USA Casino Facts:
- 48 States Regulate a Form of Gambling
- Lottery is the Most Popular Form of Gambling
- Three States Regulate Online Gambling
- Online Gambling is Mostly a Grey Area
US Casinos are a complicated topic when it comes to legalization. All forms of gambling fall under states' right except for sports betting. A federal law known as the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act forbids states from expanding sports betting.
States are given the ability to define gambling in their own words. This means that some games, like daily fantasy sports contests, will be legal in some states but not others. Each state's constitution addresses how gambling is permitted to expand. This often requires a constitutional amendment where voters have the final say after being first approved by the legislature. This can make the road to legal United States casinos a tricky one, especially in conservative states in the South.
Did you know that your gambling income is taxable? Learn everything you need to know about paying your taxes on your gambling winning straight from a Certified Public Accountant in our exclusive Gambling Taxes article.
Complicated Sports Betting Laws
Sports betting was a states' right until 1992. That is when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed by Congress. It stopped the expansion of gambling on sports at the state level. Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon were the only states exempted from it because each had some form of legalized sports betting on the books at the time.
There is a discussion about repealing PASPA. In the meantime, New Jersey is fighting its reach in federal court. The state lost its first attempt to legalize Nevada-style sports betting by the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.
Online gambling also falls under the states' rights issue. While always believed to be that way, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) codified that into law. The UIGEA exempts any intrastate gambling that is expressly permitted under state law. The only requirements are that there must be age and location verification services to prevent unauthorized access to sites. This permits poker, casino games, horse racing, lotteries, and anything else that does not include betting on sports.
Major Gambling Updates
US legal gambling laws and bills were carried out during 2018 since it was an election. If you would like to check out your local legislation changes for this year, visit our Legal Gambling in the US page.
US Casino History
US casino gambling dates back to 1822. That is when Brown's Saloon opened near what is now the Colorado and Wyoming border. Casinos in the USA dotted the west until the early 1900's when a conservative movement removed them from every state, including Nevada. It was not until 1931 that gambling returned to Nevada. It was the only state that regulated casinos, although there were many underground networks along the Mississippi River and the East Coast until the 1950's.
New Jersey was the second state to legalize casinos. That brought Atlantic City into the industry in 1978 with the opening of Resorts International. It took until 1989 for South Dakota, the third legal casino state, to open.
This momentum carried over into the 1990's. It was not long before states along the Mississippi River and Native American casinos joined the action. By the end of the decade, every state that touches the Mississippi River had USA casinos, except Tennessee. Reservations in the West added casino gambling after creating compacts with states. The 2000's saw an explosion of casinos in the northeast. This eventually led to massive losses in Atlantic City, which fell to the third largest gaming market in the country behind Pennsylvania in 2012.
These US casinos replaced more traditional forms of gambling like lotteries, bingo, and horse racing. The latter was the biggest victim of the revenue shift.
- 1931 - Nevada legalizes casinos - Pioneer Club, the country's first regulated casino, opens in Las Vegas.
- 1949 - Nevada legalizes off-track betting on horses and sports betting.
- 1961 - Congress passes Wire Act to fight interstate sports betting.
- 1964 - New Hampshire becomes the first state with a lottery.
- 1976 - New Jersey voters approve a constitutional amendment to legalize casinos in Atlantic City.
- 1978 - Resorts International opens in Atlantic City.
- 1978 - Horseracing Act passes Congress. It gives horseracing exemption from the Wire Act and future federal gambling laws.
- 1989 - South Dakota becomes third casino state, casinos open in Deadwood.
- 1991 - Iowa opens the first riverboat casino in the USA.
- 1992 - Congress passes Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which bans sports betting expansion.
- 1994 - First online casino launches in Antigua, United States players accepted.
- 1996 - Intertops accepts first online sports bet. The site still accepts Americans.
- 1998 - Planet Poker deals first real money online poker hand.
