How Online Gambling Works in the USA
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How Online Gambling Works in the USA

How Online Gambling Works in the USA

For those interested in getting into gaming, online casinos can seem daunting at first. First, there’s a patchwork of laws that vary state by state. Next, how do you set up an account? How do you make a deposit? How do the games work if there’s no dealer right there?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, most of the casinos in the US were closed at some point. All of Las Vegas and Atlantic City were closed for months because of health concerns. Even when they reopened, it was at limited capacity. Online gambling became the way to play and gamble for millions. 

How do online casinos work? Once you’re familiar with some terms and a few differences from live casinos, you’ll be ready to find a great casino online to gamble. Here’s one big difference: Online casinos often give you free money! But we’ll get to that shortly.


Why Choose Online Casinos?

There are a lot of reasons to choose online gambling. 



Having a full-size casino on your computer is awesome. As the COVID-19 pandemic showed us, sometimes being around other people is not a great thing. You can log in any time and play your favorite casino game.


Low Pressure

“Bear in mind that the good thing with online casinos is, you can play it with minimal pressure as well as by increasing the chances of making money. Along with this, if you have not been making money while playing physical casinos, you want to consider online casinos. Online platforms also have casinos sorted by slot number that allow the players to play without any pressure.” - Forbes Magazine


Make You More Productive

“Lowering stress, relaxing the mind, improving time-management skills, and enhancing your judgment and analytical skills are just some of the benefits that playing card games like rummy online can bring to players.” - Entrepreneur

Of course, if you’re playing for big (actual) money in an online casino, you might lose some of these benefits. Playing “nickel” slots or a low-key game of roulette, however, can be a lot of fun, a nice distraction, and won’t cost you a lot as long as you keep the betting under control.


Is Online Gambling Legal in the US?

“Generally speaking, gambling is not illegal in the US. That’s because there is no federal law banning gambling throughout the country. 

“That said, the full story is a lot more complicated. The US does have specific laws, such as the Federal Wire Act of 1961, that prohibit gambling that takes place across state lines. So, placing a bet in a single state might be fine, but placing a bet with a bookie located in the next state over would be considered illegal.” - TechRadar

Based on this and other federal laws that were enacted to deal with racketeers and the mob, the legal situation gets a bit more complicated. 

States are enacting legalized online gambling independently. This is further complicated by a legal difference between online sports betting and traditional casino gambling. 

The laws surrounding legalized gambling can be broken into the three types of games: casinos, just poker, and sports betting. 

(Note: The laws are changing quickly. It’s important to see what’s legal in your state at any given moment.)


States where online casinos are legal

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Delaware.

These states allow full scale casinos online. This means, more than simply poker, these casinos will have blackjack, roulette, and scores of other games. 


States where online poker is legal

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, West Virginia, Nevada, Delaware.

Nevada is the only state at the moment that only allows online poker and not casinos. The reason, based on Nevada’s long casino tradition, is obvious.


States where online sports betting is legal

New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, West Virginia, Colorado, Tennessee, Indiana, West Virginia, Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, Rhode Island, Montana.

In 1992, Congress passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act. The law presented states that didn’t already have legalized sports betting from legalizing it. In 2018, the Supreme Court overturned the law. At that point, states could decide to make sports betting legal, and, as you can see, many did.


Even more legal complications

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 made it illegal to run an online gambling website in the US. It’s not illegal to gamble online, just to have a website. At that point, hundreds of offshore casinos were established and Americans started gambling at overseas casinos. Fantasy sports betting is exempt from the 2006 law, so it’s legal across the nation at a federal level.

As with other legal gray areas, the federal government leaves it up to states how to regulate gambling within their borders. This is how some states have been able to legalize gambling with full, online casinos, whereas other states haven’t. 

Gambling is available in some form, either live or on the internet, in 48 out of 50 states. Only Utah and Hawaii have no gambling at all. 

While it’s unlikely that you’re going to be prosecuted for gambling in an online casino that’s in another state, it’s technically illegal. Some casinos use IP address locators to restrict the players on their sites.

The wisest choice is to check your local laws and find out where you can gamble in your state.


How do online casinos work?

There are two basic steps to getting started at an online casino: an account and a deposit.


Creating an account at an online casino

Starting an account at an online casino is simple and straightforward. Once you’ve found a casino you want to gamble at, click the button that typically says “Join Now.” 

This will launch a pop-up that will ask you a few basic personal questions. They don’t tie your account to a form of payment at this point, but you’ll need to do that soon.

Note: It’s important that you choose a reputable, US-based casino. In the address bar of your browser, you should see a lock, like a padlock. This tells you that the site has SSL security and your connection is secure from being intercepted.


Making a deposit

As you can imagine, online casinos make it easy to deposit money. All you have you have to do is tap the button that says, “Make a Deposit.” You’ll be able to use a debit or credit card, choose the amount you want to put into your casino account, and you’re done.

Note: This is actual money. While it might seem like you’re playing with virtual cash, as soon as you make a deposit from your credit or debit card, you’re playing with your actual funds. Don’t let the virtual nature of all of this fool you. You’re really gambling with your actual cash.


Deposit Bonuses from Online Casinos

You’ll see a lot online about deposit bonuses from online casinos. That makes sense because they’re extremely valuable if you choose the right casino and get the right bonus.

In essence, the casino will give you extra cash to gamble with just for making a deposit. This is cash that you can only use in the casino for a certain period or for a certain amount of gaming. In other words, you can’t just make a deposit and then withdraw the deposit and the bonus. 

