Online Poker Report

US Online Casinos

After years of little progress, the United States online casino business is finally starting to take off.

An industry once dominated by just New Jersey has started including new states in recent years, with more states offering real money online casinos potentially to come.

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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.

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Where can you play legal online casino games in the US?

The list of states with legal online casinos is relatively small currently, but it involves some pretty large states:

  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania
  • Delaware
  • Michigan (pending launch)

New Jersey online casinos

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.

Pennsylvania 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

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 online casinos

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.

States that could have online casinos in the near future

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:

Nevada online casinos

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 online casinos

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.

Indiana online casinos

Chatter about Indiana online casinos becoming legalized began in 2020. How likely that is is in the eye of the beholder.

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.

Connecticut online casinos

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.

Massachusetts online casinos

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 online casinos in the US

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.

Downloading an online casino app

The first step is to get your app. You can, of course, play directly on a desktop or mobile site. But if you want to play on a phone or a tablet, this is your first step.

  • Go to the casino’s website. From there, you’ll find links to download an app.
    • iPhone or iPad: Links will take you to the App Store, where you can proceed to download.
    • Android devices: You will be prompted for a direct download, as gambling apps do not appear in the Google Play Store. The site should give you instructions on how to proceed and permissions you will need to grant for the download.

Registering an online casino account

The next step? Getting your account started.

This involves giving the online casino a number of pieces of information, likely including:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Birth date
  • Last four digits of your Social Security number

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.

How to deposit at US online casinos

Depending on the state and the individual online casino, you have one of several options:

  • ACH transfers: This is generally the easiest way to get money to an online casino Writing an e-check via ACH typically requires three-plus days for funds to clear. Casinos get around this by using a third party (for example, VIP preferred). You go through a simple verification process, then you can instantly transfer money using e-checks.
  • Bill pay and bank transfer: Sometimes you can link your bank directly to your online casino account. Note that some banks don’t accept online gambling transactions, whether they occur at legal casinos or not.
  • PayPal: The well-known online wallet facilitates online transactions for many online casinos.
  • Credit and debit cards: Most online casinos take card transactions for Visa and Mastercard. However, if the underlying bank doesn’t accept online gambling transactions, you will get declined. The options above are usually better.
  • Deposit at the casino cashier: Some casinos allow you to hand over cash at the related physical casino.
  • PayNearMe: A popular method for moving money around tied to 7-Eleven stores in states.

Legal online casinos vs. offshore gambling sites

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:

  • Legality: Offshore online casinos operate in violation of both federal and state gambling laws. There is some disagreement on whether it’s legal to place bets offshore, but you are probably not going to jail if you wager offshore. Still, by using offshore online casinos, you are supporting businesses that are not cleared to do business in the country.
  • Safety: With legal online casinos, state governments, regulators and casinos based in the US are in charge of the online casinos. As such, you can be assured that your money is safe and secure with any legal online casino. Because of the legality issue above, there’s no such guarantee that your money is safe at offshore sites. Look no further than the shutdown of several online poker sites in 2011 — causing many poker players to lose a lot of money — when the US cracked down on operators serving Americans.

How can you tell the difference between offshore and legal US online casinos?

There are a few easy ways:

  • A regulated online casino will feature a “.com” URL. Any offshore site will feature a different designation at the end of its domain. Sites that feature .lv, .ag and .eu that claim to serve the US legally are generally offshore sites.
  • Regulated sites have apps in the App Store. You need to directly download apps for Android from a website, but regulated casinos are approved by Apple for real money gambling.
  • You’ll see the logo of the state gaming regulator on the site or app. These logos feature the body that regulates gambling for that state. If you see something like Costa Rica, Antigua or Curaçao, you’re looking at an offshore operator.

What real money online casino games can you play in the US?

You can play just about anything that you would find at a physical casino at online casinos, including:

  • Slots
  • Blackjack
  • Roulette
  • Video poker
  • Other table games

You can also play online poker in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Delaware.

Online casino frequently asked questions

Here are some common questions about online casinos in the US.

How old do I have to be to bet at online casinos?

The age to gamble online in all the states that have legalized online casinos is 21.

Can I bet at online casinos anywhere in the US if I started an account in a state where it is legal?

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.

How big can the US online casino industry get?

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.

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