- 2001 - Nevada legalizes online poker. US Department of Justice convinces state it may be against federal law and it never goes live.
- 2003 - Chris Moneymaker wins World Series of Poker Main Event. He gained entry through $39 satellite at PokerStars.
- 2003 - Online poker boom begins, often attributed to Moneymaker win.
- 2006 - Congress passes the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Most poker and casino sites leave US market.
- 2009 - Delaware attempts to launch Nevada-style sports betting. Major sports leagues stop it in federal court.
- 2010 - Sports betting apps and websites go live in Nevada.
- 2011 - Washington D.C. City Council legalizes online poker and casino games through the DC Lottery.
- 2011- New Jersey Legislature legalizes online poker and casino games. Governor Christie vetoes the bill.
- 2011 - Black Friday indictments unsealed against PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. Charges initiated from US Attorney's Office in Southern District of New York.
- 2011 - US Attorney's Office in Maryland indicts a dozen sports betting sites. The action becomes known as Blue Monday.
- 2011 - US Department of Justice declares online poker, casino games, and lotteries legal if expressly approved by states.
- 2011 - Nevada Gaming Commission passes online poker regulations based on 2001 law.
- 2011 - New Jersey voters direct state legislature to pass sports betting regulations.
- 2012 - New Jersey Legislature legalizes sports betting. Sports league's defeat law in federal court.
- 2012 - Washington D.C. City Council repeals online gambling law. The games never launched.
- 2012 - US Attorney's Office in Maryland indicts Calvin Ayre and two others associated with Bodog.
- 2012 - Delaware Legislature passes a law giving state lottery ability to operate online poker and casino games. The network launches in November 2013.
- 2013 - Nevada Legislature passes framework for state online poker industry. Ultimate Poker and WSOP.com go live.
- 2013 - New Jersey Legislature passes online poker and casino bill. Governor Christie signs a bill into law after a conditional veto. Sites launch in November 2013.
- 2014 - New Jersey Legislature passes second sports betting bill. Sports leagues challenge the legality of the bill again. The case is still in federal court.
- 2014 - Delaware and Nevada enter poker liquidity sharing agreement.
- 2015 - WSOP.com in Nevada and Delaware Lottery's poker network combine player pools.
- 2015 - Several state attorneys general declare daily fantasy sports gambling.
Commercial Casinos and Native American Casinos
Commercial casinos are those you'll find in Las Vegas, owned by famous companies like Las Vegas Sands, Wynn Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and MGM Resorts. Native American casinos or "tribal" casinos are located across the United States. A total of 474 Indian casinos operate in 28 of the 50 US states.
A landmark 1987 US Supreme Court decision (California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians) led to the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which gave Native American tribes the right to build such casinos. The Supreme Court ruled that tribes which signed treaties with the United States federal government should be considered sovereign nations for the purposes of gambling, because the US government recognized them as sovereign by signing a treaty with them.
To be eligible to build a casino, the Native American tribe had to have been recognized by the US Interior Department's Bureau of Indian Affairs before the year 1932. Otherwise, the Interior Department must grant a waiver. Also, tribal casinos must be built on Native American reservations. Subsequent rulings allowed tribes to buy private land for casino development, but that land must be attached to the reservation lands or otherwise add something (besides gambling) to the reservation - such as resources or access it otherwise would not have. Tribal casinos have certain other differences.
Differences Between Tribal Casinos and Commercial Casinos:
- Gaming Compact: To operate legally, a Native American casino's tribal authority must agree to a gaming compact with the US states in which it sits. The tribe agrees to pay enough taxes to the state to pay for regulation of the casino, but the state cannot charge more than the cost of regulatory oversight.
- Granting Concessions: States can negotiate higher taxes if they give the tribal casino certain concessions. This might include a monopoly inside the state on certain types of games. It also might include the agreement new casinos won't be built in a certain section of the state near the tribal casino.
