US Offshore Gambling Laws

Lawbook IconThere is a lot of hype surrounding the gambling industry in the United States, specifically the online gambling industry. In recent years, there has been an increasing demand for online gambling options, forcing states to amend their gambling legislation one way or another. The demand has also forced the Federal government to look at US online gambling laws and how they should be applied.

The gambling debate is split, with some states supporting it while others are opposed. This divide has driven a lot of players to offshore gambling sites, though potential bettors and gamblers have many legal questions about this market. All the state-based and federal laws regarding domestic gambling and offshore gambling can become convoluted, leading to confusion and misconceptions over what is allowed and what isn’t.

Using this site as a resource, you will be able to obtain insight concerning the various state and federal laws surrounding US online gambling and offshore gambling. The important thing to ensure when participating in any form of online gambling is that you are engaging in legitimate and legal activity. If you are properly informed on the legalities of online gambling, whether domestic or offshore, you can make informed decisions and remain within the legal confines of the industry, allowing you to participate in gambling entertainment with peace of mind. This is actually the most critical element to understanding legal offshore gambling opportunities.

Is It Legal For US Residents To Gamble Online At Offshore Gambling Sites?

For the most part, yes. As of now, there are no US federal laws that ban American bettors from placing bets with legal offshore gambling sites as long as they are legitimately licensed and regulated in their home countries.

The federal laws that apply to online gambling and sports betting will be explained in further detail in the next section.

That said, at the state level, there is one state that includes language in their gambling legislation that could apply to offshore sites - Washington. We urge all interested bettors to comply with the gambling laws in their states and to be highly selective when choosing any destination – either domestic or offshore – at which to gamble.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act—UIGEA

Contrary to popular belief, the scary-sounding Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (2006) does not apply to individual bettors or even to placing bets online. The UIGEA strictly deals with US-based banks and other financial institutions that knowingly process transactions associated with unregulated gambling.

Upon first glance, many believe this law means that US bettors cannot place any type of bet online or participate in any form of online gambling, but that is simply not the case.

Our page on the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act explains the law in further detail. This includes how the law affects online gambling (from a player and industry standpoint), how the industry has reacted to it, and what it means for American bettors looking to interact with offshore gambling sites.

Federal Wire Act of 1961

The Federal Wire Act (aka the Interstate Wire Act) was passed in a time where the gambling landscape was quite different than it is now. Passed under President John F. Kennedy, the Wire Act aimed to clean up the industry, which at the time was heavily influenced by organized crime syndicates.

The law pertains to using wire transmissions (and now, the Internet) for sending and receiving gambling information. This definition has been debated as to whether it encompasses all forms of online gambling. The Department of Justice issued a formal opinion in 2011 that limited the law to sports wagering, though this was overturned in a DOJ opinion in 2019 that claimed it applied to all forms of gambling. That, in turn, was promptly overturned by a federal judge, and the Wire Act is now back to being a sports-betting-only regulation.

While the Federal Wire Act does prohibit all US-based sportsbooks from accepting wagers across state lines (whether brick-and-mortar or online), it does not have any bearing on legal offshore sports betting sites, nor does it criminalize individuals from placing wagers of any kind. The regulation applies exclusively to domestic sportsbook operators. There is more information on our page explaining the Federal Wire Act in greater detail.

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act—PASPA

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was the overarching federal law governing sports betting in the US. Passed in 1992, PASPA banned 46 states from having any type of state-sponsored sports betting, including physical and online sportsbooks. Realistically, it gave Nevada a monopoly on sports betting, as the other exempted states were not able to offer single-game wagering.

In roughly 2012, New Jersey initiated a series of legal challenges as to the constitutionality of PASPA, and on May 14, 2018, the case was finally heard by the US Supreme Court. PASPA was overturned in a 6-2 vote (with one abstention), allowing each state to install and regulate its own sports betting industries. The case in question is Murphy v. NCAA.

Our page on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act goes more into detail on why the law was passed, the specific ramifications of it, and how it was finally overturned as a violation of the 10th Amendment.

USA Offshore Gambling Laws FAQs

How Do US Federal Laws Affect The Gambling Industry In The US?FAQ's Icon

The two federal laws that impact the American gambling industry as a whole are the Interstate Wire Act and the UIGEA. While PASPA was the the most restrictive anti-gambling law, that has been overturned by the SCOTUS and is no longer in effect.

Fortunately, the Wire Act and UIGEA are rendered moot by legal offshore gambling sites where they have no jurisdiction, and since neither law affects individual gamblers in any way, it is safe to wager real money with these overseas betting operators. The advent of Bitcoin in particular has obviated the UIGEA to the point of irrelevancy.

Is It Legal For Me To Use Offshore Gambling Sites?

Excepting Washington residents, it is perfectly legal for Americans to enjoy offshore gambling sites as long as the site at which they are betting is legally sanctioned and regulated outside of the United States. There are numerous offshore gambling sites online, so we urge American bettors to consider input from industry professionals as a way to vet the sites they are interested in.

The team that created this resource guide have more than 30 years of experience in the industry and have determined which sites are safe to use and provide legal, high-quality gambling experiences. There are no US federal laws that make betting with offshore gambling sites illegal as long as they meet the criteria mentioned above.

What Should You Look For In An Offshore Gambling Site?

When determining which offshore gambling site to use, there are several things to consider. First, you should verify that they are legally sanctioned and possess all the necessary licensing and certifications to operate. If the site has these, they should make the documentation readily available. Also, you should pay attention to their security protocols to make sure your personal and financial information is kept safe.

The next thing to look out for is the quality of their betting services, software performance, banking suites, and customer care options. Most reputable offshore gambling sites will also have bonuses and promotions available.

Online gambling sites span various markets, including legal offshore casinos, sportsbooks and poker rooms, as well as racing, bingo, lottery and many others. Each group has its own policies, rules, bonuses, etc. Any reputable site will use audited, certified RNG (Random Number Generator) technology for their casinos and poker rooms to ensure fair play.

Legal licensing and regulation from respected governing jurisdictions means that these sites are held accountable and have to maintain high standards. Reputable offshore gambling sites want to keep their level of credibility within the industry, so they will comply with standards set out by gambling authorities and watchdog agencies.

Will There Be Any State Licensed Online Gambling Options In The Near Future?

Some states already have some forms of state sanctioned online casino or poker gambling, including Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. West Virginia is able to offer online casino gaming but has not yet done so.

A number of other states are currently involved in discussions about the possibility of state regulated online gambling legalization. US states currently possess the authority to legalize online casinos, poker rooms, sportsbooks, pari-mutel wagering (i.e. horse racing betting), bingo, and lottery games. With the proliferation of legal sports betting since the overturn of PASPA, however, we expect more states to offer full online casino action in the near future.