within the State. Since online casinos outside of the State of Florida fall under this purview, playing at them is patently illegal. It is difficult to say whether this law is really enforced, probably not.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Georgia

Many sites have tried to advance the argument that online gambling is not necessarily illegal in Georgia, whereas engaging in illegal gambling is a Misdemeanor, but they may not have fully studied the law:

http://law.justia.com/codes/georgia/2010/title-16/chapter-12/article-2/part-1/16-12-20

Notable are terms such as, "Any slot machine, simulations or variation thereof," and, "Any video game machine or device, operated for any consideration, for the game of poker, Blackjack, any other card game or Keno.....etc"

The long and short of it is, while Georgia law may not specifically address online gambling, it does address virtually every way an individual can possibly gamble online. The result:

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Hawaii

The State Legislature of Hawaii is completely out of its mind. If it were me, I would legalize every form of gambling imaginable immediately! Combine that with how highly-praised Hawaii is as a tourist destination already, and you have a guaranteed cash cow. Instead, engaging in any form of gambling other than Social Gambling or Home Games is patently illegal under Hawaii law. The law restricts any form of betting in, "Contests of chance."

RANK: Patently Illegal. (They hate money!)

Idaho

All forms of gambling, except for those allowed by the State, are prohibited in the State of Idaho and gambling is a Misdemeanor. It is unknown whether or not this is ever enforced for online gambling.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Illinois

The law is clear in the Land of Lincoln, other than State-Regulated forms of gambling, playing a game, "Of chance or skill for money or other thing of value," is patently illegal. It is a Misdemeanor under the law, but it is difficult to tell how strictly the law is enforced with respect to Online Gambling.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Indiana

You do NOT want to operate an online casino in Indiana! For the players, though, illegal Gambling is a Class B Misdemeanor. Further, your device would almost undoubtedly become an illegal gambling device under State law:

http://codes.lp.findlaw.com/incode/35/45/5/35-45-5-1

How strictly the codes are enforced for Internet Gambling is unknown, but the laws are not ambiguous.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Iowa

Iowa has perhaps the strictest apparent laws on Online Gambling out there. Other than regulated forms of Gambling, it is a crime to, "Make any bet," pursuant to Iowa law, and the penalties can range all the way up to a Felony dependent exclusively on the amounts involved. Furthermore, any monies garnered from online gambling are subject to seizure, as are any monies with any other illegal form of gambling in the State. It is unknown how frequently these laws are enforced.

RANK: Patently Illegal, Felonious in Some Cases

Kansas

The scope of the law is pretty broad in Kansas, a state in which making, "A bet," is a Class B Misdemeanor unless it is a form of gambling specifically allowed by the State. The laws are probably rarely, if ever, enforced:

http://law.justia.com/codes/kansas/2011/Chapter21/Article43/21-4302.html

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Kentucky

Kentucky law makes it illegal to, "Advance Gambling Activity," which is something that would apply to operators, rather than players. Kentucky law does not seem to prescribe a penalty for the mere act of gambling as a player whatsoever.

http://statecodesfiles.justia.com/kentucky/2012/chapter-528/528.010/document.pdf

RANK: Not Illegal.

Louisiana

This says it all, "Whoever commits the crime of Gambling by Computer shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.":

http://law.justia.com/codes/louisiana/2011/rs/title14/rs14-90-3

At least they have great food.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Maine

While unlawful gambling is considered criminal in Maine, there do not appear to be any penalties associated with the act of merely being a player gambling online. An absence of any penalties effectively makes the act not illegal.

RANK: Not Illegal.

Maryland

Pursuant to Maryland Law, both the use of a, "Gambling Device," and the possession of a Gambling Device are crimes that can result in various fines and even up to two years in prison for playing a gaming device.

http://www.gambling-law-us.com/State-Laws/Maryland/

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Massachusetts

This State is an interesting one because it has a plethora of laws in place to prevent gambling for operators. One should also keep in mind that the law prohibits gambling in a public place explicitly. One of the most striking Sections to me:

https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartIV/TitleI/Chapter271/Section1

Essentially states that individuals doing any form of gambling and winning five or more dollars (except State authorized gambling under Chapter 23K) could be fined double the amount of the money that was won gambling.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Michigan

Do not win more than $50 in Michigan gambling online. As online gambling would fall under the purview of, "Illegal Gambling," under Michigan law. Winning at illegal gambling in an amount of less than $50 is a misdemeanor but appears to be unpunished. If you win more than that, the law says you could be looking at up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000.