- Class III Gaming Machines: Tribal casinos cannot offer Class III games. Class III gaming machines are slot machines or video poker machines whose results are independent based on every single spin. Class III machines are also called Las Vegas-style slot machines.
- Class II Gaming Machines: Instead, tribal casinos offer Class II games. The prize pool follows the rules of a lottery or raffle, in which a winning result on one spin reduces the odds of winning the big prize. This is why you'll see a simulated bingo card somewhere on many slot machines and video poker machines in tribal casinos. In other locations, you'll see "video lottery terminals" or VLTs, which look very similar to slot machines but use a lottery or bingo game element.
- Banked Table Games: In Las Vegas, table games like blackjack, baccarat, or roulette pit the player versus the dealer (or house). These are called house-banked games because the casino acts as the banker. In short, if you win, the casino honors the debt. In California, commercial casinos are not allowed to offer banked table games. A player at the table must cover all bets. If no such player is willing to do so, third-party vendors are on-hand to act as a player to cover the bets. That is what makes California Blackjack different than regular blackjack.
- California Craps: Whether in tribal or commercial casinos, dice games like craps cannot be resolved with dice alone in California, too. Instead, California casinos like Agua Caliente, Pechanga, Pala, or San Manuel offers craps played with cards. Because the law states "dice alone", you'll find some casinos which use a combination of dice and cards to resolve the game.
- Tribal Sportsbooks: If the US Supreme Court strikes down the federal ban on sports betting (PASPA), tribal casinos will have trouble opening sportsbooks as soon as commercial casinos. The Native American tribes will have to renegotiate their gaming compacts, which might take months or years. Commercial casinos can open a sportsbook the day the individual US state approves land-based sports betting.
States That Don't Allow Gambling
Only two US states have a 100% ban on gambling: Hawaii and Utah. Only six US states do not allow lottery betting: Hawaii, Utah, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska, and Nevada. Twenty-two US states allow lottery gambling or pari-mutuel betting on horse races, but do not have land-based casinos. Examples include Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia. In Texas, the Kickapoo Tribe's Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass has operated for years, but the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua tribes have fought the state (unsuccessfully) for years for the right to open a tribal casino. The fact the tribes were recognized only in 1987 is their main impediment. A number of US states have major tribal casino industries.
US States with Tribal Casinos
- California Tribal Casinos: California has the most tribal casinos. 61 different Native American casinos operate at present. The tribes have tremendous political power in the state, as their opposition to PokerStars has assured California online poker bills have failed.
- Oklahoma Tribal Casinos: Since Oklahoma Territory was where the US government forced many eastern tribes to locate, it's no surprise that Oklahoma has many tribal casinos (60). The Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, Pottawatomie, Ottawa, Osage, Tulsa, and Chickasaw tribes each have multiple casinos. WinStar World Casino in Thackerville (Chickasaw) and Choctaw Casino in Durant (Choctaw) are two of the biggest land casinos in the world because they are located just over the Texas/Oklahoma border, about 1 hour's drive from Dallas.
- New Mexico Tribal Casinos: New Mexico has 25 tribal casinos. The New Mexico tribes like the Pojoaque Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, and San Felipe tribes currently are locked in a struggle with the State of New Mexico, which is trying to impose new taxes on the tribal casinos without giving concessions.
- Arizona Tribal Casinos: Arizona also has 25 tribal casinos. Famous tribes like the Navajo and Mohave each have casinos, while tribes like the Pima and Maricopa have multiple casinos.
- Florida Tribal Casinos: The Seminole Tribe of Florida owns 8 land-based casinos in Florida alone. The tribe's gaming compact is being renegotiated currently, but the tribe has offered to pay $3 billion to the State of Florida over the next 7 years to extend the compact. The Seminoles might be the biggest success story, as they now own Hard Rock International and are planning the Hard Rock Atlantic City (Trump Taj Mahal), which is set to open in May 2018.
