US-Friendly Legit, Safe, & Secure Online Casinos, Poker, & Betting Sites Accepting USA Players
With the United States legal casino gaming market reaching a whopping 73.1 Billion dollars, it’s fair to say that Americans love to gamble. The U.S. online gambling market is booming as well. The biggest problem facing players is that the United States government has been slow to legalize federal online gambling regulations. They have, however, made attempts to stop offshore / international online gambling sites from accepting deposits from U.S. players through laws like the UIGEA. This hasn’t stopped online casinos and betting sites from allowing U.S. residents to gamble though. It’s just made it more difficult to find safe U.S. gambling sites and reliable deposit/withdrawal options. But don’t worry, that’s what we’ll cover in this guide.
Even though gambling in the United States is a multi-billion dollar industry, it can still be frustrating for players who want to play casino games online. For the longest time, everyone thought it was illegal to gamble online. Then the Government changed their minds.
Then you have the states – there are 50 of them, and the gambling laws are slightly different in each one. They change frequently, too. So keeping up with everything can be challenging to say the least. The best way is to just follow the news – namely for the state you live in.
In this guide, we cover US online casinos, how to fund your account, regulations, some info on land-based casinos and the biggest developments over the past few years.
Online Casinos Accepting U.S. Players
There are two types of real money online casinos that accept players from the United States – legal online casinos that are licensed by the state, and offshore online casinos that are USA-friendly. Unfortunately for most, the only states that have licensed online casinos are New Jersey and Delaware. Nevada has only regulated legal online poker. Pennsylvania recently legalized online gambling but has yet to launch any online casinos.
So that leaves offshore casinos as the only option for most Americans.
Funding Your Casino Account
For players lucky enough to have licensed U.S. casinos available depositing is easy enough. But for offshore casinos, the limited deposit options and inconsistency can be frustrating.
These are currently the top deposit methods for Americans (Note: not all casinos offer every option)
- Bitcoin (cryptocurrency)
- American Express
- Debit, credit and prepaid cards
- Neteller (legal and regulated casinos)
- Bank transfers
- PayNearMe (legal and regulated casinos)
- Casino cage (legal and regulated casinos)
- Western Union
- Rapid Transfer
The best options – hands down – for funding your account will be either Bitcoin or a credit, debit or prepaid card. They clear fast, have little to no fees and reasonable limits (high and low).
Why is it so difficult for Americans to deposit at an offshore casino?
The reason why it’s so difficult for Americans is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act – UIGEA. The core function of this bill is to prohibit banks from processing payments to and from players.
In fact, the act is so effective banks are scared to process payments even to/from licensed online casinos. It’s been such a problem that these casinos have had to explore other options (like Neteller) for players to use.
If using plastic won’t work for you, your next best option will be a money transfer like MoneyGram or Western Union. There’s virtually no paper trail and your bank isn’t involved. The biggest downside is the fees.
As for cash outs – you can request a wire transfer, money transfer or paper checks.
History of Legal U.S. Gambling
Eleven years after the end of prohibition, a new challenge to American morality was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in the form of organized, legal gambling. Famed gangster Bugsy Seigel opened the Flamingo Hotel in 1946 thus beginning our history and love affair with legalized games of chance and opportunity. The exploration, discovery, and establishment of new casinos throughout our country then grew for the most part uninhibited by governmental interference.
Monumental inventions in mobile communications led to the concept of online betting. A new idea, it was not explicitly prohibited by state or federal laws. But in 1961 Wire Act was passed to limit bookies’ use of interstate telegraphs, prohibited all forms of betting online. The Justice Department argued that law included all forms of online betting, but were opposed by others who argued that the act only explicitly related to sporting events. The issue remained unresolved, and a small number of companies began offering online casino games and sports betting to American players beginning in the late 1990s. These gambling sites mainly operated from unregulated offshore locations.
In 2011 the Justice Department took another crack with the Wire Act when they sued several of the biggest operators of online poker. The government accused these offshore operators of defrauding banks which were prohibited from processing online gambling payments and hiding transactions worth billions. On what became known as the Black Friday of online gambling, the companies settled the suit without admitting guilt.
