The USA & Online Casinos

USA Online Casinos - State Of Play
The State of Play in 2017

The situation in the US right now is widely accepted to be this: residents should only play at online casinos who are licenced and regulated by their State and only casinos who are licenced can accept US players.
Why are we Here?

Back in 2006, a law was proposed, backed by a handful of Senators, to make online gambling illegal. The 1961 Wire Act seemed to cover Sports Betting, but the advent of the Internet made even this law grey when it came to other forms of online gambling. Proposed initially on the basis of protecting family values, it became clear that it was not going to pass before the outgoing Bush Administration ended it's time in power.

This Act was therefore bastardised to create the "UIGEA" - the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act - which, rather than make online gambling itself illegal, set out to make banks and payment processors responsible for preventing Americans making payments to online gambling companies not authorised by the State. Basically that ensure State monopolies could continue running and avoided tackling the complex issue of illegality.

Even this abridged version of the original proposition was tight for time and was up against a number of dissenting voices that - rightly so it has turned out - thought it was unenforcable and unworkable, most notably the leader of the House's Financial Services Committee, Barney Frank. Undeterred and aware that the Act only really stood to gain advantage ahead of the Presidentail elections, the politiciams responsible came up with a solution to force it through: tack it on to the back of a "must pass" security bill. Which is what they did.

Consequently, quite literally at the 11th hour, the UIGEA went through on the back of the Safe Ports Act, a must-pass Bill aimed at tightening US ports security in the face of terrorist threats. The tenuous but necessary link being that the proceeds from online gambling could end up in terrorist hands.

Ironically, forcing the legitimate casinos out of the American space, leaving a free-for-all for the less scrupulous offshore operators and criminal outfits made this even more likely than it was before. But the UIGEA was never about terrorism - it was all about tax revenue.
The Effect on American Gamblers

The effect was immediate. The DoJ made a number of arrests on high-profile business owners, although it soon became apparent that the arrests were not only sportsbook related only, but also came with charges outside the boundaries of the new UIGEA which wasn't due to be enforced until later (eventually June 1st 2010). This was seen by many observers as primarily being scare tactics, but they proved very effective.

Some of the biggest and safest online casinos immediately pulled out of the USA. All the UK bookmakers went first followed by the not inconsiderable number of Playtech casinos following a not altogether popular directive from the software provider itself. A year later, Microgaming casinos were made to follow suit and by the end of 2007, only a handful of decent casinos were left.

The main issue now faced for Americans was security. In most States, they were - and still are - able to gamble online legally, although clearly the USA was trying to ensure that US money stayed in the USA by discouraging the activity. By 2006, the online gambling industry, although largely self-regulated, was relatively clean with rogue operations generally well hidden from view by the safe, serious and ultimately trustworthy operators. The UIGEA scared most of the "clean" operators away, leaving the door open for the less scrupulous operators to compete on a more level playing field with the few remaining good operators.

It is probably worth stating at this point that a large number of legitimate online casinos didn't have a choice in pulling out - the software providers that they licenced from ,most notably Wagerworks (IGT), Microgaming and Playtech made it a condition of the licence renewal.

Clearly the repurcussions of this are obvious. Americans have not only found it more difficult to find a trustworthy online casino but complaints through player dispute channels have escalated considerably. There are still a couple of Realtime Gaming casinos who take US players according to some sources but they don't advetise and they are not licenced to do so.