Betting Laws In the United States

There are many laws in the United States, and when it comes to betting on sports in the U.S. the practice is not without restriction. In fact, there are several federal laws pertaining to sports betting. But while the law makes a point not to skip over it, the law also doesn't blanket it completely. In other words, there are legal ways to place a wager on sports. It is not something that is forbade across the country in its entirety. In fact, all 50 states have access to legal sports betting if they chose to pursue it.

There are definitely some states more than others where freedom to bet on sports reigns supreme. That would be displayed most notably by the states in which land-based sports wagering is allowed. But it's important to learn what the betting laws are, what they say, and how they are implemented.

Those wanting to know if it is legal to bet in the U.S. will really benefit from this page. As laws are the main topic of our conversation here, details surrounding the most significant statutes pertaining to the U.S. Government + local government in your state, town, etc... will be the focus going forward.

Federal Sports Gambling Laws

To address the issue of sports betting laws here at, we've already mentioned that it must be approached from two fronts. The first is the federal level, in which there are three specific laws that need to be addressed. The second is the state level, which will be discussed in generalities, as far as what the states are able to do. Keep in mind the notion of land-based betting and betting sports on the Internet throughout this page as well, which we will make mention of when highlighting key differences in how the laws are applied to each.

Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act

The Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act was voted on and passed back 1992. PASPA was the first major federal law against sports betting, restricting the practice across the country with the exception of a few states. The United States Department of Justice actually opposed the passing of this bill, arguing on the behalf of states right. The DoJ felt that PASPA was an infringement on the rights of the states, as they should be able to make up their minds on their own in terms of the status of sports betting.

PASPA did grant states a period of one year to formulate a proposal to claim immunity under the law. A state must first have a history of licensed gaming in their state. A period of no less than 10 years was required. There were just four states out of 50 which applied. These states are Nevada, Oregon, Delaware, and Montana. The four are allowed to pass laws permitting forms of sports wagering.

Over the years since the passing of PASPA, it has been met with opposition, including calls for it repeal. Again, this relates to the feeling that PASPA essentially violated state's rights when it was passed.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

As an attachment to the Safe Port Act, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, herein the UIGEA, is one of the most notable acts against gambling in the U.S. today. This is because it targets sites on the Internet. And in an age where online websites are taking off, the UIGEA makes sure that sports betting sites cannot operate in the United States.

How does the UIGEA do this?

Well, let us be clear in the sense that the law does not ban online sports betting. The law actually approaches from the angle of the website operation itself. The UIGEA says that gambling businesses are no longer allowed to knowingly accept a payment or process a payout which is intended to be for a bet or wager made. Essentially, the online gambling site cannot take a bet. As a result of this, a sports betting site would thus violate the UIGEA.

One caveat to take note of is the fact that even under the UIGEA, making a bet online is still legal. The only thing is that bettors won't find online sports betting sites in operation here. But what the UIGEA might not have intended to have happen is for U.S. bettors to have good options to go abroad to sites. And with the online world, that journey is not far, as it can still be done in their own living room.

Federal Wire Act of 1961

The Federal Wire Act has the longest history of the three federal laws that we discuss. It can date back to the Kennedy administration in the White House. Though its use today is more different and targets other areas than its original use. Initially implemented to go after organized crime, the Federal Wire Act now only applies to sports betting. This was made official in a 2011 U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

In the text of the Wire Act, it merely states that it is illegal to conduct interstate sports gambling through the use of wire communication. In 1961, that included telegraphs... but gone are the days of the horse and buggy, we've got the Internet now. Sadly, lawmakers applied this to the web as well, but it has only limited U.S. based gambling operators from getting into the market - most offshore bookmakers accept all USA residents openly.

Betting Statutes + Laws In U.S. States

Despite the fact that the three federal laws at the top get most of the attention, the states have room to enforce more penalties at their level should they see fit to do so. There are states out there that are against these laws, and if it were up to them they would permit sports betting. New Jersey is the state that most comes to mind here.

It will be interesting to see the developments with repealing PASPA, if that ever happens. From there, the role of the states would jump tenfold if sports wagering were then to be completely left up to them.

Find out more about the laws + online betting in your state in our section dedicated each of the fifty U.S. states + Washington D.C. too!

Why New Federal + State Laws Should Lift The Lid On Betting

Sports wagering at the land-based level is far more restrictive than online. It comes down to a couple of things. First, legislation in place doesn't make online sports betting illegal. And second, the access of Internet sites is much more plentiful than those with access to land-based sportsbook in the U.S. on a day-to-day basis.

Even with these federal laws, sports betting is generating more money than ever, and that is true here in the U.S. Bettors are going offshore to sites that accept them, but at the same time even Las Vegas is doing well with their sportsbooks. The fact of the matter is that people like to bet sports, and there are great opportunities to do that.