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(c2xa2n2hyd5gobdqckhklubh))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-750-314

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Minnesota

While an individual who, "Makes a bet," has committed a Misdemeanor pursuant to State Law, it does not seem to carry any penalties. Minnesota proscribes a number of penalties for, "Gross Misdemeanors," in the next section of the law, but none of those would seem to apply to online players:

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=609.755

https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=609.756

RANK: Probably Legal.

Mississippi

The long and short of it is that, if you engage in any form of gambling other than those authorized by the State, then you face a fine of up to $500 and up to ninety days in jail if said fine is not paid.

http://law.justia.com/codes/mississippi/2010/title-97/33/97-33-1

You could also be fined for whatever amount you won:

http://law.justia.com/codes/mississippi/2010/title-97/33/97-33-5

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Missouri

Other than specifically permitted forms of gambling in Missouri, any other form of gambling is a Misdemeanor:

http://www.laws9.com/statutes/missouri/t38/c572/572_010

Montana

Montana has some lengthy gambling law that was just updated in November of 2015:

https://media.dojmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/RULES-Statutes-combined-11-23-2015.pdf

23.5.112(20) and 23.5.112(21) combine to define Internet Gambling and to construe it as a crime. 23.5.156 offers a misdemeanor penalty for any illegal gambling device or illegal gambling enterprise in which, "A person who in an activity involving gambling offers or obtains money, property, or anything of value that does not exceed $750 in value by misrepresentation, fraud, or the use of an illegal gambling device or an illegal gambling enterprise is guilty of a misdemeanor and is punishable as provided in 23-5-161." If it is over $750, the language is the same and it is a felony punishable by 23-5-162.

The Misdemeanor shall result in a fine of no more than $500 for a first offense, up to six months in County Jail or a fine up to $1,000, or both, for a second offense within five years, a fine of up to $10,000 or up to a year in County Jail, or both for a third offense within five years, and for a fourth offense a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for up to 1 year or both.

The Felony calls for imprisonment of not more than ten years, a fine of up to $50,000 or both.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Nebraska

This state defines gambling as risking, "Something of value," on any game that has an element of chance and any form of gambling not specifically permitted by the State is illegal. Section 28-1104 calls for a Class IV Misdemeanor for a player who bets less than $500 in one day.

http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=28-1104

If you bet more than $500, even as a player, you have committed Promoting Gambling in the Second Degree.

http://nebraskalegislature.gov/laws/statutes.php?statute=28-1103

Promoting Gambling in the First Degree does not appear to apply to the players themselves.

Section 28-1110 also provides that it is not a defense to contend that the gambling is conducted outside of the State in a jurisdiction in which gambling is permitted. Finally, Section 28-1111 calls for forfeiture of any monies used for the purpose of illegal gambling to the State.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Nevada

Online Poker at State-Licensed operators is legal in Nevada, but is less than popular with the State's few online poker rooms only combining to beat $1,000,000 in revenue on one occasion. Given that the Silver State has the highest concentration of B&M Casinos in the United States, it's really no surprise residents would have little use for the online Poker Rooms. Besides that, the offers are likely better at other online casinos.

Other forms of online wagering are addressed by 465.093 which makes it a Misdemeanor to transmit communication either within or outside of the State for the purpose of making a wager:

http://law.justia.com/codes/nevada/2010/title41/chapter465/nrs465-093.html

RANK: Illegal, Other Than Licensed Poker Sites.

New Hampshire

Other than modes of gambling specifically authorized by the State, 647:2 makes it illegal to gamble in any form and is a Misdemeanor:

http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/html/lxii/647/647-2.htm

Because the State has no legal means of Online Gambling specifically permitted, any form of online gambling is illegal.

