Online Casinos at the US State Level

Online Casinos at the US State Level

10 Oct 2011 | 11:30 Author: Alejandro López

As an American citizen, whether you can legally gamble at an online casino depends on the state you live in.

This article will give you a heads up on federal and state online gambling laws and what these laws mean for you as an online casino regular.

Federal US Online Gambling Laws

Late in 2006, one day before the US Congress adjourned for the elections, both legislative houses voted in favor of a bill called the SAFE Port Act. This Act of Congress initially covered only port security, but at the last moment an unrelated chapter on online gambling was tacked on.

This part of the SAFE Port Act, Title VIII, is referred to as the “Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act” (UIGEA). It essentially outlaws the processing of transactions from US financial institutions to online gambling businesses (including poker operators). 

The UIGEA was signed into a law by president George Bush on Oct. 13, 2006. Compliance with the UIGEA-measures however – with help of an additional six month delay – was required only as of June 1, 2010. 

Despite compliance not immediately required, the most serious effect of the anti-gambling law was immediately noticeable. Several big online gambling businesses chose to no longer welcome US online gamblers.

The rationale for this decision was twofold: on the one hand it involved the fear of legal consequences, and on the other hand it was based on the idea that humoring the US Government would be beneficial when online gambling was to be legalized in the future.    

Online casino operators like PlayTech, and online poker operators like Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, chose to stay loyal to their US customers.

Other major companies like Party Gaming, Bwin, and Microgaming took the prudent route and stopped servicing US customers as soon as the UIGEA was signed into law.

Attempt to Override the UIGEA

As far as the future of federal online gambling legislation is considered, all eyes have been on Barney Frank. As the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, Frank introduced and sponsored several bills to undo the UIGEA.

In July, 2010 proponents of legalized online gambling were under the impression that the tide was about to turn. Frank’s “Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act” had passed a voting of the US House Financial Services Committee.

Although the first step for this bill – known as HR 2267 – was made, there was not enough time for it to be voted on by the House of Representatives.

At the end of 2010 the term of Congress came to an end, and with a newly elected Congress the bill will have to be re-introduced, again. As a result the short-term outlook for more tolerant federal US online gambling legislation is gloomy.

Online Gambling Laws at the State Level

The UIGEA may have scared away some of the world’s biggest and best online gambling companies, but in no way does it forbid US citizens from placing real-money wagers at US-friendly online casinos.

In practice US citizens can still safely deposit and withdraw money to and from online casinos with certain credit cards (e.g. American Express) or by making use of 3rd party payment options like e-wallets (e.g. Usemywallet).

The UIGEA merely forbids transactions between US financial service providers and online gambling businesses, so the only potential legal barriers are anti-gambling laws at the State level. 

Only 9 US states have laws against online gambling.

All states in the list below do not have laws against online casino gambling, and in effect permit their citizens to gamble at online casinos:



North Carolina



North Dakota












Rhode Island



South Carolina




Dist. of Columbia







New Hampshire



New Jersey



New Mexico

West Virginia


New York


Americans living in any of the above listed states can play real-money online casino games without fear of legal consequences.

For more information about which online casinos are best for American players, visit our US Casinos toplist.

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