Over the past 25 years, the legal status of real money online gambling has been on a rollercoaster ride, with changes in regulations and laws making it legal in some places and illegal in others. For players and operators, like All Slots Casino New Zealand, understanding the complex and evolving legal landscape is essential.

In the United States, online gambling legality has varied widely from state to state. In the early days of the internet, there were no laws specifically prohibiting online gambling, but in 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) banned financial institutions from processing payments related to online wagering. This drove many gambling sites out of the U.S. market.

The Early Days of Legal Online Gambling in America

In the 1990s and early 2000s, online gambling operated in a legal gray area in many parts of the world. Some countries like Australia fully legalized and regulated it, while in the U.S. its legality was ambiguous. During this time, Americans could freely play real money games on sites operated from jurisdictions like Costa Rica and the Caribbean.

That changed with the UIGEA and the exit of major sites from the American market. But in late 2011, the Justice Department issued an opinion that the Wire Act applied only to sports betting, not other forms of gambling. This opened the door for states to legalize online gambling, beginning with Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey:


StateYear Legal Online Gambling Launched
New Jersey2013

The Current Legal Status of Online Gambling in America

Today, six states have legal regulated online gambling industries – Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan. Each state has its own regulatory framework governing licensing, taxation, eligible games and more.

In addition, only 16 states have legalized online sports betting. With more states introducing and passing legislation every year, experts predict 50% of states could have legal online gambling by 2025.

The remaining states still prohibit all forms of real money internet gambling. However, players in these states can access offshore sites, though the legality of playing on them is questionable.

Federal Efforts to Expand Online Gambling

While states have led the push to legalize real money online gambling in recent years, there have also been efforts at the federal level.

In 2017 and 2019, Pennsylvania representative John Chrin introduced federal bills to regulate online poker and casino games nationwide. The bills did not pass, but are indicative of a growing bipartisan consensus on expanding internet gambling regulation.

The International Online Gambling Landscape

The legal status of online gambling also varies widely around the world. Some countries like Australia and the UK have established regulated markets. Others like Singapore, China and the UAE prohibit it entirely. And many take an ambiguous approach where players access offshore sites in a legal gray area.

Europe – Open Markets

Several European nations have legal, regulated online gambling markets, including the UK, Malta, Italy, Spain, France, Denmark and others. Europe represents the largest regulated gambling jurisdiction in the world. Players can freely access licensed sites based locally, as well as those headquartered abroad but holding a local license.

Asia – Restrictive Laws

Most Asian countries take a restrictive stance on internet gambling. China and South Korea have outlawed it entirely. Others, like Thailand, have tried blocking access to foreign sites. Only a handful of places like the Philippines have legalized and regulated online casinos and sportsbooks.

Global Operators vs Local Sites

In legal markets, players can access sites operated by global brands like Bet365, as well as local domain sites specifically focused on that jurisdiction. These local sites tailor their product to the language, culture and preferences of local players.

While the legal landscape has shifted frequently, the trend globally is toward increased regulation. More countries are establishing licensed, consumer-protected markets and generating tax revenue from online gambling. But the complex patchwork of laws means players and operators must educate themselves on the legality of real money games where they live and work.

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