There are different kinds of bonuses that are frequently found in online casinos:


No Deposit Bonuses

The casino will give you “free” money to gamble with without needing to make a deposit. Often, this is tied to a promo code. You’ll get money deposited to your account that you can use on the casino’s site. 

Check that site’s rules for withdrawing those funds, if you’re ever allowed to. 

A no-deposit bonus is a great way to get started at an online casino without even having to use your own money.


First Deposit Bonuses

These are the most common and most familiar type of bonus. After you make a deposit to your account, the casino will give you additional money to play with.

This can be worth a lot of money. Sometimes, depending on the amount of your initial deposit, you can get thousands of extra dollars to take to the virtual tables.

First deposit bonuses are frequently automatic, but look for a reputable referral site that will help you find the maximum bonus.


High-Roller Bonuses

You don’t have to go to Vegas or Monte Carlo to be treated like a high roller. 

Online casinos treat their high-rollers well. If you wager a lot, play often, or put down a big deposit, you’ll get additional bonuses deposited in your account. They might also invite you to exclusive tables, etc. 

Again, look for a casino that treats its high rollers well. It can be worth a lot of money to you.


Other Promotions

As you’re looking for an online casino, keep your eyes open for other promotions. These can include free spins on slots, special table bonuses, frequent player bonuses and more.

The online casinos are very generous, much more generous than their real-world counterparts. There’s always a promotion going on somewhere that will let you play with house money.

Look through a thorough list of casinos and their bonuses to find the one that fits your lifestyle, applies to your favorite games, and that you can get with the deposit you can make.


The Games in Online Casinos

How do online casinos work as far as the games are concerned?

Everyone has their favorite game, their favorite way to bet. Whether it’s using your knowledge of football to win with sports betting or spinning the wheel in slots, online casinos have it all. 

In this section, we’ll look at some of the major ways to gamble at an online casino.


Online Sports Betting

The sports betting section of the casino is really easy to understand once you get into it. 

Most offer live betting. Live betting is betting on games as they happen. For example, some casinos will let you bet on whether the baseball player at bat will hit a double right now or not. Will the kicker make this field goal? Will the golfer hit par on this specific hole? You’re betting on the events as they happen.

From there, there’s a crazy list of every imaginable sport listed. From the big ones, like professional football and baseball to snooker, darts, and cycling. You can bet on motor sports and handball, e-sports and skiing. If it’s a sport, there’s a great chance you’re going to be able to bet on it.


Choose your sport

Choosing your sport is as easy as clicking on it. This will open up the list of upcoming games, matches, races, etc. 

There are three types of odds: 

  • Moneyline
  • Point spread
  • Over/under betting


The money is pretty simple. It tells you how likely a team or player is to win.

If the team has a negative number, they’re more likely to win. The number is how much you need to bet in order to get a $100 payout. This is an American format that you’ll see on all American sports betting sites and casinos.

Point Spread

The point spread is the handicap that each team is given to tell you how it is favored to win.

It works like this: If you see a team with -3, they would need to win the game by over 4 points for you to win money. If you see a positive number, like +7, the team needs to win or lose by less than 6 points in order for you to get a payout.


If all of that is too complicated, you can look at an over/under bet. The odds makers will give you a number. It will have a half point to prevent a tie situation. You need to decide if the total score of the game for both teams will be over or under that amount.

So, if the odds makers have an over/under 21.5, you need to decide if both teams can put more than 21.5 points on the board. You simply bet over or under that amount.

Before you bet

Before you wager on a sports match or even an individual player, take the time to learn these odds. This is where your money is made. Make sure you understand how they work so you can make the right choices based on your expectations of the game.

Take the time to learn more about sports betting, particularly if you're into sports. It’s a lot of fun and you can make a bit of money doing it. 


Casino Games

Every game you can find in a casino is available in an online casino. From poker and blackjack to roulette and slots, you can play anything you want. 

They are a couple of different ways to play, with a live dealer or with an AI dealer.


Live Dealer vs AI

You can play with a live card dealer. On your screen, you’ll see the table, the dealer, and even the other players. You can speak to and interact with everyone verbally, just like you do in real life. 

When you’re playing with an AI dealer, you're playing with a program as the dealer. If you’re playing a game like poker, the other players are real, but the dealer is a computer program. In blackjack, you’re playing against the computer.

Which you prefer is up to you.


Other Casino Games

How do online casinos work with regards to other games, like roulette and craps? It’s all the same. You’ll see the table, place your bets, and the system will run the game. 

Because online casinos are overseen by state gaming commissions (another great reason to play in your local state-based casinos), you’re guaranteed that the game is honest and gives you the right odds.


Playing Online Slots

Slots are HUGE online. This is probably because they’re simple to play, a lot of fun, and there’s an enormous variety with new ones coming out every day. 

Some slot machines are a single line, like an old-school machine where you just need to get three or four right. Other machines have 10, 20, even 30 lines and designs that you can win with. The more lines you play, the bigger your wager, but also the higher the chances you’ll win.

The trick to slots is to have fun. Turn up the volume, sit back with a beverage, and enjoy the game. It’s simple and fun.

Check out some of the variety of slot games you play online here.


Why play at online casinos?

“Overall, online sites offer a wider selection of games and can provide you with opportunities to make more winnings and create more fun. The games are available to play at any time and from anywhere – all you need is an internet connection and a mobile phone, tablet or computer.” - The Signal

So the answer to “how do online casinos work?” is simple: almost any way you want. They’re convenient, fun, and offer lots of chances to make money. You can choose simple games, like slots, or play against talented players at a Texas Hold-em table. 

No matter what you choose to do, you’re going to find that gambling online is a lot of fun, so enjoy!


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