Online Casino Laws in the US: Where Are They Allowed, and What Are the Alternatives?

Gambling is popular all over the world, and in more recent years new forms of it have come out of the woodwork. One such example is online casinos, which have exploded in usage since their creation. Record numbers of people, in the United States and further afield, are playing casino games from their mobile devices. Despite their popularity, online casinos are not legal all over the US, as some states have tighter laws surrounding gambling and its accessibility. So, which states have legalized online gambling, and for those areas that haven’t, what alternatives are available?

Alternatives to US Online Casinos

For states that have not yet made online casino gambling legal, such as in the North Carolina area, there are still choices, as gambling expert Jamie Wright outlines. This is the case in many states, also including Florida, Texas, Ohio, and countless others. For those who want to experience the best of what online casinos have to offer, there are offshore options. Residents of areas that have restricted access are able to play casino games online via gaming operators that are based in other states, or other parts of the world, such as Europe or the Caribbean. Offshore casino sites provide just as much of a positive experience and often offer a great variety of games and better odds. 

Offshore casinos are a great alternative to local online casinos because they share all the same benefits. The most obvious of these perks is the convenience and accessibility that online gambling provides, especially in comparison to its retail counterpart. Users can play their favorite casino games, from blackjack to roulette, from the comfort of their own homes, which is ideal for those who may not have the option of regularly traveling to a casino. In addition, many online casinos (including offshore) have enticing welcome gifts, loyalty schemes, and regular rewards such as free spins or cashback bonuses. 

Gambling Laws in the United States

There is no ‘one size fits all’ law regarding gambling in the United States. Whilst gambling is legal according to US federal law, each state is free to assign its own rules and regulations regarding the practice. This means that many states have prohibited gambling, online or otherwise, within their borders, and others have permitted many different types of gambling, from online casinos to sports betting. 

There are many states across the country that have legalized retail casinos and sportsbooks, horse racing, slot machines, card rooms, state lotteries, and more. Laws pertaining to gambling are enforced and overseen by regulatory bodies, such as the Illinois Gaming Board and the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. Laws and governing bodies dedicated to online casinos and other online options such as Bitcoin casinos are less common, partly due to the fact that it is a much newer form of gambling. This means that in many states it is regarded as something of a ‘gray area’, or is not legal yet. There are three existing laws that govern online gambling at a federal level: the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act), the IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act), and The Wire Act

Where Is Online Gambling Legal in the US?

Unfortunately, the majority of states in the US have yet to legalize online casinos. Even states that have progressive laws in other aspects, such as California or New York, have tight rules on gambling. As of 2024, there are only seven states in the US that have legalized online casinos: Connecticut, Michigan, Delaware, West Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and most recently, Rhode Island. However, there are hopes that more states, including Massachusetts, Illinois, and Indiana, will join this list soon. Despite only a minority of states legalizing online gambling, revenue from the industry is expected to reach a staggering $23.03 billion this year alone and increase at an annual growth rate of 8.86%. If this projection is accurate, then the result will be a projected market volume of $35.21 billion by 2029.

Connecticut only made online casinos legal in 2021 and currently has two online casino options, both of which are partnered with local tribal casinos. Another newcomer to the scene is Michigan, which also legalized the activity in 2021, but has already opened up over a dozen sites for residents to choose from. The state has also permitted sports betting and all online gambling activities are regulated by the Michigan Gaming Control Board. Seeing how successful the rollout of online casinos in some areas has been has given many advocates for its legalization hope, and there is no doubt that other states will soon follow in the footsteps of Michigan and its peers.

One only has to look at the legality of sportsbooks to see the direction that the legalization of online casinos will take in the United States. Numbers recorded in September 2023 showed that 30 states allow online sports betting and that online sportsbooks have a projected market volume of $9.65 billion in 2024.