Is Online Sports Betting Legal In The United States

All across the world, people use online bookmakers to wager on sporting events. These sites offer an easy and efficient method to place bets from the comfort of your own home or, in most cases these days, on your mobile phone. However, this massive, $100 billion marketplace has been lingering in the dark for millions of eager US bettors. That’s because many Americans are in fear of using online betting services, as they do not know if doing so is actually legal, and they are afraid – or at least concerned – about getting into trouble with the law. Because of this common confusion, our goal is to answer the million dollar question of whether or not online sports betting is legal in the United States.

Nationwide, there are many regulations in place that address sports betting and using online services to place your wagers. However, most of these are very difficult to understand unless you’ve studied law at Harvard, or worse, the laws paint an unclear picture as to what exactly they prohibit. Some laws discuss betting over the phone, others vaguely describe online companies, and still others target payment processing services. For the layman, then, it’s no surprise that it’s difficult to say whether or not betting on sports for Americans is legal. We can say, however, that no US citizen or resident has ever been cited, arrested, or charged with using online bookmakers to place sports bets. As seasoned, experienced bettors and industry analysts (but not laywers, so when in doubt, always check with bar-certified local experts), taking a literal approach, we can say with reasonable certainty that most US anti-gambling laws apply only to bookmakers and those who accept wagers for commercial gain. Indeed, most sports betting laws focus on the operators of unlicensed or illegal sportsbooks, while individual bettors are – for the most part – never even mentioned in state and federal mandates. That said, it definitely behooves you to understand these laws, even if they do not apply to you as a private sports betting enthusiast.

The Wire Act Of 1961 And It's Effect On Legal Sports Betting In The U.S.A.

The Wire Act of 1961 and its effect on legal sports betting in the US cannot be overstated, albeit the law only has a few remaining effects in modern times. The Wire Act (aka the Interstate Wire Act, Federal Wire Act, or Interstate Anti-Crime Act) was meant to prohibit certain methods of placing sports bets – namely any method that allowed easy transmission of wagers across state lines. The Wire Act mainly addressed the use of telephones, since at the time, Las Vegas was the only legal place to legally wager on sports. The law was meant to outlaw bookies who operated outside of Las Vegas. (The government has provided the rationale that this was to curb the operations of organized crime, but a more complete historical perspective indicates that the Wire Act was actually designed to protect state monopolies on the lottery industry.) The operative portion of the Wire Act says simply that anyone

"engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers…on any sporting event or contest…shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

It is perhaps difficult for people in modern times to understand what constitutes the use of a wire-placed wager. Back in 1961, there was no Internet, so it obviously was not meant to ban this specific method of betting sports online in the U.S.. Of course, that’s trivial, as the government (and common sense) both designate Internet technology as “wire-based” or equivalently so. In the same way the Second Amendment applies to muskets and modern guns alike, the Wire Act applies to telephone and Internet connections alike. However, note that the law makes no mention of those placing wagers, only those “in the business” of accepting them. Ergo, the Wire Act is only concerned with domestic sportsbooks that accept wagers across state lines or from those living in foreign countries. (Note: Though the Wire Act was historically interpreted to only apply to sports wager transmissions, the US Department of Justice in 2018 clarified that it applies to all forms of online gambling.)

The UIGEA And How It Effects Legal Sports Betting In The U.S.

The UIGEA, or Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006 * https://www.congress.gov/bill/109th-congress/house-bill/4954/text *, was meant to stop financial institutions in the USA from processing payments related to online gambling sites. It never states that it is illegal to bet sports online in the United States. That said, the UIGEA did make it rather difficult to deposit and get payouts from online betting sites and poker rooms after it was first put into effect (with the ultimate effects hitting the domestic online poker industry hardest on “Black Friday,” 2011), but more reliable options are now available. The use of pre-paid international credit cards and wire transfers that have no connection to American banks are often used to make getting money into and out of your sportsbook account much easier. Further, the advent of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin (and other altcoins) has more or less completely obviated the UIGEA, rendering it virtually moot.

