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As of early 2022, there are 14 States in the US that allow at least some forms of online sports betting. However, when it comes to internet casinos, there are only five states that allow their citizens to participate. Those states are: Connecticut, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
People from the aforementioned states can play slots, roulette, baccarat, and many other table games, legally, through licensed online casinos. What this means is that over 25 million Americans of the legal gambling age are allowed to gamble online with few restrictions.
Considering that there are nearly 200 million Americans who are 21 or older, one might think that the US is not a very gambling-friendly country. However, America definitely seems to be on the track to becoming one. The evidence of this is that just a couple of years ago, online gambling was unregulated, and in most cases illegal, in all 50 states.
US States Changing Casino Laws
To understand what’s been going on with the American gambling laws, we need to take you back to 1961. More than two decades before the invention of the internet, US legislators passed a federal law that later served as the basis for banning online gambling.
Officially called the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, the law was supposed to put an end to organized gambling in the country. The bill was also supposed to assist in the fight against racketeering. The law made it illegal for Americans to gamble using wire communications. In simple terms, it meant that Americans were banned from making bets and playing casino games via telephone or telegraph. Instead, the only way to do it was to head to Las Vegas or Atlantic City and gamble in-person.
When the internet became a thing, American lawmakers realized that there’s a lot of money to be made from online gambling/betting. As a result, in 2011, the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided to decriminalize certain gambling forms. Among those were virtual versions of traditional casino games – slots, poker, blackjack, and the like.
Note that decriminalization does not mean legalization. Rather than making online gambling legal, the Federal Government decided to let each individual state decide for itself. Five have already made it legal and regulated, while in others, online casino gambling remains in the gray area.
Americans Keep on Gambling Offshore
With online gambling being not legal but also not illegal in many US states, people have been using offshore casinos and sportsbooks to gamble. By “offshore” we mean those gambling platforms that are licensed in a jurisdiction outside the United States.
Curacao is leading the way, with its authorities issuing hundreds of online gambling licenses over the last couple of years. After getting a Curacao license, many of those casinos open their virtual doors to people in almost all parts of the world, including the United States.
Still, when it comes to the US market, the gambling site that’s getting the most US traffic is unlicensed. The site in question is Bovada, which used to operate in the US under the name of Bodog. According to Alexa, Bovada is getting over 3 million visitors every month. However, it’s very likely that most of the traffic is aimed at Bovada Sportsbook, rather than its online casino.
When it comes to European online gamblers, there’s Malta. Online casinos with the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) license are focused mostly on the European market. The same goes for Gibraltar, Isle of Man, and Alderney. Over in Canada, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission is in charge of giving operating licenses to online casinos run by native tribes.
Speaking of Canada, one of its provinces – British Columbia – has its own government-run online casino. It’s called PlayNow and is run by the British Columbia Lottery Corporation (BCLC). Quebec and many other provinces are currently working toward establishing similar operations.
What’s Next for the Global Gaming Industry
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of countries around the world have started working on adjusting their gambling laws. The reason is that by making this industry legal, the governments are able to collect tax money.
For most countries, sports betting is in the focus, as it brings more money than any other gambling form. This explains why there are nearly 30 states in the United States where sports betting is legal, at least in some form.
Past experience teaches us that once the path is made for sports betting, online casino legalization is not far away. That said, it’s very likely we will see many betting-friendly US states regulate the online casino gambling industry. The same will probably start happening outside the US, with Canada, Germany, and many countries expected to follow suit.