- US Online Poker
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After many years in a holding pattern, the United States online casino business began taking big strides starting in 2019.
Once synonymous with New Jersey, the US online casino market has started including new states in recent years. Pennsylvania joined the club in July 2019, followed by West Virginia the following year, and Michigan to come soon.
The states where you can play online casino games for real money are fairly limited now. There are also sweepstakes casinos that operate in a variety of states around the country that are different from the legal online casinos that you will find in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and eventually Michigan.
Here’s a look at some of the best online casinos in the US:
The list of states with legal online casinos is relatively small currently, but it involves some pretty large states:
The first NJ online casinos launched in 2013, and the industry has been growing at a steady clip ever since.
This is easily the best place to play online casino games in the country, with a robust set of choices for gamblers that includes about two dozen online casinos, a number that will continue to grow. Those casinos include extensive game libraries of slots and table games, even including live dealer games that simulate being in a physical casino.
The biggest online casinos in the state are Borgata online casino / BetMGM Casino and the Golden Nugget online casino. Borgata is believed to be the single biggest casino in terms of revenue and wagers taken, while the casinos that operate under the Golden Nugget license generate the most revenue on a monthly basis. (All online casino licenses are tied to land-based partners.)
The 2020 pandemic accelerated an industry that was already growing at a brisk pace, to the point that we may soon see $1 billion in operator revenue per year just from online casinos.
The third state to legalize online casinos, PA got in the game as part of sweeping gaming expansion legislation passed in 2017. PA online casinos launched in 2019.
There are already about a dozen online casinos live in the state, giving customers a fairly robust selection to choose from.
Licenses in the state, like New Jersey, are tied to land-based casinos in Pennsylvania.
Michigan online casinos were legalized in 2019, but are not yet live. They could go live in late 2020 or early 2021.
The state legalized online gambling (including casinos) and sports betting for both commercial casinos and tribal casinos, meaning we could see perhaps dozens of online gambling options in the state.
Delaware was actually the first state to legalize online casinos. But it is a relatively small industry in the state, as it is a monopoly run by the lottery in conjunction with 888.
West Virginia online casinos began launching earlier than expected, in mid-2020. DraftKings Casino was the first, followed by BetMGM less than two months later. The state may eventually support up to 15.
There is no state that is imminently legalizing online casino games. But several are at least prospects to do so.
Despite the success of online casino gambling — especially as the 2020 pandemic shut down and limited revenue from land-based casinos — it has been relatively slow to expand. But as the world and gambling companies moves increasingly toward online operations, that is poised to change. US gaming giants like MGM Resorts, Caesars, Penn National Gaming and Boyd Gaming all have varying but serious intentions to make more from online gambling.
Here’s a look at places that might legalize forms of online casino games:
The state already has online poker and mobile sports betting. So it’s not a reach to think online casinos could someday come to the birthplace of legalized gambling in the US.
But it’s more complicated than that. Many of the land-based casinos in the state want nothing to do with online, even though some of the largest companies are pursuing it around the country.
Nevada also still has antiquated regulations on the books requiring online sports betting accounts to be created at a physical sportsbook.
Illinois is the only state on this list that has seriously advanced a bill; legislation that would have allowed Illinois online casinos passed the Senate in 2017. But the issue has not come up since.
The state now has legal online sportsbooks, so the thought that it could take another run at legalizing online casinos at least seems feasible.
But like Illinois, Indiana has a fully open online sports betting industry. The success of markets that have both casino and sports betting (NJ and PA) should start telling a compelling narrative for states like Indiana.
The state’s tribes have been saying for several years that they want online gambling. But disputes with the state and other gambling interests have held up the legalization of Connecticut online casinos.
Like all states, finding new sources of revenue can be a compelling idea, meaning online casinos in the state will have a shot at passing in the coming years.
The commonwealth has been eyeing sports betting and other forms of online gambling for years. It is the home of DraftKings, and that very large online gambling company has been trying to push online casinos over the finish line in recent years.
Every year brings new hope of Massachusetts online casinos and sports betting, but that hope has never been rewarded with action.
