Here, we rank and review the best US online casinos for real money. And since, as a US citizen, your ability to gamble online is determined by your state, we also cover the legal aspects of gambling for real money in the United States.
Gambling laws in the United States tend to be a patchwork of different laws which vary based on where you reside. They do not resemble a straightforward, over-arching, nationwide law you see in other countries.
However, with the way that federal laws and state laws work, this is to be expected. Similar results can be found in Germany, which also adopts a federal system.
Getting through the legal quagmire and finding out if gambling is permitted in your state can be challenging if you don’t know where to look. Fortunately, on this page, we will try and roll out this bag of twisted snakes and help you decipher what you can and cannot do concerning gambling in your state.
Can I Gamble Online for Real Money in the USA?
Let’s start with the most pressing question. Can you legally gamble online in the United States?
Most US states have laws that prevent you from gambling online. However, there is a handful that has started to regulate the industry and do permit it. Moreover, there are a couple of additional states which are, at least, looking at the possibility of making online gambling a reality. To date, if you reside in any of these states, you can bet online, with a few caveats.
- Fully Legal: In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it is legal for players to wager on online casinos, online poker, and sports betting games.
- Partially Legal: Players who live in Nevada can wager on poker and sports betting online, and they can access online casino games, provided they are staying at a casino resort. However, they can only play at the online casino associated with that resort. Those players in Delaware can wager on online casino and poker games but are not permitted to bet on sports.
- Sports Betting Only: Players residing in Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, and West Virginia are permitted to place online sports bets.
- Not Legal: At the time of writing, gambling is not legal in other states. However, there is work afoot in some of them, to possibly alter that position.
Right now, Michigan and Colorado are considering legalizing all forms of online gambling. Illinois, North Carolina, and Tennessee are contemplating legalizing sports betting. Meanwhile, Montana is of the mind to legalize online casino and sports betting, but not poker.
In some states, such as Michigan and Colorado, laws have already been passed to legalize betting games and internet sports wagers. However, gambling sites have not yet launched. This is something you might want to keep an eye on in the future.
A Brief Look at the Early Gambling Laws in the United States
The United States has had a love-hate affair with gambling in the past. Lotteries were instrumental in the early days of the country as a way of generating rapid revenue. By the mid-1800s, public opinion had shifted. Underworld figures were pocketing a sizeable chunk of change, but for the authorities in charge, it was a different story. Gambling was frowned upon if not outright banned.
Following the stock market crash of 1929, many authorities once more turned their eyes to gambling, and Nevada began to transform the desert into what would one day become the Las Vegas Strip. Within two decades, the story would see-saw in favor of banning gambling again. What was once a dust bowl offering casino games in the middle of nowhere, suddenly became important to people. Nevada was the place to be if you wanted to bet online.
Nevada wasn’t alone. Atlantic City in New Jersey sprang up to rival Las Vegas in 1977. Lotteries and pari-mutuel betting options followed, and even riverboat casinos sprang up in Louisiana and some southern states.
The Federal Wire Act Changes Things
As long as there has been some form of gambling, there have been people exploited it. To get around underworld bosses and other shady characters taking advantage of gambling to line their pockets unfairly, the Federal Wire Act came into force. Introduced in 1961, it prohibited betting businesses, put paid to interstate sports betting, and promised fines or prison sentences for those who broke the law. As a federal law, this applied everywhere.
When the Federal Wire Act was brought into being, it didn’t take into consideration the prospect of internet gambling. How could it have done? It was the 1960s. The Federal Wire Act was designed to counter the forms of betting currently in existence. It didn’t hold much water for online gambling.
The problem with the Federal Wire Act was that it was outdated. Following a Department of Justice review in 2018, the DOJ decided to “reinterpret” the Federal Wire Act. Although some believe their opinion was meant to allow cross-border online sports betting, according to the DOJ the reinterpretation envisions the FWA extending beyond sports betting. However, no new plans are currently in place to enforce the modern interpretation of the Wire Act until late 2020.
The US Introduces the UIEGA
The limitations of the Federal Wire Act were clear for all to see. Something else needed to be done to prevent internet gambling exploding. This came in 2006 and is known as the UIGEA, or Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. What the UIGEA 2006 does is make it illegal for banks and other monetary institutions to process transactions that are known to be used for gambling.
Such a move was devastating for online casino operators in the United States. Unsurprisingly, many moved offshore. Most snapped up easy-to-obtain licenses from Curacao and neighboring countries. However, these licenses are considered less legitimate that those out of Malta or the United Kingdom. The primary reason is that Curacao and its surrounding licensing jurisdictions do not regulate the casinos it hands licenses to.
From 2015 onwards, many US states have decided to take gambling laws into their own hands. They are freely allowed to do this, and as we’ve seen above, quite a few are now legalizing or have already legalized gambling games.
Online Gambling in the United States
To date, the US is a patchwork of laws where gambling is legal in one state and not in another. Because of the Federal Wire Act, it is not lawful to gamble across state lines wherever you reside. However, if you are living in one of the states where gambling is legal, you are permitted to bet online.
US players can only legally wager at regulated and licensed casinos from within the state where they reside. However, US players living in states where gambling isn’t legal aren’t (and never have been) short of options.
Since the introduction of the UIGEA act in 2006, these US citizens have turned to “offshore” or “foreign” casinos to play. These sites typically cater to American players and accept the US dollar as their currency of choice. The use of Bitcoins, prepaid cards, and other means of payment has helped US players get around financial restrictions, too.
While, in theory, it is illegal for any US players to wager at offshore casinos, there are no punishments for doing so. With that in mind, it is not surprising to see US players in these states where gambling is restricted, gambling online at offshore casinos.
