Last updated on: January 31st, 2024

Sports Betting Laws In The United States

Sports betting laws in the United States are ever-changing. While wagering has been an American tradition, many don’t understand the laws in place. Some think sports betting in the US is against the law. But, on May 14, 2018, SCOTUS overturned a federal sports betting law known as PASPA. With this, no longer did Nevada have a monopoly on legal sports betting in the US. Also, states became able to set up their own betting rules and regulations. Jump to 2024 and many already have, which has led to several legal sports betting sites that accept U.S. players.

Despite positive developments, there are still federal, state sports betting laws​ to know. Some limit how you can bet on sports legally. Others, seem to be completely outdated. As these laws evolve, it’s beneficial to learn about them. But for now, know there are no American laws preventing you from gambling on sports.

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PASPA – The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act

PASPA passed in 1992 but saw its repeal in 2018. This law was the sole real hurdle for eager American sports bettors. Given the overwhelming popularity of US sports betting, it was a financial catastrophe. The law bankrupted major casino districts like those in Atlantic City, NJ, and Biloxi, MS. Also, PASPA cost the government a yearly estimated $400-500 billion in potential taxes. Of all the US sports betting laws, PASPA was by far the biggest, most obvious mistake. During PASPA’s reign, only 1-3% of the total sports betting handle was bet in Nevada. The rest of that action went underground or to online sportsbooks.

Read Our Article: What Is Papsa?

UIGEA – Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 tried to deter US sportsbook deposits. In short, financial institutions can’t process payments related to internet gambling. Included in the SAFE Port Act 2006, this requires banks track designated payment systems. This includes credit cards, checks, and bank wires for “restricted transactions”. The UIGEA makes it difficult to use a credit card for sports betting. But, there are certain sites and cards that have higher success rates than others. Like most federal sports betting laws, UIGEA only applies to businesses, not individuals. 

Pointless Laws Pushed Cryptocurrency Harder

All in all, UIGEA is the poster child for ineffective legislation to address nonexistent problems. While the UIGEA sounds scary, it doesn’t actually do much to stop “unlawful Internet gambling”. With the growth of crypto, it’s almost obsolete. Now, bettors use Bitcoin at sportsbooks or another supported altcoin.

Read Our Article: What Is The UIGEA

The Interstate Wire Act

The Interstate Wire Act is also known as the Federal Wire Act or the Interstate Anti-Crime Act. Former president John F. Kennedy signed this into law in 1961 at the behest of his brother RFK. As the US Attorney General at the time, FRK sold it to the public as a way to stop the mafia. The Wire Act makes it illegal to use wire communications to accept sports wagers or other kinds of bets. This includes things like telephones and telegraph systems. But, with the growth of the internet, many have questioned the wording of this law.

Back And Forth

In 2011, the US DOJ stated that the Wire Act applied only to sports wagering. But, in 2018, the same US DOJ stated that the Wire Act does in fact apply to other forms of gambling, as well. Many times since, the DOJ reviewed their opinion and changed their mind. The only real effect of the Wire Act now is simple. It prevents residents in one state from picking up the phone to place a sports bet in another state. This law is one of the main reasons legal online sportsbooks continue to thrive.

Read Our Article: What Is The Wire Act?

Proposed Federal Gambling Laws

Oftentimes, you may see federal US sports betting laws gaining attention. While there haven’t been many in a while, it’s still possible to have proposed laws. The last one came in September 2019. Senators Chuck Schumer and Mitt Romney worked to create federal standards for states with sports betting. But, since sports betting is on a state-by-state basis, this goes against PASPA and the 10th Amendment.

RAWA – The Restoration of America’s Wire Act

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act was one of those proposals. RAWA’s goal was to strengthen and broaden the Wire Act. This was after the DOJ ruled in 2011 that the law only applied to sports betting. But, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Utah Representative Jason Chaffetz saw no support for their bill. The necessity for RAWA seemed unnecessary when the DOJ, in 2018, reversed course. Stating the original Wire Act did indeed apply to all common forms of gambling, it deprioritized the issue. Lobbyist and casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was the main driving force behind RAWA. But, this was because online gambling threatened his land-based casino interests.

GAME Act – Gaming Accountability and Modernization Enhancement Act

Introduced by Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), the GAME Act attempted to repeal and replace PASPA. Introduced in 2017 as HR 4530, the GAME Act sought to return states’ rights to legislate sports betting. But, there were other considerations involved too. This included codifying daily fantasy sports (DFS) as “gambling”. Regardless, the Supreme Court overturn of PASPA derailed the GAME Act. This won’t impact the federal, state sports betting laws, as states already have sovereignty. At this point, they will resist any efforts to bring universal federal sports betting laws back.

Read Our Article: What Is The GAME Act?

Sports Betting Laws By State

Many states were not able to introduce any sports betting laws in the United States before PASPA. Outside of Nevada, Oregon, Montana, and Delaware, any new market saw restrictions. Now, the sports betting laws by state are different, even though they may seem similar. For example, some markets only accept land-based sports betting. Others, only allow for online sports betting. Knowing the different sports betting laws by state is the best way to stay up to date with legal sports betting. One primary difference is the age to sports bet in America. Most markets require bettors to be 21 years old or older. But, some allow wagers to take place starting at 18.

States With Their Own Sports Betting Markets