The Big Picture
There are four kinds of gambling websites and other online establishments in the United States: the lottery, casinos, betting sites, and poker rooms.
Lotteries have become an important source of state revenues in 45 US states plus Washington DC, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Although day-to-day lottery operations may be offloaded to the private sector, these real money gambling operations are owned by the states, and the money that they generate is used to pay for schools and other state operations that would otherwise be funded by taxes. Virtually all US jurisdictions allow you to play the lottery online. In 2018, Americans spent $77.7 billion on the lottery.
Online casinos with virtual slot machines and other games are licensed and regulated in four states: Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. Generally speaking, you must be physically present within a state’s borders to gamble at the state’s legal online gambling sites.
Online casinos may tempt players with hundreds of slots, but that’s just the beginning. Roulette, blackjack, craps, baccarat, and other casino games are typically offered along with video poker. Bingo is currently enjoying a surge in popularity. Most casino websites have live gaming rooms so you can enjoy table games and poker online with a live dealer. Some online casinos offer games that number in the thousands.
Online Sports Betting
Online sports betting is legal in 12 states: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and West Virginia.
All good gambling sites for sports betting set the odds and take bets on professional and collegiate sporting events, but they don’t stop there. Many sites offer bets on political contests, the predicted names of celebrities’ babies, and plot twists in popular television programs. The best sites offer simple win/lose bets along with complex bets that combine in-game events along with points and statistics about the performance of individual players. You can stay there for years as your understanding and betting preferences get more sophisticated.
Online Poker Rooms
Online poker sites are legal in five states: Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.
Televised World Series of Poker tournaments and other events at top gambling sites have made Texas hold ’em the universal game of choice at online poker parlors, but additional games are on tap as well, including variations of stud and draw poker.
We have used the word “legal” with lists of states to describe state-regulated gambling establishments. The states we listed have legalized certain forms of gambling and issued licenses to allow corporations to operate within their states. No state can make it legal for people in other states to gamble, so those gambling establishments are for in-state use only.
Sites in states where it is legal to gamble online are experimenting. Gambling establishments in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware have established networks that treat players in two or three states play beside each other online as members of a common betting pool. The federal Department of Justice has not yet ruled on the legality of these schemes. So for now, in-state betting is safest.
International betting sites are problematic. The Justice Department has prosecuted offshore sites that cater to gamblers in the United States. Their executives were threatened with jail time, their business offices paid huge fines, and their internet domains were seized and shut down. Although these are legal online gambling sites within their home countries, US law currently prohibits them from accepting bets from US players. They’re not even allowed to advertise in the United States. The Justice Department has taken action against banks and e-wallets that transfer funds between Americans and overseas gambling websites too. But it has not prosecuted individual Americans for gambling at offshore websites.
Given the recent explosion of legal gambling outlets in certain states and the continued eagerness of offshore gambling sites to do business with Americans, it seems online gambling has a bright future in the United States. The best online gambling sites in the USA – and outside it – are just a click away.
Whether you are an experienced bettor, a high roller, a bingo fan, or a newbie, it is important that you familiarize yourself with credible online casinos like the ones we list on this page. Use our evaluation matrix to screen out scammers and shady sites. When you create an account at a trustworthy casino that meets all of our criteria, you’ll have a winning experience whether or not your bets are winners. That’s what you can expect at the very best US gambling sites: a safe and fun gambling experience.