Why Play at a US Online Casino?
There are benefits from playing at US online casinos. First and foremost, there is the obvious. You will save yourself a fortune by staying at home and not having to travel the glitzy and glamorous Las Vegas, or its Eastern counterpart, Atlantic City. You won’t have to wait to play games, you can walk away at any time, and you’ll generally have a more extensive selection of titles to choose from.
Of course, there are a few other perks to playing at US online casinos over brick-and-mortar ones, too, such as:
- Bonuses and Promotions: Many US casinos offer a top array of promotions. These can see you claim free money when you deposit, and this can be used to play games with a larger budget. There are terms and conditions attached, of course, and these vary from site to site. However, these offers aren’t typically found in land-based venues. Bonuses and promotions may include welcome bonuses, deposit bonuses, free spins, cashback deals, loyalty offers, and a VIP club, amongst others.
- A Greater Array of Games: Depending on where you play, you should be able to play a broader range of games from a more significant number of providers than you could in a land-based casino. While a brick-and-mortar venue may have a one or two roulette or blackjack games, online casinos often carry dozens. The same is true of slots, with often hundreds of different games there for you to play. In some cases, online slot machines will have lower volatility levels and better RTP rates than real casinos. And since online casino games offer much lower betting limits, you also get more bang for your buck.
- Live Casino Games Offer Realism: If you miss the atmosphere of playing at a table with real people, you can still get that, to a degree, online. Live dealer casino games are played with real-to-life human dealers over a video stream, and some competitions allow you to wager against other players. You can converse with the dealer and bet in real-time.
- Support and Assistance: Most land-based casinos aren’t going to provide you with too much help and assistance. Many US online casinos offer around the clock support via live chat, e-mail, and telephone, though. Some even go as far as providing how to play guides at their site, and free games, so you can learn how to play something before you wager real money on it.
- No Deposit Bonuses: These offer US players the chance to sign up and play for free, with the potential to win real money. If you aren’t satisfied with the casino’s service, you can walk away before you wager any of your cash. This is a risk-free deal that should not be missed.
Finding the Best US Online Casinos
Don’t just sign up at any online casino you come across. There is a wealth of offshore and local online casinos out there for you to choose from, so you really can afford to be picky. Before becoming a new member of a US online casino, we’d recommend you note the following points…
- Safe, Licensed, and Secure: If you are residing in a state which has legalized online casino games, you should play at one of those. It is legal for you to do so, you’re not breaking any law, and these sites are licensed, secure, and safe. However, if you decide to play at an offshore casino, it is recommended that you try and choose one which has the most reputable license you can find. Casinos licensed and regulated out of Malta and the UK are better than those out of Kahnawake and Curacao, which in turn are safer than those out of Panama.
- Fair Terms and Conditions: Always read the terms and conditions of any casino’s bonuses before you decide to sign up and claim them. Getting $10,000 for joining and depositing sounds excellent, but if it is met with wagering requirements of 50x, you’re going to need to wager a lot before you can withdraw.
- Withdrawal Terms: Speaking of withdrawals, it is worth looking at the cashier page, too. Some sketchy casinos have low withdrawal limits, long transaction times, or ask you to pay a fee to cash out your winnings. You want fast withdrawal times without added charges and a high withdrawal limit.
- Mobile-Friendly, Instant Play Action: Downloadable casinos are a thing of the past. In this day and age, we want to see casinos that can be played on your mobile phones. You’ll want to be able to play in your web browser. The last thing you want to do is download software, as that limits you to playing from your computer.
- Service and Support: Top US casinos will offer around the clock support via a variety of methods. These can include live chat, e-mail, and telephone, and the latter shouldn’t cost you a dime.
- Great Games: Why play at a casino with software from just one provider? Many top US casinos can offer games from several. This increases not only the number of real money games you can play but also the variety of those games. With several top developers offering titles, you can choose from many tables, cards, instant win, live dealers, video poker, and online slot games.
US Gambling FAQs
If you still have questions and queries about gambling in the US, perhaps our FAQ guide can help straighten things out.
As detailed above, there are specific criteria you’re going to want to look for. Your chosen casino should be well-licensed, safe, receive favorable reviews, have many games (ideally from different providers), offer fair terms and conditions on bonuses, and not shaft players over withdrawal fees and transaction times. It sounds like we’re asking for a lot, but many top US casinos fit the bill.
Yes and no. If you’re living in a state where gambling is regulated and legal, then playing at one of those state-licensed sites is exceptional. If you’re playing at an offshore casino, you’re technically breaking the law. However, there are no punishments for US citizens who do so.
This varies from state to state and depends on what you’re playing. In some states, it is 18 to play in land-based casinos and join lotteries. In others, the legal gambling age is 21. In most online casinos, the age is set to 21.
Despite what you’ll see on other US online casino review websites, there are very few US-facing offshore casinos that you should trust with your money. Offshore casinos are just too risky. If you search hard enough you’ll find numerous complaints about many popular US offshore gambling sites ranging from slow payments to account closure and confiscation of winnings. And with legal US online casinos coming to a lot of states, it’s only a matter of time before these offshore casinos take the money and run.
The banking options you have open to you at US casinos will vary from site to site. Most offer credit and debit card options, prepaid cards, and gifts. Others may also accept bank transfers, e-wallet options, and cryptocurrencies. Withdrawals are usually processed via wire transfers or cheques.
Yes. Most US casinos accept bonuses. The ones you can find at legal, state-licensed casinos maybe a touch smaller in value than those found at offshore sites, as they are better regulated. However, always read the exact terms and conditions of any casino’s bonus before you decide to claim it.