The Pitfalls of American Gambling Legislation
Gambling and sports betting is a thriving industry across the world. People have
an affinity for placing bets on their favorite sports teams or on a game of
cards, and as adults, many people will find a way to gamble whether it’s legal
For example, there have been many cases where people chose to gamble in the back
of restaurants or in hidden rooms, even when gambling was illegal.
And while less popular, there is still illegal gambling going on across the
country. Illegal gambling is a concern for Las Vegas, an area of the country
best known for gambling. Large-scale casinos in Vegas have had a significant
role in shaping the legal landscape of gambling in the US.
Commerce Clause and Gambling Pitfalls
The Commerce Clause had led to regulation of:
- International gambling
- Interstate gambling
The United States Congress passed the clause, which allowed for numerous other
laws to come to fruition. For example:
Transportation of lottery tickets is illegal between states with certain
- Sports betting is largely illegal, with some exceptions
Each state in the country has the right to determine what type of gambling is
allowed in the state. As a result, regulations can vary significantly from one
state to another, making it difficult for sites like
to review casinos in the country because players often have many restrictions
put on them.
States have the power to:
- Set legal gambling ages
- Set gambling age by activity
If you look at the state of New Jersey, you’ll find that an 18-year-old
can purchase a lottery ticket or bet on horse racing, but residents of the
state, and anyone coming into the state to play at a casino, must be 21 or older
While the ability for each state to set its own laws for gambling is a good
thing, it’s also a major pitfall. One key issue is that even residents from
nearby states often don’t realize that while they can gamble in their own state,
they may not be able to bet in another state.
And on the other side of the argument, some residents of one state may need to
go a few minutes outside of their state to circumvent local gambling laws.
In short, the state and local laws make it difficult for residents and
non-residents to follow laws. Federal rules for gambling would make the industry
become more streamlined and open up the doors for more international tourism to
boost local economies.
Another issue that exists with local laws is the presence and growth of online
More people are turning to online gambling in states with strict restrictions
because it’s one way to circumvent local laws.
Online Gambling and the Lack of Legal Guidance
Internet gambling is a massive industry across the world. Countries are bringing
in hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue from online gambling activities,
but the US has very complicated laws for online gambling.
Online gambling isn’t illegal, but it’s not as easy as a “legal” or “not legal”
Federal Online Gambling Laws
If you examine federal laws, there are no regulations in place that ban online
gambling in the country. So, what’s the problem with online gambling and why are
US players blocked in so many countries?
Federal Wire Act. In 1961, way before the Internet and online
gambling, the Federal Wire Act was passed that made it illegal to place bets
across state lines. If an online casino is located in New York, it would be
unlawful for players in California to place bets. The law also complicates
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. In 1992, this Act
passed into law, making it illegal for states that weren’t offering sports
betting at the time to offer it in the future. However, the Supreme Court
overturned the decision and it’s now up to states to allow or prevent sports
The overturning of the Act was a significant advancement for gamblers because it
opened the doors for many overseas gambling sites to offer sports betting in the
However, what happens if a state that allows sports betting bans it? Do these
international sports betting websites have to disallow players from certain
states? Can states pursue legal damages from online sports betting companies in
These questions make it difficult for some casinos and sports betting sites to
want to operate in the United States, even in a limited capacity.
Illegal Online Gambling and Convictions
Illegal online gambling is a big question mark for online casinos in other
countries. For example, different countries would need to ban players from three
main states that have laws that make online gambling a crime:
However, no one has ever been convicted of a crime for online gambling in these
states, even though it’s technically a crime to gamble online in these three
The states where online gambling is legal are:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
- West Virginia
In other states, regulations remain a grey area, which is a concern for casino
and sports betting operators that don’t want to invest in marketing in these
states if they decide to ban online gambling.
Will a player be in trouble for gambling online?
Maybe. Even if there are no convictions yet, it’s a concern for both players and
operators that want clear, concise laws in place.
Wrapping Up: A Confusing Gambling Landscape
Federal online and casino gambling laws don’t provide the confident legal
answers that allow major and smaller online casinos to offer their games in the
country. State laws vary drastically, forcing operators to operate in 50
different jurisdictions with their own rules and regulations.
Geo-blocking users from some states allows the opportunity for international
gambling. Still, it’s an extra hurdle that stops many online casino operators
from offering their services in the country.
The ever-changing gambling landscape may keep a lot of online gambling out of
the US until more universal laws are implemented for players and operators to