Illegal Gambling in the USA: What You Should Know

Gambling has a long history in the United States. Over the years, there were times when any such activities were frowned upon or completely prohibited. Today, we see a tendency of restrictions being dropped and gambling being slowly but steadily legalized. Stay tuned to learn more about illegal gambling in the USA.
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US gamblers should be aware that gambling laws vary across the different states in the country. It is the player’s responsibility to get familiar with the relevant legislation and regulations before engaging in any gambling activities. In this article, we will try to shed light on the topic, starting with the legal status of gambling activities by state.

States Where Gambling is Illegal

There are states in which the gambling laws are relatively light, and most activities are legal. One such example is Nevada with the legendary Las Vegas Strip. The situation is similar in Michigan, Louisiana, and Illinois. On the other hand, we have states where gambling is mostly illegal. Alaska and Texas, for example, have rather strict gambling laws.

🇺🇸 US State ✔️ Legal Gambling Activities ❌ Illegal Gambling Activities
Alabama Tribal Casinos, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling Commercial Casinos, Poker, State Lottery, Bingo, Sports Betting, Online Gambling
Alaska Tribal Casinos, Daily Fantasy Sports Betting, Charitable Gambling Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, State Lottery
Arizona Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling
Arkansas Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Daily Fantasy Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting Commercial Casinos
California Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting
Colorado Tribal Casinos, Commercial Casinos, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting Online Gambling
Connecticut Tribal Casinos, Online Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting
Delaware Sports Betting, State Lottery, Online Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling Commercial Casinos
Florida Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery Online Gambling, Sports Betting, Commercial Casinos
Georgia State Lottery, Charitable Gambling Online Gambling, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos
Hawaii Social Gambling Charitable Gambling, Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Online Gambling
Idaho Tribal Casinos, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling
Illinois Sports Betting, Riverboat Gambling, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting Online Gambling, Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos
Indiana Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Sports Betting, Charitable Gambling Commercial Casinos, Online Gambling
Iowa Sports Betting, Charitable Gambling, Tribal Casinos, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Online Gambling
Kansas Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Gambling, Online Gambling Sports Betting
Kentucky State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casino, Online Gambling, Sports Betting
Louisiana Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery, Sports Betting Online Gambling (Sports Betting Excluded)
Maine Tribal Casinos, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery, Pari-Mutuel Betting Sports Betting, Online Gambling, Commercial Casinos
Maryland Charitable Gambling, Sports Betting, Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, State Lottery Online Gambling
Massachusetts State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Pari-Mutuel Betting Online Gambling
Michigan Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Online Gambling, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Sports Betting N/A
Minnesota Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling
Mississippi Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling State Lottery, Online Gambling
Missouri State Lottery, Riverboat Casinos, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling Sports Betting, Online Gambling, Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos
Montana Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling Online Gambling
Nebraska Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Online Gambling
Nevada Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casino, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Online Gambling, Charitable Gambling State Lottery
New Hampshire Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Sports Betting, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Online Gambling
New Jersey State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Sports Betting, Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos Online Gambling
New Mexico Tribal Casinos, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling
New York Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling Online Gambling
North Carolina Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting Commercial Casinos, Online Gambling
North Dakota Pari-Mutuel Betting, Tribal Casinos, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling
Ohio Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling Online Gambling
Oklahoma Tribal Casinos, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery, Pari-Mutuel Betting Commercial Casinos, Online Gambling, Sports Betting
Oregon Tribal Casinos, Charitable Gambling, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Sports Betting, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Online Gambling
Pennsylvania Online Gambling, Charitable Gambling, Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Sports Betting N/A
Rhode Island Commercial Casinos, Online Gambling, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling Tribal Casinos
South Carolina State Lottery, Charitable Gambling Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Online Gambling
South Dakota Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting Online Gambling (Except Pari-Mutuel Wagering on Horse Racing)
Tennessee Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling (Except for Sports Betting)
Texas Pari-Mutuel Betting, Tribal Casinos, State Lottery, Charitable Gambling Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling (Except for DFS)
Utah N/A Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, State Lottery, Online Gambling, Charitable Gambling
Vermont State Lottery, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling
Virginia Commercial Casino (in Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth), Tribal Casinos, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery Online Gambling
Washington Tribal Casinos, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Sports Betting, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Online Gambling
West Virginia Commercial Casinos, Tribal Casinos, Sports Betting, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery, Online Gambling N/A
Wisconsin Tribal Casinos, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling
Wyoming Tribal Casinos, Pari-Mutuel Betting, Charitable Gambling, State Lottery Commercial Casinos, Sports Betting, Online Gambling

You can clearly see the tremendous differences between the gambling laws in the USA. Another thing you should know is that the legal gambling age for US players varies across the 50 states. It can also differ based on the specific gambling activity. In most cases, the legal gambling age for bingo and lottery is 18, while the legal age for playing at commercial casinos is 21.

