Is it legal or illegal?
When it comes to online sportsbooks and casinos, there’s one quick answer.
If a website is licensed in states where online wagering is approved, it’s legal. If not, it’s illegal.
That’s the fact, Jack. And anyone who says otherwise is lying.
Lots of illegal sites claim to be legal. The ironically named Legalgambling.net promotes nothing but illegal gambling. It claims the websites it recommends are legal in all 50 states (except Bovada, which it says is legal in 45 states). But none of those sites are legal. Not a one.
In addition to Bovada, you may have heard about sportsbooks like Pinnacle or Heritage, and poker sites Ignition Poker and America’s Card Room. Those can’t be illegal, right? I mean, one of them has the word “America” right in its name! Then there are online casinos like Manhattan Slots. How can a site be illegal when it’s named after the Big Apple?!
But all these sites are illegal in the U.S.—and make no mistake, those names are deliberately chosen to fool you. They spend loads of money to convince you of their legitimacy. They’re top spenders when it comes to online advertising. A recent search revealed luckmatch.com as the top Google (paid) search result for legal online casinos. It calls itself the “Most Trusted USA Online Casino.” It offers five casinos, each with an unbelievable Welcome Bonus. And—you guessed it—every casino is illegal in the U.S.
In fact, the founder of Bovada, Canadian Calvin Ayre, can’t even enter the United States, because he’d be arrested immediately for illegal gambling.
Other illegal casinos are “licensed” by Caribbean and South American countries with no oversight and no way to enforce their regulations. These bogus licensing claims have no teeth. So buyer beware.
Yep, It’s A Crime—and It’s Not Victimless
The American Gaming Association has this to say about illegal offshore casinos and sportsbooks:
“Federal law makes it a crime to participate in the business of illegal gambling. There are a variety of statutes that make it illegal to operate or participate in financial transactions related to an unlicensed sportsbook in the United States, including the Wire Act, the Illegal Gambling Business Act, the Travel Act, and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).
“Beyond federal statutes aimed specifically at gambling, a variety of broader criminal laws targeting organized crime have also been the basis for prosecution of offshore gambling rings.”
This is serious stuff. Indeed, illegal online gambling has been linked to money laundering by drug cartels and even human trafficking, including the trafficking of children. So the federal government isn’t fooling around, and neither should you. These are not victimless crimes.
Again, from the report:
“The threat of federal prosecution is not hypothetical. Prosecutors have been successfully pursuing cases against offshore operators for two decades.”
In 2000, Jay Cohen was prosecuted for running an offshore book called World Sports Exchange, based in Antigua. A jury found Cohen guilty of violating the Wire Act, and he was sentenced to two years in jail.
In another case, the federal government charged 57 people with racketeering and money laundering in connection with their Panama-based online sportsbook.
Setting the Trap
A lot of times, these tricksters target players in states where iGaming and mobile sports betting aren’t yet legal. And even in jurisdictions where online sports betting and gambling are legal, they often offer better bonuses and better odds. Moreover, there are fewer hoops to jump through before you begin playing.
Sounds good, right? But ask yourself why. Illegal online casinos and sportsbooks have much lower overheard, because they don’t pay taxes, don’t pay for licensing, don’t abide by ethical marketing and KYC (know your customer) rules, and don’t have responsible gaming protections. No wonder they can offer you better deals and/or odds.
But they also don’t protect you, your bet, or your bankroll. If you win and an illegal casino decides not to pay you, who are you gonna call? It’s like going to the police if a drug deal goes bad. Good luck with that!
It’s even more dangerous to patronize illegal casinos that use cryptocurrency (bitcoin). Cryptocurrency is impossible to trace. So if it disappears, again, there’s no complaint department. You’re out of luck—and out of money. The Russian hackers who took down the Colonial Pipeline in May insisted on being paid with crypto. Guess why?
Money laundering is rife in online gaming, because the casino or sportsbook doesn’t care who plays. Is this who you want to do business with?
Know Your Casino
Make sure you gamble with a reputable online casino or sportsbook. First, go to the “About” feature of the website. If it shows where the site is licensed in the U.S., you can be sure you’ll get a good game and a fair shake.
Or better yet, just use any of the casinos or sportsbooks promoted here on iGamingPlayer. As a licensed entity in almost 10 states, iGamingPlayer promotes only safe, legal sites. You can trust that anything listed on this site will be licensed, regulated, and reputable.
You can also get the straight story at the website of the American Gaming Association. Its interactive map of legal betting states in the U.S. is up to date and accurate.
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