- New York Tribal Casinos: New York State has 12 tribal casinos. The Mohawk Nation, the Seneca Nation, and the Oneida Indian Nation are some of the tribal gaming authorities in New York.
- Connecticut Tribal Casinos: Connecticut's is home to two of the famous Native American casinos: The Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Casino. At a time, the two casinos were the largest and most opulent in the world. The Mohegan Tribe owns Mohegan Sun, while the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe owns Foxwoods. The one-time rivals now plan a joint venture in East Windsor, a suburb of Hartford.
Online US Casinos
The 1990's brought a new type of gambling to Americans. The Internet made it easy to play right from one's own home. Online casinos offer all games that are found in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. This includes roulette, craps, blackjack, poker, slots, video poker and card games banked by the house. Sports betting is also common at casinos on the Internet.
The First States to Regulate:
Due to the fast-moving pace of the market, state and local governments were not quick to embrace online gambling. Delaware and New Jersey are the only two states that regulated online casino games. Both also permit online poker. Nevada allows its casinos to offer online poker and mobile sports betting. Online horse racing is available in more than half of states while a few sell lottery tickets over the Internet.
One reason states were originally reluctant to legalize online gambling was because of an odd interpretation of the Wire Act by the US Department of Justice, which claimed states could not regulate the activity. This opinion surfaced after the Nevada Legislature drafted the first steps in legalizing online poker in the state. The Wire Act of 1961, which bans interstate sports betting, was the law cited for this opinion. Sports betting is the only form of gambling specified in the Wire Act.
The Department of Justice's letter did not match with legal experts and in 2011, it was reversed. This opened the door for states to legalize intrastate online US casinos.
Online Gambling Expansion:
The expansion of gambling to the Internet often requires the same legislative process as the legalization of USA casinos. Some state legislatures have adopted policies without a constitutional ballot under the position that voters already affirmed poker, casino games, horse racing, and lotteries. Other state lawmakers and attorneys general feel that even the regulation of daily fantasy sports would require a constitutional amendment. The complicated legislative process and the special interests are the reason why more states have not joined Delaware and New Jersey in regulating online slots, video poker, and table games.
Players in all states have access to online gambling. You just have to know where to look to get a safe and fair bet.
Online Casino vs. Land-Based Casinos
A comparison between land-based casinos and online casinos should note that there are similarities and differences. Online casino designers tried to mimic the gaming experience gamblers traditionally had in brick-and-mortar casinos. Some of those efforts worked, but the technology did not allow such mimicry at first. Let's get an overview of the differences and similarities.
Similarities: Online Casinos and Land-Based Casinos
- Playing Slots: Online slots are quite similar to land-based slots. Both used video graphics to simulate the reels, while both use a random number generator to produce results.
- VIP Rewards Programs: Most online casinos have a loyalty program or VIP rewards program. These are similar to the slots clubs you'll find in brick-and-mortar casinos, where you build up points from betting and receive cashback, rewards, or other incentives.
- Video Poker: Video poker games online are quite similar to land-based video poker. In fact, because video poker machines don't rely on advanced graphics, online video poker's graphics are quite similar. Both games use an RNG to produce results.
- Full List of Games: Online casinos have a full list of table games, slots, and video poker. It used to be that online poker, sports betting, and racebook betting were done on different websites entirely (with different VIP programs). Now, sites like BetOnline Casino and Betway Casino have casino games, poker, and sports betting combined on one site and in one VIP rewards program.
- Live Dealer Games: In the last few years, live dealer casinos have appeared that reintroduce many elements of land-based games. Real life dealers present live versions of blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, and table poker similar to land-based table games. Video cameras film the hands, dice rolls, and spins as they happen and the results are streamed live to your computer screen in real time.
Differences: Online Casinos and Land-Based Casinos:
- Convenience: Online casino gambling is much more convenient than land-based casino gaming. You can sit in the comfort and privacy of your own home, raid your refrigerator and not worrying about your appearance. Once the game is over, you turn off the computer and the gambling session has ended.
