Gambling Legislation in the United States

The popularity of gambling has continued its rise in the United States. So also has awareness regarding gambling laws. These laws are not only salient to casino and gambling operators. It’s also relevant to individuals seeking to engage in or start a betting pool anywhere in the country.

A significant aspect of gambling has been the introduction of iGaming, with the online gambling sector witnessing a more substantial rise in popularity. According to research, the iGaming industry is predicted to reach $92.9 billion by 2023. This projection follows new technologies driving the industry, including blockchain and VR.

Over time, poker has spearheaded gambling in general, and iGaming is no exception. Online poker sites create a convenient way for players to engage in different poker variations. By integrating novel technologies, these sites offer players a more immersive experience. Yet, not all Americans enjoy the privilege of playing poker online.

Taking the Prairie State, for example, all legal Illinois online poker sites operate on a sweepstake model. This is because the state is yet to legalize online poker. In fact, online poker is a lot more restricted than it is legalized in the US.

States That Allow Online Poker in the US

Pertaining to gambling in the United States, the activity is legal on a federal level. As such, each state can regulate both online and land-based gambling within its shores.

The number of states that permit online wagering is quite extensive. This includes horse racing, lotteries, and sports betting. However, there’s a whole different view regarding games of chance. 

Currently, only seven states permit online casino and poker sites within their shores. Here are the most progressive states with regard to online poker:

  • Delaware

In 2012, Delaware became the first state to fully legalize and regulate online poker. The efforts of the blue hen state paved the way for online casinos in other states.

Considerations to legalize online poker in Delaware began in 2011. However, there was a need to tailor their gambling laws to suit federal regulations. With time, the Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act was created to include online casino games.

As the first state to legalize online casinos, there was no blueprint from which to model regulations. As a result, it was pretty tricky creating one from scratch. The law covered critical aspects, such as player verification and vendor requirements.

Today, players from Delaware are exposed to some of the best online poker sites. Some of the most popular ones include PokerStars, WPT Global and 888poker.

  • Nevada

Nevada has always been high on gambling. It’s also home to some of the most popular land-based casinos in the country. So it came as no surprise when the state legalized online poker.

In 2013, the Nevada legislature passed House Bill AB 114. This made them the second state to allow residents to play poker online for real money. 

The sole online poker operator in Nevada is which runs on 888poker’s software. However, players can engage in other licensed poker sites through the interstate pact. Aside from online poker, no other online casino game is legal in Nevada.

  • New Jersey

In 2013, NJ also legalized online poker, making them the third state. In fact, it misses out on second place by mere hours.

However, unlike Nevada, NJ permits online poker and other casino games. New Jersey was the most populous city to have legalized online poker at the time. As a result, it quickly became a countrywide leader in online gambling.

There is a long list of online gambling operators for casino games, poker, and sports betting. Some of the most popular operators operating from the state include; WSOP NJ, PokerStars, and BetMGM.

  • Pennsylvania

It took a while for another state to open its doors to online poker operators. However, this changed in 2017 following its Omnibus Gambling Expansion Bill.

Today, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board supervises all online gambling, including poker. The Keystone State also permits all forms of online wagering. Only two sites currently operate in Pennsylvania – PokerStars and BetMGM Poker. However, players can expect to play on other licensed sites soon.

Of all the states that allow online poker, Pennsylvania is the biggest population-wise. Hence, it’s no surprise the state has become one of the top states for online poker.

  • West Virginia

The West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act created the foundation for online wagering in the state. The bill passed in 2019 allows for online casinos, sports betting, and poker.

However, as of today, no operator has been given a license. This delay can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, players are free to engage with other state’s licensed operators.

  • Michigan

In late 2019, the governor of Michigan approved an online wagering extension package. This bill legalized online casinos, sports wagering, and poker games in the Great Lake State.

The law, however, only promotes intrastate gaming. This means players in Michigan can only compete against other players within the state. The COVID pandemic is also responsible for delays in online poker availability.

Nonetheless, it became available in 2021. Some popular online poker operators include the World Series of Poker MI, PokerStars, and BetMGM Poker.

  • Connecticut

The process of legalizing online poker was far from straightforward in Connecticut. Finding an agreement with the state’s two largest operators of land-based casinos was pretty tricky. However, one was reached in 2021, making Connecticut the latest state to legalize online poker.

Similar to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, the bill features intrastate gaming. Additionally, there are no live online poker sites in the state for now.


Different states face varying degrees of complexity in legalizing online casinos. Land-based casino operators continue to show concerns about the impact of online casinos on their businesses.

It becomes challenging when there is a high monopoly on casinos by a particular tribe. However, as iGaming’s popularity grows, so does the pressure to legalize it. For now, states like Illinois, New York, Massachusetts, and California are in the process of legalizing it.

From creating jobs to offering higher tax revenues, the pros of online casinos to society are evident. As such, we can expect continued adoption of online gambling across the country.

Christopher Stern

Christopher Stern is a Washington-based reporter. Chris spent many years covering tech policy as a business reporter for renowned publications. He has extensive experience covering Congress, the Federal Communications Commission, and the Federal Trade Commissions. He is a graduate of Middlebury College. Email:[email protected]

Related Articles

Back to top button