Places Where Gambling Is Legal

Places Where Gambling Is Legal

The legitimacy of gambling in the United States is ambiguous because each state regulates this in its own way. For example, in one area, a particular game type is prohibited, while in another state, it is absolutely legal. Let’s find out where gambling is legal in the USA and how the legislation differs regarding land-based casinos, online casinos, tribal gambling venues, sportsbooks, and lotteries.

Gambling Legislation in the USA

Laws of a particular state determine gambling legitimacy in the USA, and the situation is more complicated in the states with online casinos. The issue is that federal laws prohibit online gambling, but local authorities can legally allow it. That’s why you need to understand American laws regarding offline and online gambling in order to know which games you can play lawfully and which are prohibited in your area. Let’s consider how and where gambling is legitimate in the United States.

Land-Based Venues

In recent years, the US gambling industry has experienced huge growth. Already in 2023, according to Research & Markets, the industry will generate about $93 billion in revenue.

Map of states with legalized commercial casinos
The regions with legalized gambling are marked in gray

Many states have legalized gambling, especially casino games, sports betting, and lotteries, and other areas continue to follow their footsteps. Don’t forget about Indian tribes that allow the opening of brick-and-mortar casinos in their territories, and many gambling companies are actively pursuing it.

As recently as a dozen years ago, casinos were banned in almost every state except New Jersey and Nevada.

Companies must obtain licenses to operate legally within the jurisdiction where they want to provide gambling services. Land-based venues used to work only in Atlantic City and Las Vegas, but West Virginia, Iowa, Colorado, Indiana, and Pennsylvania have joined them over time. And other states continue to adopt their successful experience as they go through the gambling legalization process.

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Online Casinos

The US authorities didn’t want to legalize online gambling sites because of the Wire Act passed in 1961. However, according to it, only betting was illegal, so casino owners began filing multiple lawsuits; this became a loophole for many gambling companies and opened an opportunity for launching online gambling websites.

States with legalized online gambling
The states where it is legal to play online casinos are marked in gray

In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed. It didn’t prohibit the operation of online casinos directly but implied criminal liability for those operators that processed money transfers to top up gaming accounts. Because of this, many offshore sites closed access to United States residents.

A large number of companies continue to bypass the UIGEA and accept American players; for this reason, the law is often criticized.

Today, legal gambling online is available in the following states: Nevada, West Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Colorado, and Michigan.

Federal Regulations & State Laws in the USA

Here are some federal laws and clauses from the US Constitution governing gambling:

  • United States Code. Title 15. Chapter 24. Transportation of slots.
  • United States Code. Title 18. Chapter 50. Gambling.
  • Section 1955. The Illegal Gambling Act passed in 1970.

Gambling in the USA is subject to legislation at the federal and regional levels. They prohibit certain game types in certain territories, limit transactions, and regulate gambling companies’ activities.

Each state defines permitted and illegitimate games within its borders, who can play them, and where they can play them. By the way, US states also have different age limits. Some states set the same minimum age for all game categories, while in others, an 18-year-old player can, for example, buy a ticket for the lottery but is not allowed to visit a land-based casino before the age of 21.

Penalties for Organizing Gambling Illegally

Special gambling commissions strictly regulate legitimate gambling categories, and illegal game types immediately attract the attention of law enforcement; these are any businesses that violate federal or state law.

Providing unlawful gambling is prosecuted under the criminal code, which carries varying degrees of punishment. There are several consequences companies may face for organizing illegal gambling:

  • In the case of companies consisting of 5 or more persons, each receives a separate sentence of up to 5 years in prison. If there are aggravating circumstances related to section 1952 of the US Code, the maximum sentence could be 20 years.
  • Violation of the Wire Act of Section 1084 of the US Code is punishable by criminal penalties of up to 2 years and time served in federal prison. This applies to each use of wire transfer to receive money to take bets.
  • For laundering the money or income received from an illegal gambling site activity, section 1956 of the Code carries criminal penalties of up to 20 years in federal prison. A fine of $500,000 or double the value of the property involved in the criminal scheme may also be imposed.
  • RICO Conviction. Criminal penalties for gambling charges or other offenses related to that area. This carries 25 years imprisonment or a hefty fine of $250,000 or more, up to and including payment of double the proceeds of an illegal casino.

The FBI is in charge of detecting and investigating such crimes, and the prosecution rests with the US Attorney.

Gambling activity is completely banned only in Hawaii and Utah; there are no even social casinos in these states. The states of Nevada and Louisiana fully approve any gambling category.

In other states, the industry is partly legitimate and only in certain territories; let’s see the largest places where gambling is legal in the USA.

US StateCommercial CasinosTribal CasinosLotteriesSportsbooks

States With Pending Legalization of Gambling

The legalization of casinos in New Jersey, including online gambling venues, has set a positive tendency for other states. Almost every month, more than $80 million is added to the region’s tax budget. Today, states such as Missouri, Georgia, Arizona, and South Dakota, which previously remained neutral, have legalized and optimized the local gambling industry.

In addition to the USA, there are many other countries with developed gambling industries. These include the United Kingdom, Sweden, Italy, Japan, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand. These are the countries where the gambling business brings the most revenue. In the future, the number of jurisdictions that legalize this industry will grow because of its vast popularity and significant tax revenue generated by land-based casinos and online venues.


Only two regions, Hawaii and Utah, have a complete ban. The other 48 states allow at least one gambling category.

Yes. Utah, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Virginia, South Carolina, Vermont, and Georgia have no land-based casinos, including tribal ones.

The situation in the US gambling market is relatively complicated. Federal laws concerning offline and online casinos are ambiguous, while state authorities have the right to determine their legitimacy. They take into account the interests of residents, Indian tribes, and casino owners.

Of course, this is Nevada — Las Vegas is located there.

Each state has its own regulator.

Publication Author
Donald Peterson
Author of articles
Donald Peterson is an avid gambler from Edmonton, Alberta, who also writes about his experience with casinos. He’s been in the business for over 10 years, following the ever-changing industry landscape. His articles are aimed at helping beginners with choosing casinos, suitable games, and strategies.
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