Legal Sports Betting Sites

The legality surrounding sports betting and online sports betting in the United States has been discussed and debated for years. But with the rapid increase in technology, and the availability of online sportsbooks in virtually every household, it's becoming even more popular.

There are certain laws in place which prohibit the operation of online gambling websites in the United States, but at the same time there are of course sportsbooks which are open to players from the United States.

How you might ask? Well, that is one of the goals of this page in which we've sunk our teeth into some of the biggest issues surrounding online sports betting as it relates to U.S. residents participating.

Is It Legal To Bet Sports Online?

There are a number of laws and bans in pertaining to the operation of Internet gambling sites inside the United States. Laws like the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 and the Federal Wire Act are two of the laws that most directly relate to online gambling. However, these deal with the operation of businesses, more than they do with individual bettors. As such bettors looking to wager online in the United States still have options to do so. How? That answer you will be able to find right down below.

Best Legal Online Sportsbooks

There are a number of online sportsbooks operating outside of the United States that still accept users living in the U.S. With that said, these sports betting sites are considered legal for Americans because U.S. betting laws do not apply to these bookmakers.

In fact, many of these online sportsbooks catering to U.S. players operate just outside the United States in places like Panama and Costa Rica. They are licensed in their home countries and all operations are above-board. That means you never have to worry about getting into trouble when using those sportsbooks.

So, are you ready to test the waters? Well, we've got a fine selection of reputable bookmakers listed right below here. This guide will provide a few reviews of the very best plus explore other options that Americans have when it comes to making wagers online. If you want to know more about any of these sites, we've also got full reviews of each which can be accessed by clicking through the table.

Bovada Sportsbook

Very Professional And Discreet: 100% Secure

Bovada Sportsbook is arguably the best legal online sportsbook accepting players that live in the U.S. They encourage U.S. bettors to come and wager at their sportsbook by offering a ton of great betting lines for many American sports and sports leagues. But unfortunately, they can't do anything about the deposit difficulties that New York, Maryland and Washington residents experience so they no longer allow new registrations from users in those states.

Among the promotions at Bovada is the brand new sportsbook deposit bonus which is now worth 50% extra. All first time deposits from $20 to $500 will be matched half of their first-deposit amount. This bonus can be as small as $10 or as much as $250 in betting freeplay. Bovada's low rollover makes cashing this bonus out very easy... just 3 times rollover.

The financial aspect is always important for Americans that are looking to bet in a safe atmosphere. As we said earlier, Bovada will exclude residents because of problems within their states. But for everyone else, depositing (and withdrawals for that matter) are simple and effective. With multiple options, Bovada ensures users will be able to bet for money.

Rating 9.5/10

No State-Based Restrictions: Open To 18+ Year Old

If you happen to fall into the three states that are commonly excluded, or just want another option, you should consider joining with SportsBetting as they are a leader in the betting industry. This has come thanks to them allowing all Americans to sign up and deposit (very easily). Beyond that, this book is certain to have anything you could want to bet on from golf tournaments to the octagon. Of couse, NFL and college football are a focus of the site, as are other major American sports too.

Since payouts are so important to us, we want to stress that this betting site has numerous options to get payment to their players. Sportsbetting commonly relies upon Federal Express to deliver checks but they also send payments through Western Union and Moneygram if you need it sooner. One nice option, although it takes time to setup, is getting paid through a bank wire. Having money deposited directly to a savings or checking account is the fastest sportsbook payout method available to Americans at practically any online betting website.

Rating 9.0/10

Legal Sports Betting Sites That Welcome U.S. Bettors
Rank Legal Online Bookmakers Max Bonus USA Welcome? Visit Website Site Review
1 BetOnline Sportsbook $900 50 States Bet NOW BetOnline Review
2 Bovada Sportsbook $250 47 States Bet NOW Bovada Review
3 $900 50 States Bet NOW SportsBetting Review
4 5Dimes Sportsbook $500 50 States* Bet NOW 5Dimes Review

* - denotes some state-based deposit restrictions with VISA

U.S. Sports Gambling Laws

If it weren't for all the confusing laws for online sports betting and the lack thereof, there would be no need for this page and you could join any sportsbook you wanted. Unfortunately, that simply is not the case but we're going to lay it all out for you.