Getting started at an online casino is fairly easy, and generally consists of the same steps no matter what legal casino you are signing up for.
Most legal US casinos have both a desktop version you can play in browser, and mobile apps for iOS and Android. You don’t have to stick to just one or the other, but for purposes of signing up, you’ll have to pick one to start with. You can use the same account from every available platform, however.
The advantage of mobile play is that it’s a single download and you can play on the go. Many also have a sportsbook integrated into the same app. The downside is that not every game is ideally suited to a small screen. Simple games like single-reel slots, video poker and blackjack work great on a phone, but for roulette, craps or more complex slots, you might have a better experience on a tablet or desktop. You can find more information on our page of the best real money casino apps for 2020.
On the other hand, playing in your desktop or laptop browser means you have a big screen and don’t need to download the casino software itself. The most obvious downside is having to be at your desk. However, there’s an additional issue, in that you’ll have to download the GeoGuard browser plug-in so that the operator can verify your location.
Fortunately, this is easy, and you’ll be directed to do it during the sign-up process. It’s also the same plug-in for every operator, so once you’ve done it for one online casino, you’re good for all of them!
Assuming you’re going with a mobile casino app, the process is a little bit different depending on whether you’re using iOS or Android.
Downloading an iOS casino app: Clicking one of our Play Now links or visiting the operator’s download page on iOS will take you to the App Store. From there, it’s no different than downloading any other app. Just tap the “GET” button and confirm with your password or Touch ID.
Downloading an Android casino app: Unfortunately, Google does not allow gambling apps in its store, even legal ones. However, our Play Now links or the operator’s download page will prompt you to download directly. You may need to authorize your device to download apps from “unknown sources.” You’ll find this option under “Security” in the Settings menu.
For most casinos, you should only be playing in your browser on a desktop or laptop computer, and using a downloadable app for mobile.
If you click on one of our Play Now links, you’ll be taken directly to the casino’s page for new players. Just follow the directions on screen and you should have no problems. You will, however, have to download the GeoGuard plug-in at some point during signup if you don’t have it already.
The next step? Getting your account started.
This involves giving the online casino a number of pieces of information, likely including:
All of that information is used to verify that you are who you say you are, and that you are of legal gambling age (21).
While you can do all of the above anywhere in the US, you will have to be physically located within the state in order to actually gamble online.
Depending on the state and the individual online casino, you have one of several options:
There is a big difference between the legal and regulated online casinos in the United States and the variety of offshore sites that serve the US.
Here’s a top-level look at the differences:
Don’t take operators at their word when they claim to be legal, since the offshore sites all claim they’re doing nothing wrong. Many review sites are the same, and may even have “legal” in their name while advertising illegal sites. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to tell the difference between a truly legal site, and an offshore operator making false claims:
You can play just about anything that you would find at a physical casino at online casinos. Almost all online casinos will offer you at least the following:
Most online casinos put their slots products front and center like their land-based counterparts. They also tend to have a large variety of slots titles on offer, ranging from a few dozen up to 700 or more for the largest and longest-running casinos.
Since you’re playing on a screen anyway, video slots are a natural fit for online casinos. These multi-reel games typically feature fun sounds and animations, various types of bonus symbols and many ways to win, sometimes including bonus rounds.
Depending on where you’re playing, however, you may also be able to find digital reproductions of classic mechanical-reel stepper slots. These single-reel machines are simpler and easier to understand, a good choice for beginners and traditionalists.
Either type of slot can come with fixed pay tables, single-game progressive jackpots, or linked jackpots spanning multiple titles on the same site.
Blackjack is a favorite at the brick-and-mortar casinos, and one of the games which converts most readily to a digital environment. With only a few cards on the table and a few options at a time, it works great even on the smallest mobile screens.
Virtually every online casino offers at least a few blackjack titles. The only exceptions are when a new operator launches with only a handful of slots and no other games. Even in those cases, you’ll see blackjack appear within a matter of weeks, as it’s a high priority.
Typically, online blackjack is played with continuous shuffling. Different versions of blackjack on the same online casino site may have slightly different rules, but in many cases, there are only cosmetic differences between them.