Overturned: PASPA - The Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act

PASPA, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, was – by far – the law that had the largest and farthest-reaching effects on the legal sports wagering industry in America. Essentially, for the 25 years that PASPA was the law of the land, sports betting was not legal in the United States (except for in Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana, though these three latter states offered only the most limited possible versions of the pastime and were not able to offer Vegas-style single-game sports betting of the kind to which we are all now accustomed).

Briefly, PASPA was a fail attempt by New Jersey senator Bill Bradley to establish Atlantic City as Las Vegas’ East Coast counterpart. Because AC needed sprucing up and was in dire financial straits from the start, Bradley crafted PASPA with a key caveat: Any state that had 10 straight years of legalized casino gaming under its belt at the time of the law’s passage could legalize and open sports wagering venues within one year, thus exempting them from all of PASPA’s restrictions (as was the case with NV). The only non-Nevada state that met this criterion? You betcha: New Jersey! Ironically, of course, internal political quibbling prevented NJ from offering single-game sports betting within that one-year window, and on January 1, 1994, NJ was barred from offering sports wagering outright, joining the rest of the US states. They fought this ruling practically ever since, and from 2012 to 2018, the state successfully got their case through the circuit courts and all the way to the Supreme Court. On May 14, 2018, PASPA was finally overturned by the SCOTUS by a 6-3 ruling in Murphy v. NCAA.

With PASPA now a thing of the past, all US states are currently free to establish their own sports wagering rules and regulations. But that doesn’t mean that sports betting is legal in the United States through and through. Yes, a few states have legalized the pastime and authorized such gaming to take place in certain venues or online via state-based vendors, but the vast majority of states have yet to pursue the initiative in any concrete way. Most industry insiders expect 30-40 states to have legal sports wagering installed within the next three years, albeit there is already a movement at the federal level to take back sole oversight of the industry. Hopefully, the states will not give such authority back to the same entity that foisted PASPA upon the nation, but political lessons are often tremendously difficult to learn the first time around. Only time will tell whether or not the US congress gets involved again.

State Sports Betting Laws

State sports betting laws vary greatly. For example, some states limit potential sportsbook locations to just six venues (West Virginia), while others have them practically everywhere (Mississippi). Some states tax their new sportsbooks’ revenue at 6.75% (Nevada), while others have much higher taxation rates, like Pennsylvania’s world-leading 36%. In some states, you only have to be 18 to bet on sports locally (Rhode Island), while in others, you have to be 21. Indeed, with states having the final say on all aspects of their own sports betting industries, their laws will never be totally commensurate with one another. As stated above, while the federal government hopes to establish a set of blanket one-size-fits-all standards, the state-by-state approach is far more appropriate, as it allows the industry to be catered to the local populace and dominant cultures and mores in the area.

So, is Online Sports Betting Legal In The United States???

It is our opinion that it is legal to use only the most trusted, best sites to place bets on sports, and you will not get in trouble. As stated above, no person has ever been charged with a crime pertaining to using an online service to bet on sports. The laws and regulations set in place are unclear at best for the most part. Even when laws do apply strictly to online sports betting these are used to go after the sites and not the members of said site.

Will online sports gambling ever be regulated one day? Chances are that it will but it will likely be the last of the three major forms of online gaming being discussed these days... even as New Jersey + Nevada are launching legal gambling sites, bookmaking elements – despite PASPA’s overturn – still face regulatory challenges in each of the states going forward with plans to offer Internet-based sports betting.

Yes, online sports betting is legal in the United States, at least in a few states so far (i.e. Nevada and New Jersey). This aspect is naturally taking longer to roll out than most states’ brick-and-mortar sports betting ventures, primarily because a common law among most states seems to be tying their online sports wagering services to the existing sportsbooks that serve the casinos where they’ve so far opened sports betting lounges to the public. As such, the lounges come first, and then the online betting comes after the former is established and running smoothly. This makes sound logistical sense, as once online sports betting is available through local venues, wagering traffic and summary system load should spike exponentially.

