Best USA State Casinos – All Legal USA Casinos & Gambling Laws
Most US players may not know that only 48 allow gambling and US casinos. To further complicate things, these states allow certain types of gambling. That’s why our team of experts has created this guide on states and gambling laws. The federal government doesn’t regulate gambling. So, in all 50 states, local legislators need to regulate all forms of gambling. This includes restrictions on sports betting, poker rooms, horse racing, online gambling sites, and state lotteries.
Since the gambling industry is so broad, it’s strictly watched. However, after the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was overturned, state legislation started. If you’d like to skip ahead to your state, we’ve got an interactive map to help.
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USA Casinos – State Laws & Maps
Here in the US, states are allowed to define gambling in their own words and classify gambling. This means that varying states have different definitions and classes for gambling. So, this makes learning your state’s laws important. Many online gambling operators aren’t allowed to expand in the US without state laws, which means they could be operating illegally. Before getting started with US casinos, we recommend searching for your home state’s laws.
Using the definitions, some states won’t allow Daily Fantasy Sports betting, while others will. Similarly, poker rooms online are treated the same. Each state’s constitution will address how gambling is regulated and allowed to expand. Usually, any changes will require a constitutional amendment where voters will have their say if it’s approved in the legislature. For USA players living in more conservative states, this becomes tricky.
USA Casino Facts
- The lottery is the most popular form of gambling.
- 48 states regulate a form of gambling.
- Three states regulate online gambling.
- Online gambling is mostly a grey area.
- Gambling income is taxable for professionals.
US Sports Betting Laws
Until 1992, each state’s stance on sports betting was their problem. However, when the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed by Congress, it became a federal law. This stopped the expansion of sports betting at the state level. Only Delaware, Montana, Nevada and Oregon because they had already legalized. In addition, Mississippi, Louisiana, South Dakota, Iowa, Colorado, Illinois, and Missouri all legalized casinos three years before Congress voted on the sports betting issue.
On May 14th of 2018, the US Supreme Court overturned PASPA on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. Currently, casinos and sports betting are allowed, but not in Utah or Hawaii. Nevada and New Jersey had also passed laws allowing commercial gaming for slot machines and gaming tables. Legal gambling is back on the table and Internet gambling is a big issue.
In 2006, Congress passed another restricting law known as the Unlawful Internet Gambling Prohibition Act (UIGEA). UIEGA made offering online gambling services to US citizens illegal. It also allowed for federal prosecution of any sites offering their services. Many USA poker fans were disappointed to find out that they could no longer use poker sites.
However, Congress tied UIGEA to the Wire Act of 1961. The Wire Act has been used many times to justify making Internet gambling illegal. However, the Department of Justice did give states the green light to allow online gambling sites in 2011. They also stated that the Wire Act would only apply to sports betting, but even that has been overturned. So, as long as USA players do so safely, they can technically gamble legally anywhere in the United States.
The only requirements for this amendment are that age and location verification services must be in place. In effect, limiting unauthorized or illegal access to US online casinos and gambling sites.
US casinos have existed for almost a century, mainly in Nevada. Before that, US citizens gambled in saloons and public houses. So, you could say that gambling has been a part of US history since the beginning. Of course, the first-ever gambling den was Brown’s Saloon, which opened on what we now call the Wyoming and Colorado border in 1822. In the early 1900s, a conservative movement managed to remove every casino in the US.
Then, in 1931, casinos were back in Nevada, which was the only state with regulated casinos. The state was also the first to legalize off-track betting on horse races and sports betting. However, the East Coast reportedly had a host of illegal gambling venues in the underground until the 1950s.
New Jersey then became the second state to legalize casinos and brought Atlantic City into the industry in 1978. After 11 years, South Dakota joined the party with its own casinos. This momentum snowballed during the 90s and tribal casinos started to open along the Mississippi River.
Commercial and tribal casinos in the US are two categories that states allow. Casino resorts in Las Vegas are commercial. On the other hand, Native American casinos operate on tribal land. In 2020, 474 tribal casinos operate in 28 states across the US.
So, how did the distinction come to be and why was it necessary? In 1987, the US Supreme Court decided to allow tribes to own and operate casinos. Native Americans won the right to operate casinos. Through the cornerstone of the decision was California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians. In 1988, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act made the decision final.
The Supreme Court ruled that tribes who had signed treaties with the federal government are sovereign nations. They are allowed to follow tribal laws as a result.
To become eligible to open a casino, a Native American tribe must be recognized by the US Interior Department’s Bureau of Indian Affairs before 1932. Otherwise, the Interior Department had to grant a waiver. All resorts are built on tribal reservations.
Further rulings have allowed tribes to buy private land for resorts, but it must be attached to the reservation. Or, the lands must add something to the reservation (besides gambling), such as resources.
Differences Between Tribal & Commercial Gaming
- Gaming Compact – to operate legally, Native American tribe authorities have to sign a gaming compact with the state it sits in. In essence, this compact is made to ensure that the casino pays state taxes, but the state can’t charge more than the “cost of regulatory oversight”. So, no fraudulent taxes and a nice clean agreement to operate properly.
- Granting Concessions – with the gaming compact, states can ask for higher taxes only if they grant concessions. Concessions can range from tribal monopoly to allowing certain games. They might also negotiate an agreement that disallows new casinos in certain areas.
