Is It Legal To Bet On Sports?

The question of whether online sports betting is legal in the US or not cannot be answered with the definite yes or no. While the US has federal-level sports betting laws, none of them clearly address the issue of online sports betting. Besides, these federal laws can be interpreted in different ways, and unless a consensus is reached on what exactly they imply, the legality of US online sports betting will remain a grey area.

US sports betting has several opponents in the form of major sports organizations and sports leagues, who have challenged the rights of states to legalize sports betting. The leagues feel that legalized sports betting would cause irreparable harm to amateur and professional sports “by fostering suspicion and skepticism that individual plays and final scores of the games may have been influenced by factors other than honest athletic competition.”

There are hardly any state-level sports betting laws worth talking about. Currently, Nevada and Delaware are the only states that offers legalized + regulated sports betting facilities. Although New Jersey is eager to legalize sports betting, they are unable to because of their legal battle with sports leagues and organizations. Certain states such as Maryland and Washington have proposed bills to criminalize online sports betting. Besides, sports betting laws in states, if any, aim at prosecuting owners of illegal online betting facilities and not individual bettors, however these laws do not affect the legal sports betting sites that operate off U.S. soil.

Here are some laws that US bettors must know:

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 - The PASPA was passed to prohibit all US states from legalizing sports betting within their jurisdictions. Although the federal government invited individual states to submit applications to be exempted from this law, only Montana, Delaware, Nevada, and Oregon were finally exempted. Today, legalized and regulated sports betting facilities are available only in Nevada although Delware also offers sports betting facilities in a highly limited form. Although the PASPA applies only to land-based sports betting, it prevents the legalization of online sports betting too.

The Wire Act of 1961 - The US federal government used the Wire Act for several years to make cases against online gambling, but several legal experts have questioned the wisdom of applying it to online gambling as it was enacted several years before the advent of the Internet. Besides, it was not clear it the Wire Act applied to all forms of online gambling till the Department of Justice (DoJ) announced in 2011 that the law does not apply to online poker and online casino gaming, but only to sports events and contests.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 - Interestingly, this law does not criminalize the act of betting, but only makes it illegal for US financial institutions, including banks, to process funds related to gambling. The federal government hoped that making it difficult for individual players to deposit funds and withdraw winnings from online sportsbooks would discourage gambling, but smart bettors discovered legal ways to get around the UIGEA.

So what does all this boil down to?

Online sports betting is not regulated in the US, but it is still safe for individual bettors to bet on sports at offshore online sportsbooks that are licensed and regulated in remote gambling jurisdiction. There is no law, federal or state, that clearly prevents US bettors from wagering with an online sportsbook that accepts US players. So far, no individual US bettor has been prosecuted for signing up at offshore online sportsbooks and betting on their favorite sports events.

We also urge bettors to consult a legal expert if they want to be absolutely sure about the legality of betting on sports online in their state.

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