Sports Betting Laws In The United States

One of the important aspects of betting sports in the United States concerns the federal and state laws in place regulating the activity. There is legislation that Americans wanting to bet on sports need to understand for a couple of reasons. The first reason is that the laws stipulate what exactly constitutes illegal betting activity. But at the same time, the federal laws have made room for betting to be done legally in certain states at land-based locations. And then when it comes to placing a sports wager online, that opens the door for many more people to have that opportunity based on the location of the site.

The sports betting laws section at is designed to paint a picture of the legal landscape in the U.S. and its attitude towards betting sports. What the sports betting arena has going for it is that it's a very popular activity to do, in spite of the fact that it is quite limited within states at land-based locations. In fact, you'll read about the specific laws governing this and which states allow for forms of betting, or have the potential to host legal sports wagering.

Federal Sports Betting Laws In The U.S.

There are three primary sports betting laws that cover land-based and online sports betting activities in the United States. But what many that are unfamiliar with these laws find quite surprising, is the fact that wagering on sports can actually be done quite easily given today's advanced technological climate.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

The UIGEA was established in 2006 and implemented as means to combat online betting websites in the U.S. This law does not single out sports betting sites, it encompasses all forms of gambling. But what the UIGEA attacks is the means in which an online betting site is able to make a profit. In other words, the way a gambling site makes money is by having sportsbook deposit methods that work when users want to deposit cash for betting. The UIGEA makes it illegal for the transaction to be accepted on the part of the gambling site knowingly. The person who places the bet is not in a violation of the law which is very important to understand.

With the individual not in the wrong by placing a wager, this leaves the door open for sites that operate outside of the U.S. laws to accept players from the United States. The end result is that offshore sports betting sites began to pop up in countries like Costa Rica and Panama just outside of the U.S. Their goal was to provide American sports gamblers with a legal place to wager on sports online, an act that is hugely popular with Internet access so easily achieved.

Federal Wire Act of 1961

The Wire Act used to apply to all types of gambling, but a ruling by the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeal in 2011 stipulated that sports betting is now the only form governed by it. The Wire Act takes a similar approach to the UIGEA, in that it's the gambling business that is affected while the individual citizens is still able to act freely.

The Wire Act mandates that gambling businesses cannot use forms of wire communication to aid them in the practice of accepting wagers that are placed by customers. This means that the business is at fault and deemed to be conducting illegal activities should this be discovered.

Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

This is the law that many are familiar with, but might now know it by name. It's the legislation that makes betting on sports illegal in most states at land-based sportsbooks. PASPA was passed and implemented back in 1992 as means to end sports betting related activities for just about every state. There were four that were grandfathered in under the law. There are just two states of those four that continue to have a form of sports betting. The four states were Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. Nevada is the state that many recognize. Delaware is actually the other one. Most don't think of Delaware when it comes to sports betting, but this state has played a critical role in it for several years.

There continues to be an ongoing debate about the legality of sports betting in the U.S. and whether or not PASPA is constitutional. New Jersey has argued recently that PASPA is not constitutional because it directly goes against the will of certain states. New Jersey has twice voted in favor of legalizing sports betting, but cannot do so because of PASPA. New Jersey argues that it should be up to the states and not the federal government to decide.

State Laws That Affect Sports Gambling

This next topic of state laws feeds right into the topic we were just talking about. The majority of states defer to the federal laws in place, but there are some trying to argue against them (New Jersey) and some that have the opposite view and want to impose stricter laws (Washington). State laws are interesting because there can be many of them, and they don't get the notoriety that federal laws do for the most part.

As New Jersey continues to argue about the constitutionality of PASPA, it would be very interesting if they were to win their case. It's been close already, with a split decision by an appellate court. The next step for New Jersey is to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to argue their case.

In terms of state laws, consulting your local officials or attorneys is the best way to become informed on what the legislation in your area says. We highly recommend doing this if you have questions regarding the latest developments, if any.

Find Out More: Is Sports Betting Legal In My State?

Age To Bet On Sports In The United States

The betting age in the United States is not a federal issue; it is a local state law. This is interesting for two reasons. The first is because there can be many different betting ages with the 50 states though it's made up of 18 and 21 depending where you live. Secondly, the age to bet is decided by the states, yet most betting laws reside at the federal level. This gives merit to the argument in favor of New Jersey for the states to decide what's best for them. It's a bit contradictory for the federal government to say what can and can't be done for sports betting, but still allowing the states to mandate the age to legal wager in their own state.

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Penalties For Betting On Sports In The U.S.

One of the most frequently asked questions relating to sports gambling centers around the trouble that users may or may not get into for wagering. But the answer is that it's rare to get in trouble, even betting online.

The real trouble surrounds businesses that operate illegal betting activities either at land-based locations or through the Internet. This is where people can get into trouble. But you'll find that so long as you don't operate an online sportsbook and only place a bet, you won't get in trouble because it's legal to do.

The other primary issue surrounds underage betting. This is a universal law even at offshore sportsbooks. Betting sites take underage gambling very seriously and implement task forces to investigate any potential illegal activities taking place.

Find Out More: Is Sports Betting Legal In The United States?

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