The Most Interesting Gambling Laws in the USA

 September 9, 2021

By  BC Editorial Team

To say the US has had a checkered history with online gambling would be a wild understatement – originally the biggest market in the world, the lack of regulation in the early days prompted the Federal government to introduce in the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, tacked onto the end of an anti-terrorism bill at the last minute much to everyone’s surprise.

But if you think that’s where things reach the apex of fascination, you are sorely mistaken – let’s start with online gambling as a pastime in the USA, shall we?

US Legal Online Casino Gambling States

The federal government seems to have little interest in the potential tax revenue that a nationwide regulator and licensing scheme for online gambling could bring to the country, so several states are taking matters into their own hands.

New Jersey

In the early days, the casinos of Atlantic City and Las Vegas feared online gambling so much that they paid millions out to lobbyists to try to get it banned across the entire country. The Indian reservations have legal casinos – why wasn’t that enough, they argued?

Atlantic City originally tried to position itself as the East-Coast alternative to Vegas, but it has fallen on troubled times over the past decade, with fewer visitors, casinos closing, and numbers that are starting to pale in comparison to the revenues being taken over in Nevada.

If you can’t beat them, join them, as they say, and pretty much every New Jersey casino still left in operation now has an online division too, which has boosted their profits considerably and may yet see the famous Boardwalk returned to its former glory.


Do you know what’s weirder than Atlantic City losing its place as the United States’ second gambling capital? The fact is it lost to Pennsylvania. And in little more than a decade too. This has allowed operations such as the Mohegan Sun Casino to form partnerships with established online players such as Unibet, making them both stronger, and now Pennsylvania is second only to Nevada in commercial casino revenues.


Perhaps one of the strangest situations of them all is Michigan – they have no laws on their statute books that prohibit gambling and casinos, whether online or land-based. State-lawmakers did decide to implement such a bill once, but overturned it the following year – perhaps the result of the United States famous lobbyist system? Or perhaps a lack of tax revenue? Who knows?

Other US Legal Online Gambling States

For some reason, sports betting is seen as much less of a sin in the United States than traditional casino gambling. For this reason, many states allow online sports bets but ban online poker and casino gambling. Expect this to change in the coming years, as the tax revenues from true legal gambling states begin to really show up in the US GDP figures.

Horse Racing

There are many examples of ancient laws being left on the statute books around the world, but America has way more than its fair share of these strange laws. You can place a bet on a horse anywhere in the whole of the United States – if you are at a racetrack. In almost every state, this activity is banned by fully licensed, regulated sportsbooks and casinos. Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Fancy a game of Texas Hold’em? Don’t Visit Texas

Sure, poker is played in Texas, but the legal game here isn’t the version you are used to. If you want to play real Texas Hold’em, you’re going to have to get yourself down to the card rooms of Vegas or move to Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Michigan. Seems kind of silly when you consider that… you know, the game is named after the Lone Star State.

You will find plenty of card rooms in Texas, but these are classed as public places – so the games on offer here won’t match the definition of Texas Hold’em that you are used to. Find and join a private members club, and you might be able to play real Texas Hold’em – but with no rake allowed at the table, expect to pay plenty to get in, and even more to eat whilst you are there. Some private rooms have been getting into trouble for this recently though, seeing door taxes reach as high as $20 just to cover operating costs.

And don’t even think about making any side bets either – these will get you thrown out double time.

BC Editorial Team


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