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has weighed in on the Wire Act, ruling that the transmission of wagers applies only to sports betting and not other types of online gambling. The Supreme Court has not made a ruling or interpretation of the Federal Wire Act as it pertains to online gambling.
US Gambling Regulation History
For the longest time, the Department of Justice led us to believe online gambling was illegal because of the Wire Act.
Then they had a change of heart. In December 2011 they released a memo saying that the Wire Act only applied to sports betting (which is how most of the world interpreted it to begin with).
This was a huge turning point. From that point forward it was and still is, up to each state to determine what their laws are for (online) gambling.
3 states so far have seized that opportunity. Nevada launched their first legal website in May 2013. Delaware launched theirs in October and New Jersey launched 6 of their own the following November.
And more are expected to pass legislation and launch sites within the next couple of years. Right now experts think California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York and Colorado will pass some type of law in the next 12-18 months.
As for everyone else?
Well, the laws vary from state to state. But the general rule of thumb is that if your state hasn’t deemed online poker (or gambling) legal, then by default it’s illegal.
That said – you can still get away with playing online, as only a handful of states have laws against online gambling, let alone actively go after people breaking the law.
The Politics Behind Online Gambling in the USA
Similar to early American Explorers these adventurers dream of taking advantage of this new gold laden horizon. Savvy, wealthy individuals and corporations are willing to risk it all for a chance in this new, unchartered territory, and with the promise of billions on the line, they are ready to go full swing into an internet gambling war.
Although still largely banned nationwide the opportunity for additional revenue is influencing casinos and state governments to take their fight to Congress. Three states began licensing online gambling last year, and Congress is facing increasing pressure to either bar or regulate the growing industry. Interest groups on both sides have bombarded political representatives utilizing the power of the PAC funds to sway the online gambling decision. One of the biggest players in the game is Sheldon Adelson, head of the Las Vegas Sands Casino Empire, and a resourceful political super PAC donor. He has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to get a congressional ban on online gambling.
In March 2015, Sen. Lindsey Graham and Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced a bill, written with the help of Adelson’s lobbyists, to achieve that goal. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s name has been associated with internet gambling. The Bwin.party, which currently holds about 40 percent of New Jersey’s Internet gambling market in its partnership with the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City is very active in disrupting Sheldon Adelson’s message of banning internet gambling (his group is responsible for posting a message on Facebook displaying a young child in front of the computer with a tagline “threat to kids).”
Deciding to bet on the future of legalized online gambling, Caesars Entertainment and MGM Resorts have partnered in an effort to vie for position in the growing market, while the Isle-of-Man-based PokerStars and other foreign players are steadily working behind the scenes to steer political decisions in their direction. The casino industry has jointly given $287.6 million to state and federal campaigns from 2009 to 2012, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics and the National Institute on Money in State Politics. Most have hired lobbyists to who quietly and very skillfully network on their behalf in Washington. Clearly, these individuals and groups are looking for a large return on their political investments.
Gambling Laws at the State Level
The idea of internet gambling leaves a bad taste in the minds and hearts of a lot of state representatives. In order help them overcome their aversion, lobbyists have begun dangling monetary carrots to attract the attention of fledgling states fighting to meet their budgets.
New Jersey, who has been hurt by their struggling land-based casinos’, views this new form of gambling as a way to draw younger clientele. Governor Chris Christie signed an amended legislation in 2013 allowing limited intrastate gambling.
Nevada (who only legalized online poker) and Delaware have passed their own online gambling laws, and other states, including Massachusetts, California, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Mississippi are exploring legislation.
The debate in Pennsylvania has taken on an entirely different façade. Weighing heavily on Pennsylvania lawmakers is the $1 billion dollar deficit that the state is facing. The legalization of gambling in 2004 gave the state a financial boost it badly needed, but competition from Delaware and New Jersey has frozen what was a growing industry. The state is in bad need of the 55 percent of revenue from slots and 14 percent from table games.
Lobbyists consider the state a free for all and have spent $7.4 million trying to influence gambling in Keystone State. Another unique inhibitor for the state is opposition on both sides of the political power structure. Republicans in the House have not only introduced bills to ban internet gambling but also to create criminal penalties for gambling online.
Additionally, Adelson of Nevada Strip fame also has a casino in Pennsylvania and has been fighting against legalizing internet gambling. But the battle for this state is far from won. Competition from PA neighbors who are readying to enter the gambling internet game will probably force the state legislators to make a decision in the near future.
Learn more about the laws in your state
The Benefits of Federally Regulated Online Gambling
So what exactly does all this politics and capitalism have to do with you, the average citizen? First of all, we believe that as U.S. residents, you have the right to do what you want with your money – as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else. Put another way – the U.S. government shouldn’t be able to restrict your ability to gamble online with your own money.
Also, similar to historical advancements in America after landmark real estate purchases during the 1700s, the legalization of internet gambling would open a door of chance and prosperity to the average citizen. If the ban is lifted, government oversite will force operators of online casinos and betting sites to treat gamblers fairly.
But more importantly, the monetary benefits of pecuniary advancements will go a long way in assisting fund-starved states. Internet gambling will allow you the option of playing a home and monitor your winnings and loses easily since you pay with a bank account or credit card. Finally, you will be playing with a freedom not currently offered to those who wish to place their bets privately and safely from their homes.
Major Gambling Developments Over the Past Few Years
Unlike our other country pages, there is no shortage of gambling news breaking in America.
- Canadian-based software company Amaya bought PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker for $4.9 billion. They completed the sale in August 2014. This matters to Americans because the move was an attempt to get PokerStars involved in the regulated US market.
- Ultimate Poker closed their doors. They were the first legal poker site to launch in both Nevada and in the history of the US. They decided to close their doors because their profits have fallen short of projections and that the state-to-state approach to gambling caps their overall potential.
- California has seen major progress towards online poker regulation. For starters, the congressmen and key tribal leaders have reached a (soft) agreement as to what the laws should be. Next, PokerStars and Caesars have been working together recently to oppose Sheldon Adelson and efforts to ban online poker.
- Even after operating in America for years – in some cases more than a decade – several Merge Gaming skins have decided to ban players from Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware to comply with local laws.
- This is probably the biggest news in the last year. Nearly two years after Black Friday, Full Tilt customers are getting paid. The first payments started going out February 27th/28th. The Garden City Group was initially expected to pay out $82 million.
US Land-Based Casino Gaming
There are TONS of land-based casinos in America. In fact, most states have some kind of brick and mortar casinos – usually on Indian reservations. Just do a Google search and chances are you’ll find a casino near you. But what about the most popular casinos? The most popular gambling destinations?
Here are the cities you’ll want to check out:
- Las Vegas, Nevada – There are more than 25 casinos directly on or around the corner from The Strip. A few of my favorites include The Venetian, MGM, The Mirage and Treasure Island. If you head of The Strip be sure to check out the buffet at M.
- Atlantic City, New Jersey – Choose from options like Bally’s, Borgata, Caesars, Golden Nugget, Resorts, Harrah’s, Tropicana and Trump Taj Mahal.
- Reno, Nevada – The little sister or cousin of Las Vegas, but still in its own fun way. Choose from casinos like Atlantis, Peppermill and Silver Legacy.
- Biloxi, Mississippi – Take your pick from Beau Rivage, Boomtown, Golden Nugget, Hard Rock, Harrah’s and Hollywood Casino.
- Shreveport, Louisiana – This includes options like Boomtown, Diamond Jacks, Harrah’s, Horseshoe and Sam’s Town.
You’ll find plenty to do in any one of those cities, let alone all five of them.
But what if you can’t make the casino? Another option is to play from home – usually referred to as ‘social’ gambling. These are legal in roughly 2/3 of states. It’s only allowed if no one profits from running the game, which includes charging a fee, raking the pot or charging people for food/beverages.
Definitely do your homework first, though. Some states DO NOT allow home poker games and are aggressive in stopping them – with SWAT. And, no, I am NOT joking.