Home to some of the biggest gambling cities in the world, including Las Vegas, which is known as the Gambling Capital of the World, the United States attracts more gambling tourists than any other country, and its own citizens also have a passion for it. Still, things have not always been easy for US gambling fans.
The US doesn’t have a long history of legal gambling, but it has a rich history of illegal gambling. Bookmakers, gambling dens, poker rooms and more have all operated in the underbelly of American society, and throughout the years they have funded all types of organised crime. In fact, this is the sort of money on which Las Vegas was built, and once those bright lights were switched on, then legalisation was almost inevitable, at least in Nevada.
To say that US gambling laws are not straightforward would be a massive understatement. Trying to figure them out requires a lot of patience and possibly a degree. To simplify it, online gambling is not legal in the US, but even that’s not entirely true. There are many companies operating legally in countries like Panama and Costa Rica, who believe that their close proximity to the US, and the fact that they’re operating legally within the confines of those countries, allows them to appeal to US players without breaking any laws. So far, they have gotten away with doing just that, but there is no telling how long that will last.
You only need to look at the online poker world and at Black Friday to understand this. Prior to 2006, Party Poker was generating a small fortune through US players, but then they were forced to restrict their services in the country. When they stopped, sites like Pokerstars stepped in, more or less outperforming them overnight. On Black Friday, however, Pokerstars and many other sites were indicted by the US government, and forced to stop allowing US players to play.
However, just when players thought the law had caught up with their favourite sites, they discovered that it had nothing to do with online gambling laws and everything to do with how those sites were distributing their money. Basically, there are so many loopholes in these laws and this industry that it’s impossible to get your head around it. As a player you can only trust that you are not breaking the law and that if a big and reputable company says that what they are doing is legal, then it probably is. They have too much to lose for that not to be the case.
Offline gambling in the US is a little more cut and dry than online gambling, but even then there are still many grey areas. Firstly, because of Indian gaming laws, which makes it okay for certain tribes to operate gambling premises, there are many casinos across the country that operate legally. However, commercial casinos, those operating for a profit and those not connected to an Indian tribe, are not legal in most states. To get around this, many coastal cities put on “casino cruises”. These cruises contain gambling tables and everything else needed for a good time, but they only officially open their doors when the boat has sailed into International waters, where US gambling laws no longer apply.
Some states also allow commercial casinos to operate. Most notably, these include the state of Nevada, where gambling laws are at their most relaxed, and where you will find both Las Vegas and Reno. Atlantic City in New Jersey, and Foxwoods in Connecticut, also have similar laws.
In the US, sportsbook gambling is hard to come by. It is available in a number of casinos and is rife in Nevada, with odds typically posted by Vegas books, but those without access to these casinos usually contact an illegal bookmaker. There are many of these operating across the country, so it’s not a difficult task.
Online sports betting would surely attract a lot of interest in the US if it were legal, but unfortunately it is not, and the best alternative is fantasy sports, which is widely available, or online casino gambling, from the few sites that still offer it.
Traditional gambling in the US follows traditional sports, because sportsbook gambling has always found a way around the law. Therefore, baseball, also known as “America’s Pastime”, is popular with sports bettors. Typically, the bets reach their high point during the World Series, which is contested over the course of seven games and decides the best MLB team for that given season. Basketball is also popular and has a similar setup. The most popular sport for gambling in the US though, is football, known as American football around the world. The NFL season is short-lived, running from September to February, but it climaxes with the Super Bowl, a single game that hundreds of millions of people watch, and one that has the betting boards lighting up across Las Vegas.
The land based gambling market in the US is valued at over $300 billion, more than any other country. The online market is a little harder to figure out, as most of the money goes overseas.
This colossal sum is generated by over 1,600 casinos, most of which are in Nevada. In fact, in this state there are close to 6,000 casino games and tables, and close to $4 billion is spent on sportsbooks. The total gaming revenue in Nevada is over $11 billion, and whilst this seems like a huge figure, it is only a fifth of the money generated by its Eastern cousin, Macao. Still, the sheer size of the US, and the fact that many other casinos and cities contribute to the total amount, gives it its status.