Sports Betting Laws In The USA

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Welcome to one of the most confusing pages on, the one regarding sports betting laws in the USA. My first foray in to legal sports betting was fraught with trepidation and anxiety. This is because, unlike many, my “first time” was on a website, not in a casino. I realize now, over five years later, that that if I had known the facts about the laws I would have been much less fearful about jumping in to the profitable and exciting world of legal sports betting. I came to realize that the laws were not there to attack the player, but only to ensure that the sports betting venues were operating in accordance with the rules. This in turn ensures safety and guarantees that you will receive your winnings.

This piece is going to help you with understanding the complicated vernacular that makes up the laws. It doesn’t take much to make a legal sports betting establishment stay above board, but there are a few crucial points that you should know. We will cover online and land-based sportsbook laws, including the federal and state levels. We will also touch on the legal age to ensure that you are wagering in accordance with the laws.

Are Online Sportsbooks Legal?

This is a great question, and one that is simple to answer, but takes a little longer to explain. The quick answer is yes, as long as the online sportsbook follows certain rules. There are three federal laws that basically govern legal sports betting for the nation. These laws cover so much ground that there are barely any state laws that regard sports betting. Let’s take a look at the “big three” federal laws that you will need to know. Read our article about "is sports betting legal" for more information.

The Wire Act Of 1961 - The Most Outdated Of All Sports Betting Laws

This is the oldest legal sports betting fossil in the books. The Wire Act was created back in 1961 when organized crime was rampant in the world of sportsbooks and casinos. In order to stunt the growth of the crime syndicates, the federal government passed the Wire Act, which restricts betting information from crossing state lines through the use of a wire communication device. Since the internet is considered such a device, the law has gone through some major ratifications. These days the Wire Act still makes it difficult for sportsbooks in the US, and is the main reason that all of the good ones are located overseas, in places like Canada, the UK, and Panama. These overseas sites are not affected by the Wire Act, and most of them accept and American that is over 18.

PASPA - The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) is another federal sports betting law that decides where sportsbooks are allowed to function in the USA. This law is very controversial because it was created as a reaction to the villainous aspects of the sports wagering world, but many people agree that illegal bookies and underground betting rings have proliferated since the inceptions of the Act. In any case, the PASPA does not allow sportsbooks to function in almost all of America. Only states that had sports betting establishments at least ten years prior to the PASPA being instated in 1992 are allowed to have them now. These states are Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Only Nevada and Oregon actually have any sportsbooks, and Nevada is the only state with fully-operational books. The PASPA is just one more reason why the sportsbooks that most Americans use are online, and operating overseas.

UIGEA - The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act of 2006

The last law to get a handle on is the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. This federal law deals with how online betting sites can transfer funds. The legal sportsbooks that you will use are only affected by the UIGEA in that they cannot send you winnings directly to a credit card account. These sites use numerous payout methods that are very safe, such as Western Union, checks, MoneyGram, and more.

State Sports Betting Laws

We mentioned PASPA in the last section, a federal law that outlaws sportsbooks from functioning in almost every state in the US. Because of that, most states do not have any sports betting laws. In fact, only Nevada and Delaware do. They basically require residents to be over 21 to use the sportsbooks. That is it. No state has any laws against you using an online sportsbook. None of the laws dealing with sports wagering are intended to attack the player. Read more about states with legal sports betting here.

Land-Based Sports Betting Laws

The only land-based sports betting laws exist in the only states that have land-based sports betting. In other words, most states don’t have either. Nevada and Delaware are the only states that have land-based sportsbooks, thanks to PASPA. The laws are quite straightforward in both cases. You must be 21 to wager at the casino or lodge that houses the sportsbook. You must abide by the rules of the establishment. Both states also have limited forms of online betting, and you must be a resident of the state to use it. Delaware has very limited options compared to Nevada. For instance, the sportsbook is only available to use during NFL season. For this reason, we suggest Nevada if you are looking for a legal good time at a land-based book.

Legal Sports Betting Age

The sports betting age for land-based venues will be 21 in Delaware and in Nevada. For online sportsbooks, the age is generally 18. However, you can take an extra precaution by looking up your state betting age and following that. If your state requires bettors to be 21, then you might want to wait until you are 21 before signing up at a legal sports betting site. This is just an added precaution, and you will most likely be fine as long as you are over 18. No one has ever been reprimanded as long as they were following the rules of the online sportsbook.

Legal Sports Betting Sites

The best legal sports betting sites all have one thing in common; safety. These reputable sportsbooks have been in the game for decades in some cases, and put member security as a top priority. They all also follow the rules that the federal laws put in place to make sure that they operate legally. Picking any of the online sportsbooks that we review will ensure that you are wagering safely, and legally. There is a wide world of fun to be had, so start exploring today!

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