RANK: Patently Illegal

New Jersey

New Jersey is one of the few States to have fully legal online casinos which fall under the Licensing and Regulation of the State. While any gambling activity not specifically authorized by the State is unlawful:

http://law.justia.com/codes/new-jersey/2013/title-2a/section-2a-40-1

Any specific crimes outlined in the New Jersey code focus on operators rather than players. In fact, any provisions under 2C 37 seem to specifically absolve mere players from any wrongdoing.

RANK: Not Illegal.

New Mexico

New Mexico defines Gambling simply as, "Making a bet,":

http://law.justia.com/codes/new-mexico/2006/nmrc/jd_30-19-2-c8e3.html

Unless specifically authorized by the State, all forms of gambling are illegal and are a Misdemeanor.

RANK: Patently Illegal.

New York

New York defines illegal gambling broadly enough that it would cover any form of gambling not specifically permitted by the State, but a careful perusal of the laws therewith associated focus entirely on online gambling operators as opposed to players:

http://ypdcrime.com/penal.law/article225.htm

New York currently has a Bill before the Senate that might specifically allow certain interactive Poker games to be characterized as games of skill, but it is hard to tell whether or not that Bill will see a vote by the end of the current Legislative Session:

https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2015/s5302

RANK: Not Illegal

North Carolina

North Carolina defines gambling as, "Any game of chance," and a person participating in such other than those specifically permitted by the State is guilty of a Class II Misdemeanor:

http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/enactedlegislation/statutes/pdf/bysection/chapter_14/gs_14-292.pdf

Furthermore, any money acquired via online gambling can be seized according to the law:

http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/enactedlegislation/statutes/pdf/bysection/chapter_14/gs_14-299.pdf

RANK: Patently Illegal

North Dakota

North Dakota is an interesting one because gambling (other than State-sanctioned gambling) is conditionally illegal. I say conditionally because unlawful forms of gambling carry no charge for bets of less than $25 per event, it becomes an Infraction if it exceeds $25 and a Class A Misdemeanor if it exceeds $500:

http://www.legis.nd.gov/cencode/T12-1c28.pdf?20160325075109

There you have it, you're perfectly within the law as long as you bet less than $25 a hand.

RANK: Conditionally Illegal.

Ohio

The State of Ohio outlaws the public playing of games of chance not otherwise allowed by law, but beyond that, does not proscribe any penalties that would extend themselves to online gambling.

A few notable exceptions are engaging in illegal gambling as a substantial source of income or livelihood as well as bookmaking which includes betting with a bookmaker.

http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/2915.02

RANK: Conditionally Illegal

Oklahoma

Anyone who engages in any form of gambling not specifically authorized by the State faces a fine of $25-$100 or a jail term of 1-30 days or both:

http://law.justia.com/codes/oklahoma/2014/title-21/section-21-942

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Oregon

Oregon law defines unlawful gambling as any gambling that is not specifically permitted by the State and Unlawful Gambling is a Class A Misdemeanor:

http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/167.122

RANK: Patently Illegal

Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania law prohibits any form of unauthorized gambling, but there appear to only be penalties for operators, not players.

RANK: Not Illegal

Rhode Island

Rhode Island carries serious penalties for operators and penalties that are no less than draconian for operators of (One year in the case of operators or people getting others to go to what amount to social games, and a $500 fine!) Social Games as well as a penalty of thirty (30) days for participants. While this measure is quite draconian, there do not appear to be any specific penalties for players gambling online.

RANK: Probably Not Illegal

South Carolina

South Carolina laws allow for comparatively extreme punishment of people simply engaged in home games and the laws seem to focus on operators:

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/code/t16c019.php

Online gambling is not mentioned, but players can get in trouble for participating in other games with imprisonment of up to thirty days or a fine of up to $100.

RANK: Ambiguous.