Following this, we're going to break down the laws and key pieces of info about each. That doesn't mean we're just going to cite a bunch of legal jargon you don't want to read and might not understand anyway. This will be based on our research and first-hand knowledge of online sports betting in the United States.

Wire Act of 1961 - Like many of the anti-online gaming laws in the U.S., the Federal Wire Act was created during a time when the internet was just a wet dream to some computer nerd locked in the basement at DARPA. We're glad that guy came up with the net but not at all happy about some of those laws, like the Wire Act, were just broadly applied to the digital gaming arena and online sports betting specifically.

With that said, this law was created back during JFK's administration when the mob was running Las Vegas. To prevent bookmakers, even those that were licensed, from taking wagers from those living across state-lines. In 1961, the only way to have placed a bet in Vegas from any of the other 49 U.S. states, one would need to send a telegram (though fairly outdated by 1961) or place a long-distance call to a bookie. When done, this is known as "interstate gambling" and it's illegal in the U.S. - for a bookmaker (if licensed) or a bookie (unlicensed) + the bettor using the illegal bookie.

Like we mentioned, this law was conveniently applied to internet sports betting as it began to grow in popularity, but (and this is a BIG "but") there is a catch...

When online sports betting sites are based outside of the United States, they really are not subject to U.S. gambling laws like the Wire Act and others. Americans who opt to go for offshore betting sites will be using webites that are licensed in the countries they reside. Since their own countries do not have an issue, the books will continue to operate without fear of being shut down, especially if they service other countries than the U.S. Doing so would be a violation of International Trade Law.

Why Doesn't The U.S. Government Just Block Online Sportsbooks Under The Wire Act?

Americans are born with certain rights and have the ability to view anything they desire through freedom of the media. With that said, U.S. authorites would be violating the first ammendment if they actually blocked users from going to these websites. Physically blocking you isn't an option because that would violating the core values that the United States was founded upon.

When Does The Wire Act Apply To Online Sports Betting?

While the info we've presented thus far makes this law seem useless, it is anything but. This law really has teeth the Department of Justice has flexed its muscles before under this law and the UIGEA (more below) especially when it comes to online sports betting between two parties inside U.S. borders.

Does that mean they are going to bust you for betting $5 with your friend via Skype? Absolutely not, but they will go hard after anyone operating a commercial bookmaking business on the web. Once shutdown and records are seized, the authorities will likely be interested in knowing who bet, and how much they won... if only for IRS purposes.

Sound like a nightmare? It probably is which is the main reason to stick to bookmakers that are headquartered and licensed outside of the United States. For this reason, along with the fact they they allow U.S. players to bet, is why you see the bookmakers we recommend on this page.

Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act Of 2006 - Herein known as the UIGEA, this law was passed during the era of the internet but was done so hastily, and without all the facts. During a time when securing U.S. ports of entry was an utmost priority to national security, anti-online gambling supporters forced Congress to pass this bill in order to pass The Port Security Act. Though not given the proper attention it (the UIGEA) deserved, it passed for the greater good of the nation.

How Does The UIGEA Affect Online Sports Betting?

That's a great question and it is somewhat tough to figure out when viewed from a real-world perspective. It's actually supposed to keep online gambling sites, like sportsbooks, from operating in the U.S. and prevent financial transactions to any website for gambling purposes.

While the UIGEA and the Wire Act have been successful with shutting down online betting sites operating in the U.S., they are unable to shutdown offshore gaming websites (as mentioned above) nor can the UIGEA be enforced against international business, gambling or otherwise.