- Table Games: For many years, online table games like baccarat, blackjack, craps, and roulette used video simulations and RNGs, like slots or video poker, would. The game mechanics were there, but the social experience and camaraderie were missing. Live casino games now restore the live table game experience, though traditional online table games remain different.
- Bigger Selection: Unless you live in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Monte Carlo, or Macau, you're likely to be near one lone land-based casino. With a desktop computer, Android smartphone, or iPhone, you have hundreds upon hundreds of online casino choices. This means competition for your business and better promotional offers for you.
- No Card Counting: Land-based blackjack deals cards from a shoe. This allows card counting to take place because casino dealers usually wait until 75% penetration of the shoe before reshuffling. Online blackjack with an RNG reshuffles after each blackjack hand. Live dealer blackjack is like land-based blackjack, so card counting works in a live casino online.
- More Games: Online casinos have more game options. Many online casinos have 400 or more video slots games, which is more than double the titles you'll find in most land-based casinos. Some have a dozen or more real money blackjack variants and all three major forms of roulette (European, American, French), which is not common in land casinos. Lotto-style games like online scratchcards and Keno are available, while several forms of bingo are located in the specialty games section of many online casinos.
Frequently Asked Questions About US Casinos
How many states have at least one casino?
If including ones located on reservations, there are 40 states with at least one casino.
Which states do not have a casino?
Alaska, Hawaii, Georgia, Utah, Nebraska, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, and Vermont, do not have any land-based or tribal casinos.
What states have legal sports betting?
Nevada is the only state with full legal sports betting. The Delaware Lottery sells three or more team parlay cards on NFL games.
Why are Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon exempted from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)?
All four states had laws on the books permitted some form of sports betting in 1992 when PASPA was enacted. Oregon has since repealed its Sports Action Lottery. Montana's exemption is connected to sports pools and later daily fantasy sports.
Are online casinos legal in the United States?
There are no laws on the books in 47 states about players gambling over the Internet. It is a crime in Louisiana, Utah, and Washington. No player has ever been convicted.
Which states have regulated online poker?
Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey have regulated online poker through the state legislature.
Which states have regulated online casino games?
Delaware and New Jersey permit a full slate of casino games. Georgia and Michigan have online slots and keno through a state lottery.
Are there still safe sites to play online poker and casino games from the US?
Yes. There are still many legitimate offshore sites that accept bets from Americans.
How do I deposit to a poker and casino site?
The most common forms of deposit options are Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Bitcoin and Western Union. Some sites accept bank wires or a money order by mail.
How do I withdraw from a poker or casino site after I win?
These sites pay winners by check, cash transfer, debit card, bank transfer, and Bitcoin.
How do I find the closest casino?
World Casino Directory is a great source for live casinos.
Where do I find more information about state gambling laws?
This site offers a resource for all 50 states when it comes to the types of gambling permitted. You can also find on our site the most up to date gambling revenue data and facts.
What does the future look like for bricks-and-mortar casinos?
There are casinos in 40 states at this time. Georgia and Texas seem to be the next battlefields for expansion. The market is close to saturation and the number of casinos opening in the next decade will be much smaller than what the last one brought.
What is the outlook for regulated online gambling?
More states are expected to enter the regulated online gambling industry in the 2010's. Pennsylvania, New York, and California appear to be the most likely to enter the industry next.
Which states allow casinos?
Most every state offers casino gaming in some form or fashion in the US. Traditional casinos, as well as Native American tribal venues, can be found across the nation. Use our States page to find info on your state and if gaming venues are provided.
What cities have casinos?
There are hundreds of casinos located across the United States with several cities featuring gaming venues. Large, well-known cities provide casinos as well as the lesser known areas. Use our States Page to find your state and on that page, you will find if city where you live or will be visiting provide casino gaming.
How many states have legalized casino gambling?
48 states in total have permitted some form of live gambling. Learning more about your home state will help you to find available venues in your area.