State of Play: What You Need to Know About US Gambling in 2016

Ever since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) got its claws into online betting sites back in 2006, the US has been in something of a muddle when it comes to deciding where it stands on online gambling.

Indeed, while trying to find consistency in US legislation with regards to gambling is a bit like trying to locate reason at a Donald Trump rally, there are a number of states that are taking steps to ensure betting is both legalized and regulated.

Currently, many states offer legalized land-based gambling of one kind or another, be it on riverboats (or as close to a ‘seaworthy’ boat as you’re likely to find) or in tribal casinos. Others, meanwhile, allow poker but not gambling, and some allow online poker but not online casinos.

Confused? Try being one of the states considering updating their archaic laws to bring them kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Let’s take a look at the states that have already embraced online gambling sites, along with those that look set to follow in the coming months.


Land-Based Gambling: Yes
Online Gambling: Poker only

As the spiritual home of gambling in the US, it is unsurprising that Nevada was the first state to offer legal online poker to players after UIEGA brought the curtain down ten years ago.

After passing America’s first official online gambling bill in 2011, the state opened its first fully licensed and regulated poker room in 2013 – the now defunct Ultimate Poker – enabling players to legitimately play the game online in Nevada. Other sites have since opened in the state, but it is that rules the roost, with a 99% monopoly creating very little competition or liquidity. There are also plenty of other options for online poker players in the US. is a review site specifically for the American market, which shows options in the various states.

As a result, the future of online gambling in Nevada lies not with poker, but with online casino games – which are not legal under the current bill – and the state is also likely to battle it out with New Jersey to become the regulatory hub for online gambling if and when more states move online.


Land-Based Gambling: Yes
Online Gambling: Yes

Like Nevada before it, Delaware quickly moved to legalize online gambling by passing the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act of 2012, which – although encompassing all gambling in the state – specifically outlined provisions for Internet poker, casino and sports betting to be made available.

Having been exempt from the 1991 federal ban on betting on professional sports, Delaware is one of four states where the practice remains legal online. It was also the first state to allow Internet casino gambling, with Delaware’s big three racetracks owning the licenses to all of its online casinos.

As such, Delaware is one of the more progressive states when it comes to online gambling regulation – and though it boasts a small population and comparatively little online traffic, a liquidity sharing deal with Nevada was signed in 2014 to ensure the two states combined online poker player pools.

New Jersey

Land-Based Gambling: Yes
Online Gambling: Yes

Following a near miss in 2012, New Jersey became the third state to legalize online gambling when Governor Chris Christie green-lighted the amended Senate Bill S1565 and Assembly Bill A257 to enable online gambling sites to operate in New Jersey – provided they had a land casino partner.

Though beaten to the punch by Nevada and Delaware, New Jersey is widely considered the finest example of the potential for legal online gambling in America, given it is the most populous state currently offering regulated games and boasts the largest number of operators within its borders.

Currently, seven of the eight casinos in Atlantic City operate online casino games, with Borgata and Caesars the only two to offer online poker through PartyPoker and 888 respectively. However, that all looks set to change next month, when “bad actor”, PokerStars, is set to enter the state. There are further rumors that an inter-state gambling agreement may be on the cards.


Land-Based Gambling: Poker, tribal casinos
Online Gambling: No

To say that California has struggled to come to terms with successfully launching a legalized online poker industry would be putting it mildly – in fact, progress since 2008 has been positively glacial.

The problems facing legalization and regulation in the state are numerous, with California’s tribal casinos, over 100 licensed cardrooms and the union-backed horseracing industry all taking hardline positions on a number of issues to ensure that every proposed bill to date has crashed and burned.

However, while progress has been slow, it hasn’t all been for naught. Last year bill AB 431 became the first online poker bill to pass a committee vote and 2016 will see the state broach a number of related topics, including the possibility of legalising Daily Fantasy Sports sites. California will also consider legalizing online sports betting, but only if current federal laws are repealed or changed.

Should significant progress be made, the legalization of online gambling in California could represent a massive windfall for the government due to its huge population and established casino industry.


Land-Based Gambling: Yes
Online Gambling: No

Florida is an interesting state when it comes to the thorny issue of legalized gambling. In general, state legislators have a lot to say when it comes to gambling and previous attempts to regulate the online industry – specifically in regards to poker – have failed to bear fruit.

Nevertheless, Florida is likely to revive its push for regulated online poker if the federal government passes an online poker bill. A partnership agreement with California to share player liquidity has been mooted. However, with all forms of online gambling currently illegal, it seems likely that Florida will be a follower rather than a leader when it comes to signing off on progressive legislation.


Land-Based Gambling: Yes
Online Gambling: Possible

Despite trailing only Nevada as America’s largest gaming revenue generating state, progress in Pennsylvania has been slow when it comes to legalizing online gambling.

The issue was first broached by State Senator Tina Davis in 2013, but with her proposed online gambling bill failing to find traction, it wasn’t until 2015 that the wheels were really set in motion.

Under the stewardship of Representative John Payne, online gambling became a hot topic last year and HB 649 lit the proverbial fuse on the possibility of regulation.

Beginning as an online gaming legalization measure, Payne’s bill has morphed into a gaming reform bill and is expected to be revisited as a possible solution to the state’s current pension deficit. As such, Pennsylvania has gone from online gambling long-shot to frontrunner and could experience significant changes this year.

Around the Country….

Legislators were caught by surprise by the boom in online poker and gambling that swept the country in the early 2000s.

The 1961 Wire Act, made before the Internet was a twinkle in some MIT lab technicians’ eyes, only banned bets taken across state lines. This really served to outlaw sportsbetting but was used to prohibit all forms of gambling.

UIGEA came along and barred gaming sites from taking financial transactions from customers. It wasn’t until the Department of Justice changed their stance on the Wire Act in 2011 (having mercilessly shut down the poker rooms who had defied them for so many years) that individual states were open to go it alone.

Despite the – for now – stilted efforts of casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and his Republican-backed RAWA (Restoration of America’s Wire Act) to ban ALL Internet gambling across ALL states, we should see more states dip their toes into the legal waters.

In truth, it looks likely that the stalemate will persist until either country-wide guidelines for online gambling are passed or a major state like California or Pennsylvania takes the plunge and shows the others exactly what can be achieved.