Is Online Gambling Illegal in the USA?

The legal status of online gambling depends on the laws and regulations of the specific state. In some states, engaging in such activities is completely prohibited, while in others, it has been legalized. There are also cases in which online gambling falls in a so-called “gray area”.

Online Gambling in the USA

This means that the current legislation does not cover this form of gambling, so its status is unclear. In similar situations, we recommend you have a look at some of the best online casinos in the USA and check if they accept players from your state. Make sure to choose legal sites licensed by official gambling authorities.

Examples of Illegal Gambling in the USA Over the Years

Illegal gambling in the USA was a big issue in the early 1900s. This was among the main activities of the many organized crime groups during this time. One interesting story is that of the infamous American gambling icon Lester Ben Binion, also known as Benny Binion. Before becoming a legend in the gambling world, he led illegal gambling operations in Texas. Binion was also a convicted murderer.

This did not stop him from opening one of the most popular Las Vegas casinos – Binion’s Horseshoe. The gambling hall was founded in 1951 and was run by the Binion family for over 50 years. Furthermore, the mob boss was also the one who founded the World Series of Poker. Around a year after his death, Benny Binion was inducted into the Poker Hall of Fame for his contribution to the game.

Illegal Gambling Charges and Penalties in the USA

Remember how we mentioned that it is essential to get familiar with the gambling laws in every US state before engaging in gambling activities? We highly recommend you do that to avoid any unpleasant consequences for yourself. Depending on the scale of the violation, illegal gambling can be classified as a misdemeanour or felony. Here are the three penalties you could potentially be faced with:

💸 Fine These usually vary between a few hundred and one thousand dollars. This applies to misdemeanor offenses. The situation is quite different if we are talking about a felony. There are cases in which you might get a fine of over $20,000.
🚨 Probation You will be given a predetermined probation period and specific conditions set by the court. You will also be assigned a probation officer to make sure you comply with the conditions.
👮 Active Jail Time This means you must do time in a county or local jail. Again, the sentence will depend on the violation. Misdemeanor convictions usually face around a year of jail time, whereas felony convictions can give you up to 10 years in prison.

If convicted, you might also face a combination of the above penalties for illegal gambling charges in the USA. If you are living in or visiting states where gambling is illegal, we recommend you check what the alternatives are. For example, there might be nearby states where gambling is legal or riverboat casinos like the following popular choices:

  • Casino Queen in Mississippi
  • Grand Victoria Casino in Illinoi
  • Hollywood Casino in Baton Rouge, Louisian
  • Casino Queen Marquette in Marquette, Iow
  • Sam’s Town Hotel and Gambling Hall in Shreveport, Louisiana

These are merely a few of your options. The riverboat casino gambling is very well developed in the USA. Aboard these exclusive and luxurious ships, you can play anything from slots, blackjack and roulette to poker and sports betting. Throw in the added benefit of the cruise itself, and you are in for an overall great experience.

Illegal Gambling in the USA: Conclusion

Illegal gambling in the USA depends on two things – federal laws and state laws. This means that the legal status of gambling activities could widely differ across the states. While there are very liberal states like Nevada and West Virginia, there are also places like Utah and Tennessee, where most forms of gambling are illegal. Examples of illegal gambling penalties include fines, probation, and jail time.

Frequently Asked Questions

This concludes our article about illegal gambling in the USA. We have tried our best to be as thorough as possible. If you still have questions, please look at our short FAQ section below. It contains the most popular questions asked by users online:

1️⃣ Where is gambling illegal in the USA?

Throughout the years, most US states have loosened their gambling laws. However, there are still states where gambling is illegal, including Alaska, Tennessee, Texas, and more. Hawaii is another somewhat unexpected example of a US state with rigorous gambling laws. Social gambling is the only legal form of popular pastime activity. 

2️⃣ Is gambling on sports illegal in America?

In New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, for example, sports betting is completely legal. There are other states like Florida and California where only pari-mutuel betting is allowed. In states like Georgia, however, any form of betting is illegal. The illegal gambling activities vary across the different US states.

3️⃣ Is online gambling illegal for US players?

There are no unified gambling laws in the USA. The legal status of online gambling in the county depends on the state you are in. While some states allow online casinos for US players, others do not. In certain regions, online gambling sites are unregulated and operate in a "gray area". 

4️⃣ What are examples of illegal gambling penalties?

The type and harshness of the penalties for illegal gambling depends on the violation. Typically, these include fines, probation, and jail time. The penalties for misdemeanor cases are less severe, whereas the penalties for felonies are more significant – extensive fines, longer probation periods, and even active jail sentences.

5️⃣ Which US states are more liberal when it comes to gambling?

There are many states allowing most gambling activities. In our conclusion, you will see that two of them are Nevada and West Virginia, where you can play pretty much anything. The two states have commercial casinos, tribal casinos, sports betting operators, online casinos, and more.

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