Instead, the UIGEA's only real impact on online sports betting is through American banks and the methods that U.S. residents prefer to send + receive money to or from online betting sites. This means that U.S. residents that try to use their VISA might be declined... not because the funds aren't available, but because the transaction is blocked under the UIGEA. The same can be said with many other bank-backed electronic funding methods.

How Are Americans Able To Legally Fund Online Sports Betting Accounts?

First of all, the UIGEA states that it is only illegal for the business / website to accept the funds, not for the user to attempt the transaction. In other words, if your transaction to an offshore sportsbook is blocked, you might have been caught but nothing is going to happen to you, nor will anything happen to that sportsbook.

But should your VISA, MasterCard, American Express, etc... be declined, know that there are other options and the sportsbooks that allow USA players have a lot of experience in this field, and with getting around the UIGEA.

Perhaps the best way to do this is by getting a prepaid or gift card version of a VISA to make a deposit. Whatever sportsbook you want to join will have all the details about which cards will work if you decide to follow through with purchasing one and then using it to deposit. It's a very safe option, and one that works instantly. From the time you put in your prepaid / gift card info to when the funds are are actually available is just a matter a few seconds - the time it takes to process across the internet, servers, etc...

Knowing how effective the UIGEA is with electronic methods, one would wonder 'Why not use a check?' Well, that is an option sometimes, but most often, online sportsbooks require their users to obtain a money order or cashier's check. They simply do not want to risk having their account flagged as gambling, nor do they want to deal with users issuing a "stop payment" on a check. Plus, going this route is much longer than other options.

Another option that is fairly obvious involves sending cash but doing so electronically. Yes, that means using a service like Western Union or Moneygram that wire money all over the world. This is totally a viable option and sometimes it is the best one depending on your situation. You may not have a credit card or bank account... there are several reasons, plus the added security, that make this transfer method attractive.

Professional And Amateur Sports Protection Act - Herein known as PAPSA, this law was passed in the early 90's and it basically said which states could and could not have legal bookmaking operations in their state. States had the opportunity to apply for exemption (which would allow them to regulate / legalize) but in the end, there were only four states: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon + Montana. Of the four, only two have actually regulated the activity with Nevada having full blown sports wagering, and Delaware offering modest wagering opportunities.

How Does PAPSA Apply To Online Sports Betting?

In the past, it has really had no affect at all however recent changes to the U.S. state's attitude towards online gambling may bring this law to the forefront. As states like New Jersey push towards regulated online gaming, they would not be allowed to offer online sports gambling under this law. The state has already made noise in the past about repealing it, or at least getting exemption, for it's land-based gambling opportunities in Atlantic City.

Now that the online arena is really gaining steam, it will be interesting to see how this law stands up to the state's desire to offer all forms of internet gambling like sports wagering.

The Future Of Online Sports Betting In The U.S.

The future is actually quite bright for online sports gambling, even if the road is going to be a little bumpier than with other forms of online gaming. In reality, the benefit of regulating the industry on a widespread basis isn't known. We know it's going to be big... but how big, we don't know.

Of the big three, sports wagering has the smallest presence in the land-based gambling world. That's because it's only regulated in two states as where casinos and poker rooms can be found in at least half or more of the states in the U.S. Right now, the percentage of those who make bets online versus those who do it live is probably greater (in favor of betting online) than any of those other forms of gaming. With that said, only a fraction of the bookmaking revenue from the U.S. is going through regulated bookmaking operations... that means the U.S. and the states are not getting their cut of the pie which isn't going to cut it.

In reality, the flood to regulate all forms of online gambling could really pick up in the future. Laws like the UIGEA, the Wire Act, and PAPSA are going to be brushed to the side to make way for the potential tax revenue that activites like online sports wagering can provide. It's possible the U.S. government might even beat all the states to the punch and regulate the industry on the whole which would open the doors to everyone and every website that would choose to comply with the United States' online gambling regulations.