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US Gambling Laws: What's Legal and What's Not 

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Legislation such as the Wire Act of 1961 and the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 have been the basis for gambling activities in the US. These led to the ban of certain gambling activities.

Different actions, over time, have been taken to try and overturn these laws. That's because they restrict the amount of revenue that could come from the legality of these activities. For instance, with the Wire Act, Congress tried for a decade to get a clear definition of what was legal and what wasn't. 

That was between 1996 and 2006. But several gaming sectors couldn't agree on terms that would be mutually beneficial to them. So, Congress gave up the fight and instead passed the UIGEA.

What's the UIGEA?

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act got adopted in 2006. It aimed to prevent restricted transactions with gambling companies and had six sections that defined these laws.

  • Section 5361 - This is the introduction and defines the act's purpose, explaining the difficulty of enforcing cross-border gambling laws. It also states that it can't be used to change any Native American laws or compacts while stressing how internet gambling negatively affects credit card companies and banks.
  • Section 5362 - Here, the act defines the terminologies used. Of importance is how bets and wagers get defined as risking something important on the outcome of a game of chance. That's where online poker parameters that caused the Black Friday ban come into the picture.
  • Section 5363 - This section states that no parties sending money to gambling companies should get charged.
  • Section 5364 - Here, Federal regulators can get a timetable for when they should have created regulations to identify and prevent transactions to gambling companies.
  • Section 5365 - This section enables authorities to bring civil suits to federal courts. That's for permanent injunctions and temporary restraining orders to stop restricted transactions.
  • Section 5366 - Here, you'll find a list of penalties for violators. These include fines, a five-year prison term, or getting barred from gambling activities.

North American States That Allow Gambling

With so many different laws in place, US gamblers must know the legal status of the gambling activities they get involved in within any given North American state. That's so they can avoid issues with the law. 

We've compiled a breakdown of which gambling activities get covered under the law. We've also included information on which states have made gambling legal. That way, know where you stand regardless of the state you're in when you gamble.

Charitable Gaming

Charitable gaming involves events like raffles and Bingo, whereby proceeds go towards funding charitable causes by tax-exempt NGOs. These gaming options are legal in all North American states except Hawaii, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah.

Pari-mutuel Betting

Pari-mutuel bets are a pool of bets against other competitors for a single event. The prize pool gets divided among the winners. States that haven't legalized these include Alaska, Connecticut, Washington DC, Georgia, Hawaii, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and Vermont.

State Lottery

A state lottery gets run by a particular state, which then uses the profits from the lotteries to fund state projects. States that haven't legalized these include Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah.

Sports Betting

Sports bets are wagers on ongoing live sports events, leagues, and tournaments. States that have legalized these include California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Commercial Casinos

These are government-regulated casinos owned and run by small and big companies within the state. States that have legalized these include Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington, and West Virginia.

Tribal Casinos

These are casinos that are built and operated on tribal land or Indian reservations within North America. States that have no legislation regarding these are Arkansas, Delaware, Washington DC, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia.

Meanwhile, states that haven't legalized these include Indiana, Maine, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

Social Gaming

These are mobile gaming options that enable players to interact during a game. That's by either working together or competing against each other. States that haven't legalized these include Arkansas, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Online Gambling

These are gambling options that bettors and players can find online instead of at gambling halls. States that have legalized these include California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia.