What’s in store for the US online gambling industry?

One senior man watches soccer match and bets on the game.

Online gambling laws in the U.S. are quite complicated as online casinos are not available everywhere. Gambling laws in the U.S. differ from state to state, and between all different forms of gambling, so it is important to be aware of the regulations if you wish to put money down to play.

The status quo

Online casinos have been operating in three states thus far — Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. In order to legally play online casino games, you must register with an online casino in one of these three states. 

Is it possible to play online casino games if I live in a different state?

In accordance with their licenses to operate, online casinos are only allowed to provide services to players who are located within state lines. They must track where a player is playing from to ensure they’re not breaking the law. They use advanced geolocation technology in order to do so. 


This includes asking for proof of address, photo identification, and the ability to track your IP address. 

Which states currently offer legal online casinos? 

Right now, there are three states offering legal online casinos. Players in Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey can sign up at an online casino today and start playing games for real money.

16 out of 50 states in America have legalized some form of online gambling. Out of the 16, 12 offer an online casino or sportsbook platform. If you are looking for more information on the legal gambling environment in the U.S., check out the American Casino Guide. There, you will find a detailed analysis of each state and their unique gambling laws, along with information on how to register and play.

To play real money casino games online, you must be within the state borders and at least 21 years old.  

States that offer online casinos (3):

  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Delaware

States that offer online poker (4): 

  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Nevada 
  • Delaware

States that offer online sports betting (11):

  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Indiana
  • West Virginia
  • Iowa
  • Rhode Island
  • Montana
  • Oregon
  • Nevada
  • New Hampshire
  • Colorado

Recently, more states have begun to legalize forms of online gambling (5): 

  • Michigan
  • West Virginia
  • Virginia
  • Tennessee
  • Illinois


Delaware was the first state to introduce online casinos to the country. After gambling online was legalized in 2012, three casinos obtained licenses to operate virtually. While the market in Delaware is small, players can still access popular casino table games and online poker from each available site:

  • Delaware Park Online
  • Harrington Online
  • Dover Downs Online Gambling

In the first few years that online gambling was up and running in DE, the state only saw about $3.3 million in revenue. By 2016, it had gone up by $3 million, but saw a decline in 2019. 

New Jersey

New Jersey is currently number one for online gambling in the United States. Players in NJ have over 20 online casinos to choose from. There are over 40 online casinos and sportsbooks in the Garden State. Each site is powered by world-renowned game providers and operators, including; DraftKings, 888, Golden Nugget, and Caesars. For a detailed list of legal operators in New Jersey, have a look at NJCasino.com.

The state legalized online casinos in 2013, with the first launching only a few months later. Since then, the online gambling industry in NJ has made billions. In 2019, total revenue for online casinos reached $482.7m, while online sportsbooks brought in $300m. 

Nevada still brings in the most revenue from online gambling than any other state, but New Jersey is very close behind.


Pennsylvania was the third state to legalize all forms of online gambling. Since the first online casino launched in 2019, over half a dozen have joined the PA market. Players now have access to hundreds of casino games, including online poker and soon, live dealer games. To see the games available to players in Pennsylvania, check out PACasino.com.

Compared to NJ and DW, PA is still new to the online gambling industry, having only started in 2019. Still, the state is seeing positive effects since casino sites started operating. 

In the last year, online casinos in PA hit $33.5 mil in revenue. Over $20 million of it came from online slots. These numbers broke previous records in the state, and are on track to bring in even more in 2020. 

West Virginia became the first state to launch sports betting


West Virginia legalized all forms of online gambling in 2018 and currently offers three online sportsbooks. WV was the first state to launch sports betting online twice after a disagreement occurred between partners in 2018. This forced online sportsbooks to shut down for a couple of months. Soon after, DraftKings launched in WV, debuting online sportsbooks for a second time.

By the end of 2020, five casinos are expected to be operating online. Operators in WV are permitted to offer online slots, casino table games, and online poker. 

Michigan came late to the game — but arrived nonetheless!

Michigan is one of the most recent states to legalize all forms of online gambling. The first round of online sportsbooks is expected to launch by 2021, with no set date for online casinos. Still, MI has the potential to do extremely well in the online gambling industry, with over 20 operators already in the state.

One of the largest competitors in Michigan, Fanduel, recently signed a partnership with Motor City Casino in Detroit and are operating an online sportsbook in the state. 

Penn National partnered with Greektown Casino-Hotel in Detroit last year to launch their online sportsbook in the Great Lakes State. 

Other major players in the game include Willian Hill, Fox Bet, and PointsBet, who have all settled deals with local tribes throughout the state. 

Other online gambling options in the U.S.

There are other forms of online gambling, besides online casino games. A large number of states have legalized online sports betting, and esports seems to be in the pipeline as well. 

Sports betting has become largely popular across the U.S. Many states have passed legislation allowing for those within the state to legally register with an online sportsbook and place sports bets online. There are certain restrictions on what sports events bettors can place bets on, depending on the state they are in. For example, New Jersey does not allow bettors to place bets on New Jersey collegiate teams or any college games taking place within the state. 

Esports is expected to make a big impact on sports betting revenue in the future. There are some states that currently offer legal esports betting, such as New Jersey, Nevada, Tennessee, and West Virginia. 

Is it safe to gamble online?

Gambling online is made safe by protecting clients’ personal and financial data. Operating an online casino or sportsbook requires cutting edge technology, and this applies to online security as well. Legal casinos and sportsbooks use double-encryption to protect your data as it’s transmitted. They also use a continuously updated firewall to protect the stored data. 

Betting with a legal casino or sports book means that you are protected under state and federal laws. Each state government issues their own gambling enforcement agency to protect both consumers and businesses. 

In Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is responsible for issuing licences to gambling operators as well as regulating those license holders.

The Division of Gaming Enforcement in New Jersey issues licenses to operators in the Garden State and ensures that all gambling establishments are operating within the law.  

When was online gambling legalized?

Online gambling has been available in the U.S. since 1994. By the late 1990s, online gambling was a major industry in Europe and the U.S. 

At the time, the primary legal opposition to online gambling was The Federal Wire Act. It had passed in 1961 and was specifically designed to prohibit “interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest.”

The question was, does this apply to all types of online gambling?

Some Atlantic City casinos were eager to get online, so New Jersey led the push for legal online casinos. Then, in 2002, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the 1961 law only applied to sports betting. This ruling was affirmed by the Department of Justice in 2011. This opened the door for online casino gambling. 

States were now allowed to legalize online casinos for betting within their state lines. But sports betting would not be legalized until the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) on May 14, 2018. States were now free to decide whether they would have online sports betting. 

Timeline of states legalizing online gambling


  • Delaware became the first state to legalize online gambling.


  • Nevada became the second state to legalize online gambling (poker only).
  • New Jersey legalized casino and poker.


  • Pennsylvania legalized casino and poker.


  • New Jersey legalized sports betting.
  • Pennsylvania legalized sports betting.
  • Rhode Island legalized sports betting only.


  • West Virginia legalized casino, sports betting, and poker.
  • Indiana legalized sports betting only.
  • Michigan legalized casino, sports betting, and poker.
  • Illinois legalized sports betting only.
  • Tennessee legalized sports betting only.
  • New Hampshire legalized sports betting only.
  • Oregon legalized sports betting only.
  • Montana legalized sports betting only.


  • Virginia legalized sports betting only.
  • Colorado legalized sports betting only.


Provided By Game Lounge

This content was written by a Boston.com partner.  The editorial department of Boston.com had no role in writing, production, or display.