With the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), online gambling was made illegal in the United States for bets on contests of others, sporting events, or games subject to chance. Further, bets made over the internet are illegal if the bet is unlawful under any other federal or state law in the state where the bet initiates. This has been a controversial law, swept through Congress by riding with the popular Safe Port Act. Though many online casinos now no longer accept US players, there are different interpretations of USA gambling laws.
The first objection to UIGEA is on who should be regulating the transfer of money. The law states that the website operators are responsible for this, and companies that are publicly traded or have other interests in the United States tend to abide by this. However, the US technically does not have legal authority over what companies operating entirely outside of its borders do. Because of this, websites that have no dealings with the United States are willing to take on US players.
The second large objection to UIGEA deals with the portion stating bets on games subject to chance are illegal. The objection is that games like poker are games of skill. Casino games like roulette and craps are based purely on chance, with the player placing a bet against the house. The casino profits because the games are slightly in favor of the house winning. In games such as poker though, the house is not betting against players. Instead, players either pay an entry fee to play a game or a small percentage of the pot goes to the house before being paid out to the winning player. In poker, since the online casino cannot profit by you winning or losing, several online casinos view accepting US players for poker games perfectly legal.
A third objection to UIGEA is that by banning online casinos to US players, the sites cannot be regulated by US agencies. The UIGEA states that anything illegal in the state where the internet connection is occurring is illegal. As each state can regulate gambling independently, if an online casino tries to find information about USA online gambling, they have to look for fifty different sets of regulations. If instead all online gambling was legal but regulated on a federal level, it would be easier for websites to comply and for the US players to feel confident that the online casinos were safe and legitimate. As it stands, these sites are not reviewed by any US agencies to make sure that games of chance are fair.
With the passage of UIGEA, USA gambling laws have become more confusing and complicated. Luckily, for those US players who still want to play, there are online casinos that accept US players. There have also been efforts made to repeal UIGEA and pass legislation that would regulate online gambling instead of making it illegal. Until such updates to the law are made, be sure to only play at reputable sites.