Along with blackjack, roulette is one of the two staple table games that no casino would be complete without. It also converts very well to a digital experience. Placing bets can be a bit fiddly on a smartphone, due to the number of options and tiny screen. On tablet or desktop you’ll be just fine, however.
One nice thing about playing roulette online rather than in a casino is that you’ll usually find European Roulette on offer. If you’re not familiar, this means there’s only a single 0 on the wheel, and no 00. That decreases the house edge from 5.3% to just 2.7%, which means better odds for you. Aside from this, the differences between one roulette prodcut and another are mostly cosmetic.
Video poker is another casino classic that fits seamlessly into an online casino environment. Receive five cards, pick some to discard and replace, and try to make the best hand you can. It’s a simple game, and fits tidily onto even small screens, at least if you’re playing a single-hand version. The graphics can get pretty small if you’re playing a multi-hand variant, however.
One thing to realize about video poker, wherever you’re playing, is that getting a good return is contingent on knowing the right strategy. It can be one of the most generous casino games if played correctly, but mistakes can be costly. Fortunately, there are ample resources available online to teach you the best way to approach whatever version you choose.
Some casinos also offer additional types of product. Games that you’ll find at some but not all online casinos include:
You can also play online poker in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Delaware, and soon in Michigan.
Live dealer casino products have been available in New Jersey since 2016 and very recently in Pennsylvania. Michigan is expected to get them in early 2021.
Live dealer games are a hybrid experience, bringing a real human dealer to your home or mobile device via live stream. In the US, they’re supplied by Evolution Gaming or its former rival, now subsidiary Ezugi. These companies have studios in Philadelphia and at two Atlantic City casinos.
Blackjack and roulette are the two main live dealer products, though you will find some other games available. Loading a game and placing your bets works much the same as the purely digital versions of these games. However, instead of the result being randomly generated by the computer, you’ll get to watch a flesh-and-blood human shuffle and deal the cards or spin the roulette wheel in real time.
Compared to purely digital games, the main advantage of live dealer is that you get the social experience of interacting with the dealer and sometimes the other players. Although all legal casino games are verified to be fair and safe by the regulator, some players also prefer to be able to see the equipment rather than trusting a digital random number generator. Compared to the real casino experience, the advantages of live dealer play are the convenience of playing when and where you want, and lower betting minimums than you’d see when playing in person.
There are only five states where full, real-money online casinos are legal at the moment. If you live in one of the other 45, all is not lost, however. You have another great option in the form of sweepstakes casinos like Chumba or LuckyLand, which let you play for real cash prizes, while not technically being real money sites.
These casinos work almost like the real-money ones, except for a few technicalities they employ to stay on the right side of the law.
Instead of depositing real money to these casinos, you purchase play money, often called “Gold Coins.” The key to sweepstakes casinos is that for every purchase of these play coins you make, you get rewarded with a certain number of “Sweeps Coins,” in proportion to the size of your purchase.
You can then gamble with either type of coin. Playing with Gold Coins is no different from a social casino, i.e. just for fun. However, Sweeps Coins can be redeemed for cash prizes, making them as good as real money from your point of view.
What makes all of this legal is that technically, no purchase is necessary to obtain Sweeps Coins. Each sweepstakes casino operator offers you the opportunity to obtain a tiny amount of Sweeps currency by requesting it in writing, by mail. The amount you’ll get that way isn’t worth the time or effort of sending a letter, but it’s good enough to make these casinos qualify as legal sweepstakes and not illegal gambling under the law.
Here are some common questions about online casinos in the US.
The age to gamble online in all the states that have legalized online casinos is 21.
No, state laws mandate that you must be physically located in the state. Geolocation technology will verify where you are to a high degree of accuracy if you are on the border of a state with legal online casino gambling.
That answer is directly tied to how many states legalize it.
When New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan all reach maturity, we’re talking about perhaps in excess of $3 billion in gross gaming revenue generated by just those states. If more states are added, like from the list above, we could quickly be talking about somewhere in excess of $10 billion in GGR.
But, it all depends on the pace of legalization.