Can Americans Bet Online?

With all of the recent news about online gambling laws and sites like Full Tilt Poker being shut down, many in the US were left asking, “Can Americans bet online?” The answer to that is “yes.” There is certainly a grey area when it comes to operating an online casino or poker website, but it’s completely legal for those on the “other side of the table” to gamble. Laws and legal enforcement target the websites themselves, not the users.

The relationship between the American legal system and online betting websites is extremely tense. There’s no real, concrete legislation out there that explicitly allows or disallows all types of gambling websites from running their businesses or taking wagers from clients in the United States. However, law enforcement continues to shut down certain websites citing various issues including “money laundering.” And gambling websites continue to do their best to work around those laws, enacting various policies that they hope will keep them safe from prosecution. But throughout this conflict, it has remained completely legal for Americans to bet online. The responsibility lies in the hands of the website owners. So if you enjoy online gambling, than you can legally continue to do so. It’s just more difficult than it used to be for reasons explained below.

The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 makes it illegal for anyone to accept bets over state lines. However, many feel that this piece of legislation only applies to sports gambling. Plus, it was passed long before the modern-day Internet was even created. Even if this law is applied to online gambling, it doesn’t affect the gamblers themselves. Most experts believe it’s clear that Americans can still bet online under the Interstate Wire Act of 1961.

A more recent piece of legislation is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006. The UIGEA was created to enforce the financial rules involving online gambling, not the play itself. It requires banks to report and stop financial transactions of online gambling organizations. The passing of this act changed the way online gambling was done, making the process of adding and receiving funds a bit more complex. So while you, the bettor, will probably have to deal with roundabout ways of funding your account, it’s still completely legal. The UIGEA does not incriminate the individual, only the gambling organization that is behind it.

These two pieces of legislation have transformed the face of online gambling. While you may be affected by the Interestate Wire Act or the UIGEA (by having to jump through some hoops to fund your account), you are not governed by them. As long as there are websites out there that can find their way through the legal issues affecting them, you are free to bet online.