However, in states that do not yet have legal online betting up and running (or even in states that are totally lacking any legal sports wagering of any kind), you can still enjoy the best sites to place bets on sports by using an offshore, overseas sportsbook. In other words, it is legal to bet online with foreign books that accept customers from your state, albeit we advise that you use only the most trusted, best sites to place bets on sports. As stated above, no person has ever been charged with a crime pertaining to using an online service to wager on sports. The laws and regulations set in place are clearly written to criminalize unauthorized, unlicensed domestic bookmakers, not individual bettors.

Will Online Sports Gambling Ever Be Regulated One Day?

Absolutely, yes! Online sports gambling is already regulated in states like Nevada and New Jersey, and most of the other states that have instituted sports wagering since PASPA’s overturn are openly working on offering Internet-based sports wagering platforms to their residents. If a state legalizes sports betting, it makes no financial sense to avoid legalizing the pastime over the Internet. Remember, the states are chasing tax revenue here, and the more players they can entice to participate, the better. Sure, there are a few states that may never offer sports wagering (like Utah, Hawaii, Georgia, and so on), but even their aversion isn’t written in stone, and all it might take to get them to change their tune on legal sports betting in the United States is a look at their neighbors’ bloated coffers after they legalize the practice.

Is NFL Betting Legal?

NFLThe short answer is yes, NFL betting is legal in all 50 states. The long answer is far more detailed, but the basics can be summed up rather quickly. State laws on the matter is almost non-existent outside of a few states because federal law had supremacy and superseded any legislation a state could put forward. When PASPA existed, states simply relied on that sports betting ban instead of legislating their own corresponding bans. Therefore, there was no need for state laws. However, remember: Federal law only deals with the operation of sportsbooks and not the act of placing a bet.

So, is NFL betting legal online? Yes, and several states where land-based sports betting is already legal (like New Jersey, Delaware, and Mississippi, among others) are actively trying to get online NFL betting live by the start of the next NFL season. However, for the majority of Americans, the best online football betting sites are outside of US jurisdiction and are fully licensed and tightly regulated by their home countries’ gaming authorities. These sites have always constituted legal sports betting in the United States, and they continue to carry that torch. As long as you choose a sportsbook that is reliable and reputable like those listed here, you can bet on every aspect of the NFL. Football fans nationwide can bet at any or all of these sites with confidence, knowing that they won’t be running afoul of federal or state laws by betting on the NFL.

Legal NFL Betting

Legal Sports Betting Age

The legal sports betting age in the United States is not consistent. In some cases, it’s even nonexistent! That’s because the legal age to bet at casinos is traditionally decided by states and not the federal government, and PASPA prevented the need for states to establish specific sports wagering age limits. As such, most states have decided that the gambling age should be 21, though some states have kept that limit to 18 (and others, like Alabama, have decided that 19 should be the minimum). But as far as which states implement which age, it's up to the local government.

When applying the betting age to online sports betting sites, there are a couple of factors to consider. The first is that the sportsbook is based offshore. They are not under federal or state jurisdiction. Therefore they have their own age limits, which are almost universally 18 years old. That said, if your state does have a specific sports betting age on the books, you should err on the side of caution and go with that. Regardless, however, please be aware that you should never under any circumstance sign up at a legal offshore sports betting site under the age of 18. Doing that constitutes a serious breach of the site’s TOS, and this will result in your account being disabled and permanently banned, and all your funds on the site will be forfeited. (Note also that you can join as many sports betting sites as you want, but you can only join each site once. Duplicate accounts will result in the same ban as underage gaming.)

Disclaimer: While we state that it is perfectly fine and safe to place sports bets online in the United States, we are not lawyers and suggest that anyone with concerns contact a legal professional well-versed in the intricacies of the industry. We are simply avid bettors who follow this industry and have the knowledge that most do not. Using the information at hand and a little common sense, we offer our opinions and conclusions on all legal sports betting matters.

