Federal + State Sports Betting Laws

In the United States there are laws that relate directly to sports betting in several different arenas. The legislation can be found both at the federal and state levels; though for the majority of states the choice is to defer to what the federal laws stipulate. Anyone interested in betting should be aware of what laws affect them and how betting on sports can be done legally. Make no mistake, sports betting laws still allow for forms of legalized betting to be conducted.

Keep it here as all types of sports betting laws are discussed below, plus get to the answers to some very important questions relating to the legal forms of sports betting that can be accessed by residents of the United States. The wide popularity of sports betting dictates that it still be allowed in the U.S., and even has the potential to expand into fully regulated online sportsbooks in the future.

Is It Legal To Wager On Sports In The U.S.?

There are states where betting on sports can be done legally. As it currently stands, there are just two states that have live land-based sports betting that is legal. However, under federal law there are actually four total states that are able to have active betting on sports. The four states are Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon. Of the four state that are permitted only the first two actually have regulations in place to allow bookmaking to run unimpeded.

Nevada has the most options on the table to place a legal sports wager. They have many sports and many different wager types that are available. That is not the case in Delaware. Only NFL parlay wagers are able to be made currently in Delaware, though there are many places it can be done. Delaware has pushed for a broader spectrum of legal wagering in the past unsuccessfully, but has been able to expand their locations on legal NFL parlay betting.

Keep Reading: Is It Legal To Bet Money On Sports?

Will I Get In Trouble For Betting Sports Online?

Online sports betting can be done legally by players in the United States at betting sites that operate offshore. This means that the base of operation for the site does not operate in the U.S., and will be located outside of the country. This is done to prevent any violation of state and federal laws. Being outside of the U.S. means the betting site is outside of the jurisdiction of the United States government and is therefore safe from major laws that govern sports gambling. As long as it operates in a country that allows it to, then they are good to go.

In turn, those who reside in the U.S. are able to legally sign up and create accounts with the sportsbook because of the fact that federal law doesn't prohibit the act of placing a bet online. What you'll find out that the laws ban relates to site operation. The important thing to know here is that placing a bet at an online sports betting website (like the ones shown below) will not get you into trouble provided that you meet the requirements.

Learn More: Will I Go To Jail For Betting On Sports?

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Federal Betting Laws - U.S. Sports Gambling Laws

Below we discuss three federal laws in the U.S. plus information on state laws and how they can affect betting on sports as well. This is a very important part of the page because it provides reasons why wagering on sports can be done.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

The UIGEA was passed and implemented at the federal level back in 2006 as an attachment to the Safe Port Act. The UIGEA chooses to ban the process in which sites can no longer accept a monetary transaction for a bet or a wager made. This strikes right at a gambling site, which obviously thrives from processing the bets made by sports gamblers. With this now banned, a site cannot operate legally in the United States.

Purposely left out and mentioned in the context of the law are third-party computers, which would be the betting consumers. They are not under the jurisdiction of this law, meaning that placing the wager is not illegal. This provides room for interested parties to seek out offshore sports betting sites legally.

Federal Wire Act

Another law that zeroes in on betting businesses is the Federal Wire Act. It's changed from its original purpose in the 1960's targeting organized crime, to now as of 2011 only covering sports betting. Other forms of gambling have not been ruled on to be included under the Wire Act with the exception of sports betting.

The Wire Act prevents businesses from utilizing resources in wire communication to process a bet or wager that is made. In other words, no forms of wire communication can be used by the business to aid in a financial transaction for a wager. Here again, the bettor is left out, still able to go offshore.

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

Straying away from online sports betting and into the realm of land-based sports betting is PASPA. This federal law was based and enacted in 1992, banning sports betting in all but four states. Up above we listed those states (Nevada, Delaware, Montana, and Oregon) and explained that only two feature active betting today (Nevada, Delaware).

PASPA gave states a year to apply to be grandfathered in under this law, but they would have to meet the requirements mandated. Among them included a licensed history with gaming spanning back a period of at least 10 years. These were the only states to apply for the immunity.

Age To Bet - What Is The Legal Sports Betting Age?

The sports betting age in the U.S. is decided by the states. There is not a federal betting age. That means that each state has decided its own sports betting age. They are either 18 years old or 21 years old depending on your area.

For the legal age related to online sports betting, that all comes down to the preferences of the betting website. Most legitimate online sportsbooks will require users to meet their local age in addition to the age set down on site. That legal age to create an account at a sportsbook will almost always be 18, but that doesn't mean being 18 will allow you to legally wager if your state has an age of 21. Be sure to check out the site and find out.

Can You Get Into Trouble For Betting Underage?

There can be various penalties for betting on sports, but the majority of them center on age. If you are of legal age to bet sports in your state, then you should have no problems. The legal age to bet on sports comes into play at land-based sportsbooks where the sportsbook can be penalized as well as the underage gambler. But as long as the user meets the age to bet, there will be no problems.

When it comes to betting sports online, the same holds true there too. Any potential penalties surround the operation of a site, and not those actually using the website to place a wager.

State Laws

State laws have the ability to change back and forth much quicker than federal laws. In general, almost all states defer to the federal laws, though there are some that go further. Washington has actually made it a state law banning online sports betting. But there are states on the opposite end of the spectrum like New Jersey which has appealed to the federal government to repeal PASPA and deem it unconstitutional.

The Future Of Sports Gambling + Online Betting Laws In The U.S.

There are advocates on both sides of the sports betting issue in the United States. New Jersey has been the state contesting PASPA the hardest in recent history. New Jersey has had several votes within the state passing sports betting and legal sportsbooks in the U.S. They have applied to the federal government to be allowed to have licensed sports betting but have since been denied.

With all that said, there are still some judges that have ruled in New Jersey's favor under the argument that PASPA is unconstitutional if the will of the people within the state is to have sports betting. It is certainly a convincing arguement and it is one that must be considered. If New Jersey can get PASPA repealed and have regulated bookmaking in the state, the door would be open for all other U.S. States to get on board with the action.

Right now it's only Nevada, Delaware + offshore / online sportsbooks, but New Jersey could be next and then who knows... states like California and New York could certainly jump in the mix or maybe the feds could just regulate the industry nation-wide for those states that opt to allow sports betting.