US state gambling laws for legal online betting
Figuring out states where gambling is legal can be a bit of a headache. Options vary state-by-state, and what’s kosher in one place could be outright illegal in another.
We’ve summarized which states allow for safe online gambling, including gambling for legal online casinos and sportsbooks. We also cover the most important state and federal gambling laws, to help you realize if a gambling site may be operating illegally.
Read on for our detailed table for legal gambling states.
The laws and regulations stated in this article are all accurate as of the time of writing.
The information in this article is a statement of current US gambling laws, and should not be considered as legal advice. For any legal advice, seek out a local US attorney.
|State||Online casinos||Online sports betting||Mobile sports betting||Online horse racing||Daily fantasy sports||Online lottery|
As you can see, trying to figure out in what states gambling is legal can be difficult. Most only have a limited form of online gambling allowed, and states with casinos may not necessarily also have sportsbooks legal.
The above table summarizes what states with legal gambling have available, so feel free to use it as a quick reference guide, to see what states have casinos and sportsbooks available.
Brief history of US gambling law
The Wire Act
The US prohibits the use of “wire communications” across state lines to place bets. This means if you want to place bets, you need to be physically in the state to do so. Whilst the Department of Justice has since ruled that this particular act only pertains to sports betting, gambling sites still play safe and use geolocation tools to make sure you’re within state lines.
For 26 years, PASPA made all forms of sports betting, including retail sports betting, illegal except in four states. However in 2018, this was deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and overruled. Now, each individual state decides if it wants to legalize sports betting, and sets their own terms and conditions.
The offshore site killer. UIGEA prohibits banks from processing any financial transactions to or from offshore gambling sites. The site needs to be located within legal online gambling states, or the bank will be forced to cancel any transactions.
Federal vs state law regarding legal gambling states
As of 2018, states get to dictate what’s legal within their state lines, and what the terms and conditions of those laws are. This is why in New Jersey you can find both legal sports betting and casino sites, but it’s next door neighbor Delaware only has online casinos available.
However, there are some rules that all the legal gambling states must abide by. The Wire Act and UIEGA are part of federal law, meaning no matter where you are you always need to follow these two basic rules:
- Always make sure you’re physically within the state lines of the gambling site.
- Never place real money bets to offshore gambling sites.
Some legal gambling sites, such as BetMGM, are available in multiple states and with different verticals. Always make sure you’re on the appropriate site of the state you’re in before trying to place any bets. For example: if you’re physically located in NJ, make sure you’re in the BetMGM NJ site.
Every state where gambling is legal will also have a regulatory body making sure everyone is following the rules. For each state’s individual laws, you can head to the appropriate regulatory body’s site to. For example: you can head to the website of the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) to see New Jersey’s gambling laws.
States with casino gambling legalized
Legalizing real money online casinos across the US has been a much slower affair then sportsbooks. Whilst a lot of states have expressed interest in the subject, there are still very few states with casinos available legally.
As of the time of writing, there are six states with allow for legal online casino gambling:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
If you’re physically within any of these states, then you know that you can safely gamble on online casinos. These include both mobile and desktop online casinos, since these states do not differentiate between the two.
Regulations for sweeps and social casinos
Real money casinos are one thing, but what about social or sweepstakes casinos? These are far more common in the USA, and most states allow them within their borders. You can even gamble on sweeps and social casinos located abroad. This is because these sites don’t allow real money bets at all.
Social and sweepstakes casinos only use virtual currency that the casino hands out, meaning you’re never gambling with your real money. Social casinos don’t give you any real rewards at all, whereas sweepstakes casinos let you redeem your virtual currency for cash prizes.
To see which states allow legal social and sweeps gambling, refer to our table below:
|State||Social casinos||Sweepstakes casinos|
* Washington state does not normally allow for social casinos, though there are some extremely rare exceptions such as PENN Play casino. When in doubt, always confirm with the Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC) before placing any bets.
It’s important to remember that each state has its own laws, with some being stricter then others. This means that just because sweepstakes casino may be legal in your state, it doesn’t mean that a particular sweeps casino may be available there.
States with legal online sports gambling
Online sportsbooks are much more widely available then online casinos. The repeal of PASPA in 2018 opened the floodgates for states to start legalizing sportsbooks nationwide.
As of the time of writing, there are 24 states with allow for legal online sportsbook gambling:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia
- New Hampshire
- Washington D.C.
- New York
- Rhode Island
This list is subject to change, as more and more states are rushing to legalize sportsbetting. Four more states allow for mobile sportsbetting but not online desktop sportsbetting, and a further eight states have land-based sportsbetting legalized. Keep an eye on this page for future updates to this list.
Mobile sportsbook betting laws
Some US states have a unique outlook on mobile sports betting. Whilst most let them fall under standard online sports betting, four states have created special rules unique to legal mobile sports betting.
In the states of Mississipi, Montana, Washington, and Wisconsin, mobile sports betting is legal. There is however one catch: you need to be physically located at a licenced retail sportsbook to place the bet.
This means even if you have the sportsbook app loaded on your phone and ready to go, you still need to make the trip down to your local brick-and-mortar sportsbook to bet away. Keep that in mind before loading up the sportsbook app in these states.
What are the states where gambling is legal?
Gambling is legal in most states, but in different forms. Some allow for sports betting, others online casinos, some allow for everything, and some nothing at all. See our detailed states table to see what’s legal where.
Where can I bet on online casinos?
There are six states that allow for online casino betting: CT, DE, MI, NJ, PA, and WV. Our section on casino states goes into more detail, but the short answer is that as long as you’re in these states, you’re good to go.
Do sweepstakes casinos follow real-money casino laws?
Nope, social and sweeps casinos have different laws, and are far more widespread because of it. Our sweeps casinos table gives you the full rundown and what’s legal, so check it out if you have any concerns.
What states have legal online sports betting?
Plenty of them do, 32 of them to be exact. Listing them here would take up the whole box, so go to our section on legal sports betting to see which states have safe sportsbooks online.
Can I bet on sports on my phone?
Some states that don’t have legal online sports betting do still allow for mobile sports bets to be placed. You need to be physically located at a sportsbook retailer for this to be possible. This can get confusing, so we suggest looking at our mobile sports betting section for more details.
- The Wire Act
- Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)
- PASPA repealed – Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association
- Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA)
- New Jersery Division for Gaming Enforcment (NJDGE)
- Washington State Gambling Commission (WSGC)
- Sweepstakes laws by state