Disclaimer

While we state that it is perfectly fine and safe to place sports bets online in the United States, we are not lawyers and suggest that anyone with concerns to contact a legal professional. We are simply avid bettors who follow this industry and have the knowledge most do not. Using the information at hand and a little common sense, we offer our opinions and conclusions on this matter.

Best Sports Betting Sites Legal For U.S. Residents

Satisfied with the info we've presented so far? Good, because this section is dedicated to covering the places where it is legal and safe to make real-money sports bets online. These websites have been in operation for decades, and they’ve long since earned solid reputations for offering value-filled lines, excellent customer care, and – perhaps most importantly of all – prompt, guaranteed payouts. And frankly, all of this is not something they're willing to compromise in order to increase their bottom lines. Our staff has active accounts at these bookmakers and routinely risk their own money when making picks. You should have full peace of mind in doing the same.

Bovada Sportsbook

Bovada SportsbookAmerica’s Favorite Legal Sports Betting Site

One of the best places that US players can go for legal online sports betting is Bovada Sportsbook. This betting site truly epitomizes exactly what a sportsbook should be. They have betting odds that cover all of the most popular sports in the US and overseas, and they always produce a plethora of different betting lines for sports like the NFL, MLB, NBA + more.

Bovada allows bettors from every state (except NV, DE, NJ, and MD) to open an account. Residents from those states which are supported by Bovada will be able to participate in legal online sports betting at the top-rated spot around. Even better, new members that sign up at Bovada today can take advantage of the company’s $250 Sports Welcome Bonus, which carries the most generous rollover terms (X5) in the entire industry.

BetOnline Sportsbook

BetOnline Sportsbook

America’s Favorite Legal Sports Betting Site

BetOnline has some great features for bettors to check out. Along with being a legal sports betting outlet for American players, account holders and prospective bettors are able to access the site from just about anywhere. Plus, BetOnline takes players from all 50 states, aged 18 and up. Through the use of mobile betting, BetOnline has expanded its operation into the realm of mobile devices. And though there is no official iPhone or Android BetOnline app for American customers, the site has gone the extra mile to craft a first-rate mobile browser interface for streamlined odds selection and one-tap wagering.

Complete access to BetOnline can be had through mobile betting, including the site’s mobile sportsbook, mobile poker room, online casino, and international pari-mutuel racebook. Whether you want to place an NFL wager or post up a prop on the NBA, BetOnline can accommodate even the busiest sports bettors around. New members are eligible to receive a generous 50% Welcome Bonus worth up to $1000, and cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are also accepted. With a dozen different ways to fund your account (all with low minimums and high maximums), BetOnline is perfect for sports bettors of all skill levels and financial means!

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Legal Online Wagering FAQs

Is It Legal To Bet On International Sports?

The offshore online sportsbooks we mention offer betting lines on not just American sports like the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and collegiate sports, but they also have lines on international soccer leagues, cricket, rugby, golf, MMA, boxing, and a ton of other globally popular sports. The variety of wagers and wager types available is simply incredible, often providing you with even more action than the best casinos in Vegas.

What Deposit Methods Are Legal To Use At Online Wagering Sites?

While most sites offer a solid variance of deposit methods, the top options tend to always be credit card and debit card deposits, as well as money orders, cashier’s checks, and bank transfers. Bitcoin has become very popular as well, as have other cryptocurrency altcoins like Ethereum, Litecoin, Bitcoin Cash, DASH, and more.

What Payout Methods Are Legal To Use At Online Wagering Sites?

Just like the deposit options available, the top offshore online wagering sites offer up several different withdrawal methods to choose from. All of these payout options vary in how long they take to get to you and how much each avenue costs in terms of added service and transfer fees. It’s up to you which method you prefer, but you will see most of the same options as the deposits (sans credit and debit), and most users are similarly going the crypto route of Bitcoin et al. Sports betting is legal in the United States, and regardless of how you wish to fund your account and receive your betting withdrawals, you will find no shortage of options at the best offshore bookmakers.