US Online Casinos
The situation with online casino play in the United States can be extremely confusing. The reason for the confusion is based largely in a combination of misinformation, misconceptions about existing laws and the overlap between federal and state laws. While there are federal laws that affect the country as a whole, there are also individual state laws regarding both online and offline gambling. Throw all of that together, and you have a recipe for high levels of confusion.
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The Wire Act of 1961
The best place to start when it comes to trying to make sense of this mess is the two key federal laws that inform all other laws in the country on the topic of online gambling. The first is the Wire Act of 1961. You might wonder why a law from the 1960s would influence online gambling, but the answer is that it was a law designed to prevent placing certain types of wagers over phone lines. While the law was originally used to bust up organized crime rackets, it was later ruled to also apply to online gambling because of the use of phone lines for connections.
Many people mistakenly believe that the Wire Act applies to all forms of online gambling, including casino play. However, it only applies to sports betting, which makes sports betting the only type of online gambling made illegal on a federal level. The Obama administration even came out in late 2011 with an official legal opinion on the law to help provide some clarity thanks to all of the misconceptions about this particular law.
The UIGEA of 2006
The second law that matters so much on the federal level is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. This law was controversial for being passed in the last few hours of a session of Congress after being attached to a completely unrelated, must-pass bill regarding port security. Many people took this law to be a ban for online gambling, but it actually says in very plain language in one of the opening paragraphs that it does not change the legality of gambling online.
What the UIGEA did that will concern the most online casino players is that it made it illegal for banks to process deposits for illegal online gambling, and they would face major fines if they did. This put a lot of burden on the banks to decide which transactions were legal or not, and a small mistake could have led to a major loss of money in the form of fines for them. As a result, most banks in the US made the logical decision to simply stop processing online gambling payments.
While the UIGEA did not make it illegal to play casino games online, and while there is no Federal law that has made it illegal, this effect on the banks made it much more difficult to get in deposits and withdrawals. This also has the effect of causing major electronic wallets like Skrill and Neteller to stop accepting US payments for online gambling, so the number one problem US players run into right now is getting in deposits and receiving withdrawals.
The UIGEA also caused problems for a number of software companies. Essentially, if the company was publicly traded, or if they were trying to really get along with regulators in Europe, it was pretty much expected of them to pull out of the United States. To this end, a lot of the major software providers do not allow casinos that use their games to accept players from the US. As a result, a lot of picking out a casino for those from the USA revolves around selecting the software they want to play with first and then looking at casino sites that have that software and that accept US players.
The main options are Realtime Gaming, Rival Gaming, Pragmatic Play and BetSoft. There are some other minor options available on top of that as well, but these are the main four choices that you’ll have if you’re playing from the United States. BetSoft makes very high-quality slots, but their non-slot selection is lacking. Realtime Gaming has a reasonable number of slots, but a lot of them are very dated; their most recent titles are as good as anyone’s in the industry, however.
With Pragmatic Play and Rival Gaming, you have moderate to above-average games with a reasonable selection. Titles from neither of these providers are going to win any “slot of the year” awards, but they aren’t going to get blasted by gambling portals for having extremely terrible games either. They are both very “middle of the road,” though the i-Slot titles from Rival Gaming with their interactive storylines definitely stand out as being something different in the industry.
How to Make Deposits and Withdrawals
The process for picking out a site for most US players is a little tricky, and most of the reason for that comes down to how deposit and withdrawal methods have been limited. The main options for deposits at this point are certain pre-paid credit cards or money transfer services like MoneyGram or Western Union. You’ll really just have to check out what each site has available, and don’t be afraid to contact support to ask about which deposit methods they recommend. These sites are very aware of the difficulties US players have, and they are all about helping their players out by walking them through the process if necessary.
Another aspect of the situation centers around bitcoin and the fact that more and more US-facing sites have been offering it as a banking method. There is a bit of a learning curve involved with bitcoin, though once you understand how it works and are familiar with it, the deposits and withdrawals you make from it are pretty quick and straightforward. They also often leave you with lower fees, so there’s a trade-off there.
For withdrawals, most players are using bank transfers right now. This works much like an electronic check or a direct deposit, and it’s not blocked by the UIGEA, which specifically protected all withdrawals, even from online gambling that might be illegal in a particular jurisdiction thanks to state laws.
Regulated US Online Gambling
In certain states, there are regulatory bodies for certain types of online gambling. At the time of this writing, online casino play is regulated in both New Jersey and Delaware, for example. Players in these states are restricted to playing with sites that are regulated by state commissions, and the selection is usually pretty decent. People in regulated state markets like this will have a better level of game selection because companies that do not operate in the rest of the US are allowed to operate inside of these regulated jurisdictions.
There are constant changes in which states have regulations for this type of thing, and there are constant pushes back and forth for other states to regulate the industry. Nevada, for example, has limited levels of online gambling regulated that focus primarily on poker, but other forms could be covered in the future. If you live in one of these states, your selection is much different, and it’s a much different type of environment than the rest of the US.
Other State Laws for Online Gambling
One of the trickiest things to steer clear of in the United States is state laws on online casino play. There are some states where there are no laws over it whatsoever, then there are other places like Washington State where playing a hand of online poker is the same level of felony as assault on a minor. It varies so wildly that it’s extremely important that you know your own state laws so that you aren’t caught by surprise. This is the key to avoiding a lot of the headaches that can come with playing in the US.
Because there are so many different states with so many nuanced online gambling laws, we aren’t going to try to cover them here. They are always changing, and it would be impractical to try to cover all of the existing laws anyway since they could change a month from the time of this writing. Our recommendation is to check online to see what the current laws are for your state and then make decisions about where to play based on that.
Playing at online casinos in the United States is not difficult once you understand how all of the “moving parts” work. In essence, you really just need to know which software you want to play with, how you’re going to make deposits and withdrawals and what the laws are in your particular state. If you have all of this together, then you’ll have plenty of opportunities to have great experiences playing at online casinos from the United States.