Because of the increasing popularity of online gambling, many people question the legality of playing in the US. Is it legal for US citizens to gamble online? The Internet is an open resource to just about anything nowadays and gambling is no exception. But as with all topics online, there are always legal questions; some activities are legal in one place and illegal in another. As always, knowing the history and reading the fine print are the best ways to answer the question. For some US citizens, gambling online is legal and for others it is not.
The Internet Gambling Act
In 1999, a bill was passed in Congress, supported by the Christian Coalition and other such groups. The Internet Gambling Prohibition Act was later defeated in the Senate due to lobbying from Jack Abramhoff and amid a flurry of controversy over who worked for whom.
In 2006 the SAFE Port Act (Security and Accountability For Every Port Act) was passed that included Title VIII, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, prohibiting transfer of funds from a financial institution to an illegal gambling site except for lotteries, horse races and fantasy sports. However, it was not originally a part of the bill passed in the House on May 4th and the Senate on September 14th, which George W. Bush signed into law on October 13th.
It was added on September 29th in Conference Report 109-711, the reading of which was waived due to H.RES.1064. Regulations were finalized on November 12th, 2008 and came into effect on January 19th, the final day of the Bush administration, with required compliance as of December 1st, 2009.
Most online casinos are licensed by CIGA or Curacao Internet Gaming Association located in Curacao, an island off the coast of Venezuela in the Dutch Antilles, an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. International commerce and financial services make up a significant part of the Netherlands Antilles' economy. Although CIGA appears to be a private association, having a Board of Directors and Bylaws, a Gaming License must be obtained from the Netherlands Antilles Government. CIGA has two types of members, operators (those engaged in online gaming within Curacao) and non-operators (banks, insurance, trust management, gaming software and other services related to online gaming). Their Mission Statement and listing of Board of Directors is publicly available.
The most important condition is in regard to the player's jurisdiction. Residents of the Netherlands Antilles, Canada, Iraq and Russia are prohibited. Residents of Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Missouri and Oregon are all prohibited. But there is one loophole; the list only applies to the actual gambling itself, not to playing the games. Residents of restricted areas can play without betting any money. All legal liability ultimately rests on the individual players so it's best to know the laws within your own jurisdiction before placing a bet.