Issues with online gambling continue in the US

online gambling

The United States has long been known as a country with prohibitively strict online gambling laws despite the notoriety of its famous casino centers like Las Vegas and Atlantic City.

However, despite the heavy-handedness, the country remains one of the most prolific online gambling markets available, with most of its potential tax revenue untapped. This is largely due to difficulties in regulating the online gambling market, much of which is still accessible even from states where it’s blocked.

The illegality drives many players to gamble on offshore platforms that are often untrustworthy and drive capital out of the country.

Currently, only a handful of U.S. states allow online gambling and sports betting and even those states suffering a blow earlier this year due to a revision of the Wire Act of 1961. However, many legitimate online gambling and casino sites like those found at are still available to U.S. players.

The Wire Act revision

In January this year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it will be revising a decision passed in 2011 that allowed online gambling operators to offer services to players from other states. Other than sports betting, all forms of gambling including lotteries and online poker were not restricted from offering services cross-state.

This essentially meant that players in states where it is illegal to operate online gambling were still able to access sites hosted in other states. The DoJ now wants to stop this from happening. Online gambling lobby group iDEA Growth responded to the decision, calling the action unwarranted:

“The Department’s action, while hardly unexpected, is certainly unwarranted,” said Jeff Ifrah, founder of iDEA Growth. “The DOJ generally files appeals of adverse district court decisions as a matter of course”.

Case overturned

Originally, the Wire Act was interpreted as only restricting sports betting cross-state but in January the DoJ decided it should apply to all types of gambling. However, the ruling was overturned later in the year by a New Hampshire District Court in a case put forward by the New Hampshire Lottery.

Speaking about the case, Anthony Cabot, a gaming law professional form the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said: “The new DOJ opinion strains logic to reinterpret the meaning of “bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest” to apply to wagers other than sports.”

The DoJ has since filed its intent to appeal the overturned decision, meaning the future of online gambling in the U.S. remains uncertain. November 12th was the deadline for the U.S. Attorney General William Barr and the DoJ to submit the necessary paperwork to support their appeal, with the case now likely to only return to court in January next year (2020).

Improvements in online gambling

While online gambling continues to face fresh criticism and new legal challenges, many European countries like the UK are increasing state revenues through well regulated online platforms. Proper legislation backed up by strict legal requirements and professional oversight mean the online gambling industry can be both profitable for businesses and safe for players.

New technology is also helping to improve the image of online gambling, with blockchain and similar developments helping to ensure fairness and transparency across the board. Players now have a greater level of safety than ever before with operators forced to be honest and act in a compliant manner.

Gambling addiction has also seen improvements as new laws around the world are being introduced to try and curb the threat. In Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, new laws are now being considered to ban the use of credit cards for online gambling. It is believed this will reduce social harm that is associated with rising debt, particularly in less affluent areas.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash