Online gambling is regulated at the state level in the United States. This means there is no federal framework for online casinos in the USA, but rather each state has autonomy in determining if it would like to authorize online casinos and how those sites should be regulated.
US Online Casino Reviews
Most states that have legalized online gambling to date did so with legislation that fosters a competitive environment. New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan, for example, allow land-based casinos to launch multiple brands that all compete against one another for customers across the state.
The end result is players in these states have numerous online casinos to choose from. Our legal US casino reviews go into great detail explaining what to expect from each gambling site so you can find the one that best fits your needs. Our reviews discuss strengths and weaknesses, types of games offered, welcome bonuses and much more.
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States with Legal Online Casinos
Five US states have legislation in place that allows licensed operators to host real money casino games for people located inside state lines. New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware are home to a variety of licensed casino sites that are up and running while Michigan and West Virginia have passed legislation but are waiting for regulators to give the green light for operators to take their games online.
States with Legal Online Casinos
New Jersey legalized online casinos in 2013 after Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law allowing the state’s land-based casinos to operate real money gambling sites. These websites are open to anyone 21 or older inside New Jersey.
All New Jersey casinos operate in combination with experienced software providers, and this has proven to be a smart move. Compared to what we’ve seen in other states, New Jersey’s casino sites are polished, well-run and successful. Although gaming revenues fell short of expectations in their first year, revenue numbers have been steadily growing since. Last year, New Jersey online casinos brought in roughly $245 million in revenue.
Today, there are numerous licensed casino sites in New Jersey run by the major Atlantic City properties. Land-based casinos have the option to operate multiple betting sites, so some of these sites are actually managed by the same casino even if they run under different brand names. For instance, the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City manages GoldenNuggetCasino.com, Betfaircasino.com and PlaySugarHouse.com.
Additionally, each casino is free to partner with different software providers for each online gaming brand. That means two casino sites run by a single Atlantic City casino may actually provide players with a completely unique experience at each.
To continue our example, GoldenNuggetCasino.com is powered by NYX Gaming software while PlaySugarHouse.com is powered by Rush Street Interactive software even though both sites operate under a single online gaming license issued to Golden Nugget Atlantic City.
Delaware passed the “Delaware Gaming Competitiveness Act of 2012” (full text) to legalize both online casinos and poker sites. The law allows the state’s three existing land-based operators to host real money games. All gaming sites located in Delaware answer to the state’s lottery commission.
A small gambling population and technical issues have so far proved challenging for Delaware’s fledgling internet gaming industry, but lawmakers say they remain hopeful nonetheless. Operators and state officials have said they don’t expect the industry to become a gold mine overnight. Instead, they are more concerned with being ready for the future of online gaming and prefer to have something in place now rather than wait for other states to get a head start.
Pennsylvania passed comprehensive gambling legislation in 2017 opening the door for online sports betting, casino gaming, poker and lottery. Governor Wolf signed the bill into law on October 30th of 2017 to make Pennsylvania the fourth state to legalize online gaming behind Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.
Pennsylvania’s casinos were at first reluctant to apply for sports betting licenses, but eventually they applied to offer sports in addition to online casino games and poker. The first PA online casinos launched near the end of 2018 to make Pennsylvania one of the most gaming-friendly states in the Union.
The 2017 gaming legislation also gave the Pennsylvania Lottery authorization to begin offering a variety of lottery-style games online to state residents. PA iLottery launched for business in June of 2018 with a collection of instant win games.
In a sign of good things to come, the Pennsylvania online lottery managed to attract 45,000 new customers and generate $21.6 million worth of sales in its first month of operation despite launching with just a handful of instant win games. As the PA iLottery matures and adds additional games, the sky is the limit as far as revenues go.
West Virginia legalized online casino games and poker in early 2019 with a bill authorizing land-based casinos to take their games online. The legislation is now in place, but time is still needed for the WV Lottery Commission to draw up regulations and issue the state’s first online gambling licenses.
Licensed WV casino sites will be able to offer a range of games, including all standard casino games and poker. This is still very much a work in progress, but the legislation has been fully approved. Now, it is just a matter of time before the first gambling sites go live in WV.
A large gaming expansion bill approved in Michigan gave land-based casinos the ability to apply for licenses to launch up to two individual gambling platforms each. With each casino allowed to operate up to two online casinos, Michigan set the groundwork for a competitive industry.
The first MI online casinos will launch after the MGCB finalizes regulations, issues licenses and authorizes operators to officially go live. This is expected to happen in mid to late 2020. Michigan gambling sites will be allowed to offer a full range of casino-style games such as slots and table games along with player-vs-player poker.
Legal Status of Online Gambling in the USA
In September 2011, the Department of Justice issued a memo clarifying its stance on the Wire Act in response to a query from lottery officials in New York and Illinois who wanted to authorize their state lotteries to sell tickets online.
The original question may have been specific to lottery games, but the response from the DOJ had major implications for online gambling and poker as well. The memo explained that the official DOJ opinion is that the Wire Act applies only to sports betting.
This interpretation of the Wire Act gave states the go-ahead to set up their own legal frameworks for online gambling, lotteries and poker. New Jersey was the first state to take advantage of the new Wire Act interpretation and saw its first legal online casinos launch in 2013. Numerous states have followed suit since.
The Department of Justice revised its opinion again in 2019 to revert back to the 2011 opinion, but the new opinion has actually had little impact on states’ efforts to legalize online gambling. Michigan and West Virginia passed legislation later that same year legalizing online casino games.
Right now, it seems the prevailing opinion is that online gambling does not violate the Wire Act as long as all wagers remain within state lines (the Wire Act is specific to the interstate transmission of wagers or wagering information). It is no coincidence that every state that has passed legislation requires customers to be physically located within state lines when placing wagers.
Popular Casino Games
Chance and casino games, also known as gambling games, are largely defined as games in which the outcome is determined primarily by chance (or luck). There may be elements of skill in these games, but luck is the overriding factor in determining who wins and who loses.
Despite our inability to win consistently at gambling games, we are drawn to them nonetheless. There’s a certain allure to testing your luck at the roulette table and hoping to walk away with a big win. The odds are set so that it’s quite possible to have a big night at the casino. Anything can happen in a night of gambling.
Some gambling games are clearly based on luck. For example, craps and roulette are bound by specific payout rules and there is nothing you can do to change the outcome. Games like blackjack allow the player to make decisions that have an impact on the game, but blackjack is still regarded as a gambling game because luck plays a large role in the outcome.
The following games are considered by most to be games of chance:
Baccarat is steeped in pomp and tradition, but it is a simple game at heart. When you play baccarat, you have the choice to bet on the banker, the dealer or a tie. After you place your bet, the dealer deals cards to the “dealer” and “banker” and then tallies those card totals up according to the rules of baccarat.
Point totals are a little confusing to calculate, but that’s not something the player has to worry about. You do not actually compete against the dealer or banker; you simply bet on which of those positions will win (or tie).
Blackjack is a casino classic. The goal in blackjack is to get a total as close to 21 as possible without going over. If you manage to get closer to 21 than the dealer, you win your bet. If you hit a perfect 21 (using an Ace and a face card), you get a 3:2 payout on your original bet.
Blackjack does require some skill because the decisions you make do have an impact. It is up to you to decide if you should take another card or sit tight with what you already have. But even with perfect play, the casino has a small edge over the long run.
Caribbean Stud is the casino version of 5 Card Draw poker. The main difference here is that you play against the house and not against other players. A typical game of Caribbean Stud is played by giving the dealer and each player 5 cards. The dealer reveals one card and then you decide if you wish to place an additional bet to stay in or fold.
You win in Caribbean Stud if your final 5-card hand is stronger than the dealer’s 5-card hand. The exact payout varies based on the strength of your hand. If you end up with a straight, for example, you’ll get a payout of 4:1 on your original bet.
Casino War is one of the simplest games in all of gambling. In this game, the dealer gives you one card and he takes one card for himself. If your card is higher than the dealer’s card, you win. If the dealer’s card is higher, you lose. If it’s a tie, you must choose to either surrender and give up your bet or place another bet and double the stakes.
The house advantage in Casino War comes from how ties are resolved. You are required to put up a second bet if you choose to go to war, but you only get paid 1:1 on your original bet if you win the war.
Craps is the big attention-grabber at the casino, usually marked by a crowd of people shouting bets at the dealer and cheering each other on. In craps, the players take turns throwing dice down the table. Everyone at the table places wagers on how those dice will land.
The most basic bet in craps is the pass line bet. If you place this bet, you are hoping that the first roll (the come out roll) ends up on 7 or 11. If that happens, you win right then and there. If the come out roll lands on 2, 3 or 12, you lose. If the dice land on any other number, that number establishes the point.
