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Is Online Gambling Legal in USA?


By: Devon Eleven, 08/02/2012


The law that exists in the United States certainly leaves a lot of gray area in terms of classifying legal casinos in the USA, and it certainly requires that some steps be taken to clarify the matter. Because there are millions of people in the U.S. who either gamble online now, or would if it was easier, the issue of USA legal casinos online will be very important to them. 

One of the first things that must be understood is that when a U.S. resident is playing in an online casino, he or she is doing nothing illegal, and certainly nothing wrong. There are no arrests that are going to be made, so the best course of action is to play in them if there is one that will be able to accommodate you.

Of course, those who accommodate you could find themselves in trouble, if they are not conscientious in the way they go about it. That happens because of the restrictions upon financial institutions that are headquartered in the United States, as they relate to the transactions that take place and are associated with gambling. So the banks are essentially being ordered to block these kinds of transactions, bringing into focus the merchant codes that are used by the casinos themselves. Some of them camouflage that pretty well, which enables them to circumvent the regulations. Again, however, even though it is not part of legal casinos in USA, the player is not committing any crime. 

Much of this has happened as a result of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, which went through the Senate under very suspicious circumstances. Bill Frist, a United States Senator from Tennessee who was leaving office, pushed it through a a rider to the Safe Port Security Act with literally just hours to go in a legislative session. One thing had nothing to do with the other. But is basically  brought the idea of legal casinos in the USA into much doubt. The UIGEA contained provisions that forced the aforementioned restrictions on banks.

Some casinos are very scared of flouting U.S. law and so they have turned their back on the market altogether. Processing money has become more difficult, but that does not mean it is impossible. Some banks do not appreciate the intrusion on the way they do business, and there lies an opening that can make playing with an establishment, even if it is not one of the legal casinos in the USA, more plausible. Truth be told, the casino themselves are not as much of a target to U.S. authorities as are online sportsbooks, and in some cases, poker sites. 

The atmosphere is changing to some extent, as there is a move to not only have the UIGEA overturned, but to create certain exceptions to it as well. The Poker Players Alliance has had a very active lobby in this area, and Congressman Barney Frank has been involved with bills that could function as alternatives to the UIGEA. There is also a move afoot to establish legal casinos in USA online gaming within various states, as a way to raise revenue. Nevada is doing this, and there has been much activity in places like California and New Jersey as well. When this happens, there is a feeling that the "players" in the current online casino industry could be cut out in favor of the larger companies that have land-based casinos and would then convert to an online presence.

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