United States Sports Betting Laws

When it comes to placing wagers on the outcomes of sporting events, there are a few applicable United States sports betting laws. There are only three USA sports betting laws, but they pretty much cover every facet of gambling on sporting events in the US.

The first is the Wire Act, which was passed in 1961 under US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. It wasn’t passed in an effort to stop sports betting, but rather in an attempt to limit the amount of unlawful racketeering that was going on at the time.

The next USA sports betting law wasn’t passed until 1992. This law is called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, shortened to PASPA and occasionally referred to as the Bradley Act, for the lawmaker that proposed it.

The third and final USA sports betting law is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, called the UIGEA. It was signed into law in 2006. Despite the intimidating sounding title, this law is more of a banking regulation than anything else. Other than these three United States sports betting laws, there really aren’t any other laws about online sports wagering in the US.

What Is The Wire Act?

So, you’re probably wondering, what is the Wire Act? If it wasn’t passed in order to stop sports betting, why is it included on a page about USA sports betting laws? Well, the Wire Act is a piece of anti-racketeering legislation that states that it is unlawful for anyone to accept a wager on the outcome of a sporting event over a line of communication.

So what the Wire Act does is prevent bets from being accepted over state lines, essentially limiting betting to the states that had legalized it. At the time of the Wire Acts passage, only Nevada had legal sports betting. So the Wire Act pretty much just limits betting to an in-person activity.

As the times changed, the Wire Act has changed with it. It does now include the internet under the definition of a “wire of communication”. So you can’t use an online sportsbook that’s based in Nevada because legally they cannot take your bet. If you do find a Nevada Sportsbook that takes your wager from another state, you’re not using a legal betting site.

What this USA sports betting law does not do is prevent the operators of online, offshore sportsbooks from taking your wagers. This is because it cannot. The Wire Act does not have the authority to dictate what people in other countries do. So under this United States sports betting law, using an online sportsbook based overseas is perfectly legal.

Does PASPA Make Sports Betting Illegal?

Simply put, PASPA does not make sports betting illegal. What this USA sports betting law does is prevent 46 states in the US from regulating gambling on sports. PASPA was signed into law in 1992, and the verbiage in the law prevents any state legislature from passing legislation that would allow for the operating and regulating of sports betting operations.

There are four states that have been grandfathered into this law, thus making them exempt to it. At the time that PASPA was signed into law, Delaware, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon had already legalized sports betting in one form or another. Of these states, only two still actively offer sports betting in the state. Nevada is the only state that can offer single-game wagering on every sport.

Delaware is restricted to offering only three or more team parlay cards during the NFL season. Delaware cannot expand its sports betting offerings, though, because of a stipulation in PASPA. The law states that only the legislation that had been passed prior to PASPA was exempt. In Delaware, that was just NFL parlay cards. So sports gambling cannot expand in this state until PASPA is amended or repealed.

This USA sports betting law is unique, to say the least. Many states, New Jersey loudest of all, have called this United States sports betting law unconstitutional. At the time this page was writing, New Jersey had petitioned the Supreme Court, in order to challenge the constitutionality of PASPA. Several other states had begun to draft similar court cases.

While this law does prevent the regulation and therefore the ability of 46 states to offer sports betting, it does not prevent the usage of online, offshore sportsbooks. Nothing in PASPA targets the actual bettor. Just state governing bodies. Because of this, the act of betting in the United States is not what is made unlawful.

So, under PASPA, you can use any sportsbook that is regulated by another country. Because they are regulated in another country, they’ll be exclusively online. When you put PASPA in conjunction with the Wire Act, you would have to use an online, offshore sportsbook to remain within your rights under these USA sports betting laws.

Am I Allowed To Bet On Sports Online Under The UIGEA?

With a USA sports betting law called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, you might think that betting online is unlawful. But it isn’t. This scary sounding law is actually just a banking regulation. The verbiage used in the UIGEA states that businesses are prohibited from accepting wagers and from processing the transactions associated with those wagers.

The problem with this is that as a USA sports betting law, it only has jurisdiction over US entities. So the entire part about businesses being prohibited from accepting wagers is null and void because it doesn’t have the authority to prevent those businesses from doing anything. The UIGEA was a huge overreach by the federal government and actually landed the United States in some legal troubles.

Now, while the UIGEA cannot prevent businesses from accepting wagers, it can prevent US businesses from processing the transactions associated with those wagers. So basically, it can control banks. This leads to deposits methods that are processed and run through a US bank can be declined at any time. While this doesn’t happen often, it does occasionally happen. To address this, online, offshore sportsbooks have provided multiple deposit alternatives to accommodate their US bettors.

So, to reiterate, the UIGEA sounds like it would make online sports betting unlawful, but it doesn’t. It does make depositing at online sportsbooks a little more difficult. But online sports betting sites have responded by added extra deposit methods for US bettors. This USA sports betting law does not prevent US bettors from betting on sports online.

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