Once the point is established, the shooter continues throwing the dice. Your bet will win if the shooter rolls the point number again before a 7 shows up. If a 7 shows up before the point shows up again, you lose the bet. It sounds a little complicated at first but if you play through it a few times, you’ll get the hang of it.
Keno consists of a board with the numbers 1 through 80. You then pick any of those numbers as your own. In most games, you can make anywhere from 1 to 15 selections. After you make your selections, the computer picks 20 numbers at random. You win money if your selections are picked by the computer.
What makes Keno attractive is that you can achieve very high payouts if all of your selections are chosen. In some cases, payouts go as high as 10,000:1 on your original bet. The odds of all your numbers being picked are very low, but there are also payouts when just a few of your selections are hit.
Let It Ride
You begin each round of this poker-style game by placing three bets on the table in front of you. The dealer will then give you three cards face-up, followed by two cards face-down in the middle of the table. At this point, you can decide if you wish to keep going (also known as “letting it ride”) or take back one of your bets.
Next, the dealer reveals one of the face-down cards. Again, you can choose to either let it ride or take back one of your bets. If you decide to let it ride, the dealer will reveal the final face-down card. Your three cards plus the two cards in the middle of the table are combined to make a traditional five-card poker hand. If your hand is strong enough, you get a payout.
Pai Gow Poker
In Pai Gow Poker, you receive 7 cards and must arrange those cards into two different poker hands. One of those poker hands must consist of 5 cards and the other hand must consist of 2 cards. The dealer is also given 7 cards that are broken up into two different hands.
The goal in Pai Gow Poker is to beat both of the dealer’s hands with both of your own. You win money if both of your hands are stronger than both of the dealers’ hands. If you only beat one of the dealer’s hands, the round is considered a draw. If both of your hands are beaten by the dealer, you lose. Ties are quite common in this game and your money can last for quite a long time.
Poker is different than every other game on this page for one reason: poker is played against other players and not against the house. For that reason, most poker players do not consider poker a game of chance. However, the law in most jurisdictions considers poker a gambling game and that is the reason why skill gaming sites cannot legally offer real money poker.
In any case, poker is played around the world in many different formats. Texas Holdem, 5 card draw, Omaha and 7 Card Stud are just a few of the most popular variants. If you really want to win money at a casino, poker is your best bet. But beware; there are some very skilled players out there.
Roulette is another classic gambling game. This is the game in which a ball is dropped into a large spinning wheel. You place your bets, the ball is dropped in and everyone watches as the ball slowly comes to a rest in one of the 37 marked slots on the wheel.
Your objective in roulette is to correctly predict where the ball will land. You can place wagers on specific slots or entire ranges of slots. For example, you may choose to bet on the ball landing in the slot marked “20” or you can bet on the ball landing in the numbers 1-12. You can also place multiple bets to increase your chances of hitting a winning payout.
Slot machines are a staple in all casinos. Slots come in all different variations, but the general idea is to spin the reels and hope for a favorable outcome. There is no strategy involved in slots; all you do is put your money in and give the reels a spin.
Payouts are awarded when the symbols on the spinning reels come to rest in specific patterns. Some patterns are fairly common and result in small payouts. Other patterns are extremely rare and result in massive jackpots. This game based entirely on luck.
Three Card Poker
A round of Three Card Poker begins with you placing an ante wager. You and the dealer each receive three cards. After you look at your cards, you can decide if you wish to continue or forfeit. If you want to continue, you’ll need to place a second bet equal in size to your first ante wager.
Then, all the cards are revealed. If your hand beats the dealer’s hand, you receive a payout. You also get special payouts if your final three card hand consists of a straight, 3-of-a-kind or a flush.
Video Poker machines look like slot machine from a distance, but video poker is quite a bit different. In most video poker variants, you are dealt five cards. You can then “hold” any of those cards that you wish to keep. Then, hit the “deal” button to get rid of the cards that you didn’t choose to hold. You will be dealt new cards in place of the ones that you discarded.
The objective in video poker is to get the strongest 5-card poker hand possible. So if you start a round of video poker with 2 Aces and 3 other random cards, you’ll probably want to hold onto the Aces and discard the other 3 cards. Hopefully, you’ll get another Ace or even another pair to improve your hand.
While the opportunity to play at legal online casinos won’t be available in nearly states as sports betting will, each state that opens up contributes to the idea of the industry becoming more accepted and mainstream. Our sister site CasinosUSA.com, operating under the same licenses as BettingUSA.com, dives much deeper into the legal casino landscape and underlying issues preventing more states from entering the market.