Is it legal to bet on sports online in the USA?


Pretty much so. Now let’s delve deeper into this because there are two pieces of federal legislation that bring shivers down the spines of many punters. The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 was obviously the first and back in the day the Internet was not yet invented, so online gambling was never its target. The second is the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act, which takes key provisions from the aforesaid law and tackles the sensitive issue of Internet gaming. Luckily for punters, neither of them makes online sports betting illegal and we’ll explain why.

The Interstate Wire Act goes for the Bookies

In the early 60s, the federal government had bigger fish to fry than to go after the casual gambler with everything it had. The opening paragraph of the law clearly states that the target is “whoever is engaged in the business of betting or wagering.” This clearly highlights the lawmakers’ intention to go after bookmakers and those who were organized in the business of sports betting. Apparently, some clarifications were needed and they were made during a House of Representatives debate soon after.

Over the next decades, the authorities and the FBI channeled all their resources towards shutting down illegal bookmaking operations. Recreational punters were never targeted and there’s no reason to expect anything to change in the foreseeable future. The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act was passed several decades later and it focused on denying states from running sports betting operations. Nevada is the worth mentioning exception as the state already had sports betting legislation in place.

The Day UIGEA Changes Everything

The Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act was passed in 2006 and it came as a blow for bookies and gambling operators nationwide. This piece of law had an immediate and strong deterring effect on existing sports books and casinos, as well as international poker room operators. Many chose to withdraw entirely from the US market as it was widely expected for online gambling to become illegal nationwide.

UIGEA surely crippled the US gambling industry by making it illegal for organizations to accept financial transactions that were related to Internet gambling. The punters were also affected, as it became increasingly difficult for them to load the account with cash and withdraw their winnings. Some websites decided to stop taking wagers from Americans, while others tried to find ways around the prohibitive legislation. US players were hamstrung, but betting on sports online didn’t become illegal.

A Bright Future Ahead

In a world of regulated online gambling, US residents are the Cinderellas for top sports betting sites. Major casinos and sports books are reluctant to open shop here because of the prohibitive laws and the feeling of uncertainty. The good news is that in recent years the wheels were set in motion and many states have passed or at least contemplate bills that would regulate online gambling. For the time being, punters have fewer choices, but at least they don’t have to worry about breaking the law when betting on sports.