Online gambling laws in the United States are extremely varied and so complex that even attorneys that have been practicing in the area of vice crimes for years have trouble determining exactly what laws apply to online gambling. There are several reasons for this including the varying states, the federal government’s role in policing the Internet, as well as the ever changing landscape that is online gambling. Traditionally laws have always been trying to play catch up with technology which changes much more quickly than laws are able to keep up with it. For this reason some of the laws that have been held to apply to online gambling come from other areas of law that were never originally intended to apply to online gambling. This makes the interpretation of the law, as well as the actual application, that much more burdensome. Adding to these problems is the reluctance of some lawmakers to set a bright line ruling for or against online gambling.
With that being said there are several laws that players from the US can rest assured apply any time that they log into their favorite casino and place a wager. The first of these laws is called the Federal Wire Act. The Federal Wire Act, or otherwise known as the Interstate Wire Act, entered the United States legal tapestry in 1961. Obviously this was well before anyone had even thought of the concept of online gambling and this is one of the problems associated with laws that are later applied to areas that they weren’t specifically designed for. However, this law has been applied because the Internet technically does serve the same purpose as an Interstate wire and was the closest to legislation governing the Internet that was on the books. This law has been criticized vehemently and has rarely been applied to US citizens in regards to prosecution for online gambling.
The other law that all US gamblers should be familiar with, and one that is much more topical compared to the above mentioned law, is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This law has also not been without its detractors and again falls short in the attempt to wholly regulate the online gambling industry. While not specifically criminalizing the entire act of online gambling this act makes it illegal for financial institutions to transfer funds from their institutions to online casinos. This immediately hamstrung online casino operations and many sportsbooks and online casinos immediately stopped accepting players from the United States, not all, but a good enough number to make things more difficult for US players.
The two above stated laws are only two in the ever changing online gambling scene in the United States and this is just on the federal level. State laws and various municipal codes are much more complex and varied due to the vast amount of legislative bodies that are ultimately responsible for these entities. Therefore, no one resource can outline specifically what will apply to any given player and it is up to the player to determine which laws apply.