- Class III Gaming Machines – tribal casinos can’t operate Class III gaming machines like slots or video pokers. These are called “Las Vegas-Style” games because the results are independent.
- Class II Gaming Machines – instead, tribal gaming operations can offer Class II games. These are jackpots on Bingo machines. Other Class II games include “video lottery terminals (VLTs)” that use a simulated lottery ticket or bingo element.
- Tribal Sportsbooks – unlike commercial gambling operations, any tribal sportsbooks will have to be renegotiated in gaming compacts. Changes to the compacts could take years, so sportsbooks are in limbo.
US States with Tribal Casinos
- California Tribal Casinos – 61 tribal casinos are currently running in California. These tribes have a lot of say in the state, and their opposition to PokerStars has stopped all online poker bills to date.
- Oklahoma Tribal Casinos – since Oklahoma is home to the majority of Native American tribes, it’s no surprise that they also have 60 tribal gaming operations. In total, the Pottawatomie, Ottawa, Osage, Tulsa, Cherokee, Choctaw, Comanche, and Chickasaw tribes run the most casinos. Moreover, the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes operate two of the largest casinos in the world, WinStar World Resort and Choctaw Resort.
- New Mexico Tribes – right now, New Mexico has 25 tribal casinos. However, the New Mexico government is currently locked in legal battles with the Pojoaque Pueblo, Laguna Pueblo, and San Felipe tribes over raising taxes without concessions.
- Arizona Tribal Casinos – with 25 casinos in the state, the famous Navajo and Mohave tribes run multiple operations in conjunction with the Pima and Maricopa.
- Florida Tribes – the majority of Floridian casinos are owned and operated by the Seminole tribe. They operate 8 casinos in the state and are in the midst of negotiating their gaming compact. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because the Seminoles own Hard Rock International and Hard Rock Atlantic City.
- New York Tribal US Casinos – with just 12 tribal casinos, New York is probably the most profitable. The Seneca Nation, the Mohawk Nation, and the Oneida Indian Nation all own venues in the state.
- Connecticut Tribes – home to the two most famous tribal gaming operations, Connecticut’s Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are famous worldwide. While Foxwoods is operated by the Mashantucket Pequot tribe, the Mohegan Sun is owned by the Mohegan tribe. The two tribes are now going to partner in a new venture based in East Windsor.
At the time of writing, only two of the 50 states in the US don’t allow gambling. Both Hawaii and Utah have no laws, and it doesn’t look like they will any time soon. These states have a 100% ban on all forms of gambling. Conversely, Mississippi, Alabama, Alaska and Nevada don’t have lotteries either.
At least 22 states allow pari-mutuel betting on horse races or lottery gambling, but not land-based casinos. For example, Kentucky, South Carolina, Georgia and Virginia. In Texas, the Lucky Eagle Casino in Eagle Pass is the only legal brick-and-mortar casino. Alabama’s Coushatta and Tigua tribes have fought (unsuccessfully) to open casinos. Unfortunately, they aren’t eligible to create a gaming compact.
With so much going on for land-based operators, where can web-based casinos fall in? Back in the 1990s, the first online casinos hit the US market and made it easier to gamble. Since these US casinos can offer every game in existence, the choices are pretty exciting. Of course, lawmakers saw a lot of problems with this and regulations quickly started popping up.
First States to Regulate Gambling
In part, the fast pace of the online gambling industry led to many legislators denouncing them. Local governments were especially at a loss. As a result, only New Jersey and Delaware have managed to pass laws for Internet gambling. USA players in these states can enjoy online slots, poker, blackjack, craps, roulette and many others from their homes. Nevada has only legalized online poker rooms and sports betting to date.
Conversely, half of the 50 states allow online horse racing bets as well as online lottery ticket purchases. One of the reasons many other states won’t regulate online gambling is the Wire Act of 1961. As we mentioned above, it has been used to prohibit web gambling through interpretation. Yet, the act came into being before the internet. Under the act, interstate betting is illegal, but this technically only applies to sports wagering.
Online USA Casinos Expansion
When the Wire Act was reversed in 2011, states were able to start the process to legalize. Some states have simply legalized all casino games without voters because they claim the voters already approved other games. In other states, attorney generals and legislators are worried about Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). To allow DFS, the constitution must change.
Complicated legislative processes and special interests are the main reasons why states haven’t followed New Jersey and Delaware with online US casinos. Still, USA players in all states have access to web-based gambling websites. So, you just need to find the safe and trustworthy kinds like our reviewed and rated casinos listed above.
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US Casinos FAQs
Including casinos located on tribal reservations, there are 40 states with at least one legal casino.
Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii, Georgia, Utah, and Nebraska don’t have casinos.
Nevada is currently the only state with comprehensive online sports betting legislation. Delaware, New Jersey and a few others have bills in the works.
You can simply type “casino near me” into Google and it will match your closest casino. However, this will work even if you’re hundreds of miles from the nearest one.
Our site offers guides on each state’s individual laws and legislature. In addition, your local government will have similar resources online.
Only 42 states allow casinos. Use our interactive map above to find them.
Most of the large cities across the US have local land-based casinos. But, no cities in Hawaii, Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Vermont, Alaska, Georgia, Utah, and Nebraska have casinos.
In total, 48 states have legalized gambling in some form. However, they differ on which formats are allowed.