A Starter Guide to Gambling in the USA

Whether you’re visiting for a holiday or live in America, one thing’s for certain. If you like a little flutter, the gambling laws from state to state can be a little confusing. Staying on the right side of the law is difficult

That’s because each state has its own rules. What you can bet on depends on where you are standing at the time. The good news is that PlayUSA has now produced an easy to use interactive tool to help users navigate the local laws for each state.

How Much Do Gambling Laws Vary?

You might be surprised to learn that all types of betting, from horses and sport to casinos, is only fully allowed in 4 states across the USA. Sports betting, for instance, has long been contentious in many states even though a recent Supreme Court ruling has made it legal.

Federal approval or sanction doesn’t automatically mean it’s completely legal across the entire USA and there are still aspects of sports betting that are restricted in certain states.

The truth is that heading to a new state can be a problem if you like to gamble. What is legal in one state may not be the same just over the state line. The PlayUSA interactive tool gives you a simple way to check what’s above board and what’s not.

Here’s a quick look at the gambling highlights:

Sports Betting

Despite the change in federal law, sports betting is still largely banned in a large number of states across the USA. There are some states that are reviewing this in light of the Supreme Court judgement but currently you can only get involved in sports betting in 9: Oregon, Nevada, Montana, Mississippi, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and New York.

Horse Betting

Always separated as a betting category from sports such as American football and baseball, horse racing is only banned in three states: Utah, Georgia and North Carolina.


Heading to the casino for a flutter is outright banned in a few states like Kentucky and Virginia, but most states have at least a little legal provision. Some are limited to operating in certain areas – for instance, in North Dakota, casinos are illegal accept when they are on tribal land. Gambling is legal state wide in Nevada as you might expect.

Online Gambling

It’s become more and more popular to gamble online around the world and for the betting firms it’s all big business. There are only four states where it’s legal in the USA, however: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada.

The Lottery

While the vast majority of states in the USA run a lottery, you have to physically go out and buy your ticket in most places. Running an online lottery is only legal in about 13 states. The lottery itself is illegal in four states: Nevada, Utah, Mississippi and Alabama.

Other gambling across the USA varies just as much. For example, video gaming is illegal in about half of states while Bingo is not allowed in Utah and Kentucky among others.

The Best States to Have a Bet

Whether you want to hit the casino floor or simply have a flutter on the horses, finding a state that caters to all your needs can be tricky. You might think that Nevada is the best location but that isn’t strictly true.

The best states may well surprise you:

  • Pennsylvania: By far the most friendly when it comes to the different forms of gambling, the state isn’t shy of getting people to place a bet or two. 89% of gambling is legal or at least legal in certain locations.

  • Delaware: With exempt casinos, its own lottery and sports betting, Delaware is second on the list with around 78% of gambling activities considered legal.

  • Nevada: You’d expect the home of Las Vegas to be somewhere near the top but the truth is that only 67% of gambling activities are legal in the state. It doesn’t have a lottery, mainly because of objections from the casino companies.

Other states where you’ll have a bigger chance of placing a bet are Maine, New York and New Jersey. These three states highlight how different rules that affect what you can gamble on. Neither allows you to play video game terminals but you will be sure to find a good few casino. Spending the day at the horse racing is not a problem as is the case in many states.

So who has the most objection to gambling?

In a country where there is so much diversity, you won’t be surprised to learn that there are a few states where gambling isn’t widely accepted at all.

In Hawaii, you won’t have much chance placing a bet anywhere. It’s been banned since the state was formed way back in 1959, though social gambling among friends is allowed. Another state where it’s pretty difficult to lose your shirt on a bet is Utah where most gambling activities are banned.

The good news is that you no longer need to leave betting to chance. By using the interactive tool produced by PlayUSA, you can simply and quickly understand the local state betting laws.

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