South Dakota

South Dakota law states that engaging in any form of gambling not specifically legalized by the State constitutes a Class 2 Misdemeanor.

http://legis.sd.gov/Statutes/Codified_Laws/DisplayStatute.aspx?Type=Statute&Statute=22-25-1

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Tennessee

Gambling in any fashion other than those specifically legalized by the State constitutes illegal gambling, and using any device for gambling for any reason causes it to be Possession of an Illegal Gambling Device:

http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-39/chapter-17/part-5/39-17-501

The next section of the law, 39-17-502 specifies that Gambling is a Class C Misdemeanor:

http://law.justia.com/codes/tennessee/2010/title-39/chapter-17/part-5/39-17-501

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Texas

Statute 47.01(1) makes it illegal to participate in any game solely or partially decided by chance other than any that may be state-sanctioned. The result of illegal gambling is a Class C Misdemeanor:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.statutes.legis.state.tx.us/Docs/PE/htm/PE.47.htm

Rank: Patently Illegal.

Utah

Utah law outlaws any form of gambling and was even amended to specifically include online gambling:

http://le.utah.gov/xcode/Title76/Chapter10/76-10-S1102.html

The act of gambling is a Class B Misdemeanor.

Ah, Utah...the one State I declare I will absolutely never set foot in.

RANK: Patently and Expressly Illegal.

Vermont

Other than State-Sanctioned forms of gambling, illegal gambling of any sort is punishable by a fine of $10-$200, though there are no apparent penalties that would result in incarceration.

http://law.justia.com/codes/vermont/2012/title13/chapter51/section2141

RANK: Illegal, Barely.

Virginia

Virginia law makes making a wager on anything related in any way to chance illegal unless same has been sanctioned by the State. The code would also seem to cause your computer to become a, "Gambling Device," because if a device is used for gambling, in any way, it becomes a gambling device.

http://law.justia.com/codes/virginia/2006/toc18.2-325/html

Illegal gambling in the State of Virginia constitutes a Class III Misdemeanor:

https://vacode.org/18.2-326/

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Washington

One might think Washington would take a liberal view on online gambling since HB 1114 keeps getting reintroduced in an effort to legalize and regulate Internet Poker, but one would be wrong. The laws that are on the books matter, not the ones that could be on the books at a later date.

Aside from forms of gambling legalized by the State, gambling is illegal. The most dangerous law to players that I have seen makes it a Class C Felony to transmit or receive gambling information by electronic means, and yes, the Internet is specifically mentioned.

http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=9.46.240

RANK: Expressly and Patently Illegal

West Virginia

West Virginia is an interesting State because it has legalized casinos as well as hundreds of slot parlors, but just about any other form of gambling is illegal, including home games. If you execute an illegal wager in West Virginia, the code says that you will pay a fine of $5-$300 and, if you fail to do so, will spend 10-30 days in jail.

http://www.legis.state.wv.us/wvcode/ChapterEntire.cfm?chap=61&art=10§ion=5

RANK: Patently Illegal

Wisconsin

Other than State-Allowed forms of gambling, any bet made in Wisconsin is a Class B Misdemeanor on the player side:

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/945/02

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Wyoming

While Wyoming does allow for many forms of gambling, including social gambling, there is nothing in the statute that allows for online gambling therefore making it illegal. The charge is a fine of up to $750 and imprisonment for up to six months.

http://law.justia.com/codes/wyoming/2013/title-6/chapter-7/article-1/section-6-7-102

RANK: Patently Illegal.

Conclusion

Whether or not you want to gamble online is certainly up to you, the player. I would think to avoid it in States in which online gambling, or the more broad, "Illegal gambling," is a felony but that being said as far as I know, the number of players who have been prosecuted for online gambling in the United States is zero. If the chance of being caught is zero, what difference does the punishment make?

In States in which it is a Misdemeanor, or some other minor offense, you have to make your own decision. Just speaking for myself, I wouldn't be scared off necessarily because the likelihood of getting caught is very low if you're doing it from your own home. The only way I could forsee getting caught is if you turned yourself in or someone you know turned you in, and even then, it's difficult to say whether the State would care enough to prosecute.

Most of the States that have Gambling laws on the books that prohibit home games also have laws on gambling that have not been updated in several years and are nothing short of Puritanical. Finally, you can investigate the Internet and other resources for your State/Locality to see if there have been any recent prosecutions related to online gambling, that's something I have certainly looked into!

Online Casinos that Accept US Players

Here is a list of online casinos that are currently accepting US players, we advise you select one that has a wizards seal to ensure they are a trusted brand.




Written by: Brandon James