USA Sports Betting Laws & Regulations

Get locked in as this guide to the U.S. federal sports betting laws will aid anyone looking to learn more about the legal atmosphere of sports betting in the U.S. There are a few big regulations for sports wagering, but once you understand them, they do not have as big of an impact as one might think. This page is dedicated to the federal laws because by and large, individual U.S. states do very little to regulate bookmaking in their respective states, as laws like the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act have all but done the work for least when it comes to betting with brick-and-mortar establishments.

This page is going to cover the federal laws that affect land-based and online sports wagering in the United States. Unlike some sites that just provide the definition of these laws, LegalSportsbooksUSA takes it to the next level to help readers understand how these laws translate into reality. By the time you leave this page, it is our goal for you to have a firm understanding of what is safe to do under the current USA sports betting laws and feel confident when making a wager, online or in-person.

Is Sports Betting Legal In The United States?

Online: The quick answer to this question is yes, most of them are. As long as you are using a reputable site that follows certain rules, you will be safe. All of the sites we review follow the rules of the laws that regulate online sports wagering. As with all business, there are some nefarious online establishments out there, but most of them get shut down quickly. We will go over the laws that decide whether an online sportsbook can function later in this article, but for now, you should just know that all of the prestigious sports betting sites that have been operating for decades are legal and safe to use.

Land Based: The answer to this depends on the state in which you are looking. The federal government decides which states are allowed to host sports wagering events, so if you find a bookie or a sports betting ring in a state that is not regulated, it will be illegal. The sad fact is that there are only a handful of states that allow real money sports betting, and we will go over them later. For now, just keep in mind that the bookie down at your local pub is probably not smart company to keep.

Federal Sports Betting Laws To Know

Now that you know that there are legal options for both online and land-based sportsbooks, it is time to look at the actual regulations that are in place. These laws are simple to understand once you decipher the somewhat complicated language, which we have done for you. More information about each of these federal statutes can be found all over the web, but we will do our best to explain them in full detail, and in layman terms.

The Wire Act of 1961

Throughout the early-to-mid 20th century, much of the gambling world was overrun with organized crime. Illegal bookmaking was a daily activity for infamous names like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky. The federal government decided to try and put an end to the mayhem by creating new laws, and in 1961 the Wire Act appeared. The Act restricts the transfer of wagering information between states using wire communication devices. This old law has gone through many changes and ratifications, and now only affects sports betting.

The current status of the Wire Act still restricts transferring sports betting information between states, but this does not affect the many legal online sportsbooks that accept U.S. residents. This is because these sites operate outside of the nation, in places like Canada and the Republic of Panama. As long as a sports wagering site exists overseas, it is not affected by the Wire Act. This is why millions of American’s use these sites every day, and wager real money legally.

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992

Even though the Wire Act managed to put a stop to much of the nefarious activities going on in the online sports wagering world, there were, and always will be, criminal elements. The land-based sports betting world still sees bookies working for the mafia, and underground sports betting rings in almost every state. In 1992, the government deemed the bad elements of sports wagering to be a “national problem”, and therefore created the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA). This only affects land-based sports betting, but does a very good job of limiting it.

The PASPA restricts all but four states from hosting land-based sports betting events. The four states that do allow it only can because they were “grandfathered” in as exemptions because they had prior sports betting establishments at least ten years before the law was passed. These states are Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. However, only Nevada and Delaware actually have regulated bookmaking, so those are the only two states where you will find legal land-based sportsbooks. To add even another caveat, Delaware only has wagering during the pro football season, and you can only use certain wager types with strict limits. This leaves Nevada as the only state in the nation with fully functional land-based sports betting. The PASPA is the main reason so many American’s choose the many online sportsbooks.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006

With the advent of the internet, and the subsequent parade of wagering sites, the federal government decided to crack down on online betting. Many of these sites were functioning unlawfully, and therefore the government came up with the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006. This act was tacked on to the SAFE Ports Act, part of the homeland security legislation, at the last minute. No one in congress even read the UIGEA before it passed through senate, which makes it a very controversial law.

Fortunately, even though the UIGEA is controversial, it is relatively harmless. All the law does is restrict online wagering sites from transferring funds directly to a player’s credit card. There are many workarounds for this including payments in the form of checks, cash wire transfers, bank wires, money orders, bitcoin, and many more. You can read all about funding methods on our online sportsbook deposits and sports betting site payouts pages. As of now, just know that the UIGEA will not impede upon your sports betting enjoyment.

Best Legal Online Sportsbooks

Now that you have a good grasp of the federal laws that regulate sports betting in America, it is time to find a reputable site to start wagering with. All of the sites we review follow the rules of the Wire Act, PASPA, and UIGEA. These sites have been around for decades, and continue to thrive because they offer the best wagering experiences in the world.

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BetOnline Sportsbook - Open To U.S. Players From All 50 States

BetOnline is sports fans’ dreams come true. This site has flourished for over two decades as a prime example of how online sports betting should be done. The layout is simple and straightforward, making navigating the sportsbook fun and intuitive. This user-friendliness is accompanied by a great reputation as a legal online sportsbook for U.S. players. BetOnline is one of our personal favorites, and the site we go back to the most when it is time to put some money on our favorite teams.

Signing up at BetOnline couldn’t be easier. Just click on the “click to join” button at the top-right of the screen, and you will be on your way. All you must do is fill in some contact information, create a password, and give a valid email address. The site will then send you a confirmation link, and once you click on that you will be a full-fledged BetOnline member. This takes all of three minutes, and then the fun begins.

What Do The State Laws Say About Sports Betting?

Because the federal laws dictate all of the sports wagering activities in the nation, individual states rarely have anything to say about the matter. In fact, only Nevada and Delaware have and sports betting regulations since they are the only states that offer it on land. No state in the nation has stipulations for online sports betting, so anyone can use the sites reviewed here on as long as said site accepts your state. Most of the online sportsbooks accept U.S. players from all 50 states, so you will not have a problem finding a site to use. You can read more about state rulings on our state sportsbetting laws page.