Betting on sporting events has been an integral part of American culture since the country was founded. The best American betting sites recognize what is important to American bettors – largely their favored currency and language, the United States Dollar and English. Luckily for Americans, almost every betting site on the Internet is offered in English and features the United States Dollar as its primary or an acceptable currency.
For this reason, American bettors will have a very large list from which to select the best American betting sites and can find some of the best on the Internet as their primary options. American sports are composed primarily of the four professional sports leagues in North America, the National Football League, National Hockey League, National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball.
Update: The US betting market is undergoing a massive shift, individual states are licensing and regulating online sportsbooks, this page is likely outdated. We recommend checking out BettingUSA.com for the latest updates, news, and information.
USA Betting Information
While the United States Dollar and English are very popular on Internet betting sites, some betting sites have chosen to withdraw from the American market following the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. Although this act does not expressly forbid online betting from residents of the United States, it does sometimes make it difficult for players to make deposits to betting sites and has made many betting sites question the future legality of online gambling in the country. Most notably, deposits made using a popular American payment method, major credit card, have become notoriously difficult from players in the United States. In addition, bank transfers have become largely impossible unless funneled through an electronic wallet prior to betting site deposits.
In addition to the four major professional sports leagues in North America, there are several other sports and events that are popular with American bettors. For example, mixed martial arts and horse racing are particularly popular in the United States. In addition, betting on politics has one of the largest volumes in the world in America. Due to the lack of acceptable payment methods for Americans in bank transfers or credit cards, most Americans turn to electronic wallets to make their deposits at the best American betting sites. While NETeller and Moneybookers are not available, UseMyWallet and Click2Pay are viable options for American bettors.
Attributes of the Top USA Betting Sites
The best American betting sites recognize the difficulties that bettors from the United States face when making deposits to bet on sports online. A large offering of different American deposit methods is necessary including a reputation for approving credit card transactions more often than rejecting them. Another important attribute of the best American betting sites is that they offer odds listings in the American format, one of the easiest odds formats to understand in the country. Finally, the best American betting sites should focus primarily on the favorite sports in the country such as basketball, American football, hockey and baseball.
Although the selection of betting sites on the Internet that accept wagers in the United States Dollar and feature software in English is vast, the best American betting sites must be selected from the much smaller selection that has chosen to remain open to the US market after the 2006 passage of the UIGEA. Acceptance of popular American payment methods like UseMyWallet and Click2Pay are crucial for the best American betting sites and odds listed in decimal, fractional and American formats are a solid addition for such web sites.
Online gambling in the United States is regulated at both the federal and state level. Federal legislation provides an overarching set of guidelines that dictate what is prohibited across the board while leaving each state the freedom to plot its own course in legislating certain forms of online betting.
For example, a federal law called the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 criminalizes real money sports betting for all but a few states. This is why Nevada has proper sports betting and several others offer a limited type of sports lottery while every other state is strictly forbidden from legalizing sports betting at all.
When it comes to online poker, casino games, fantasy sports and horse racing betting, each state has the option to legalize or criminalize each activity as it sees fit. Some states are quite permissive and allow all those activities. Other states outlaw anything that even resembles gambling.
The most important thing to know as a player is that there are no federal laws that make it illegal for you to place bets online wherever you want. A myriad of federal and state laws provide all sorts of penalties for gaming websites that operate in the US without authorization, but only the state of Washington has a law on the books that could be used to prosecute individual players. But even in Washington, not a single player has ever seen the inside of a jail cell for merely placing wagers over the internet.
Having said that, I do believe it is best to stick with licensed and legal betting sites in the US. Not only is it safer from a legal point of view, but it is also safer for your money. Legal gaming websites are subject to US laws and are much less likely to suddenly disappear with your money.
Key Federal Laws
The following federal laws impact gambling regulation across the entire nation. These laws supersede state law such that no state may pass legislation contrary to any of these laws. A number of states have challenged these laws at one time or another, but the courts have upheld these laws in all cases to date.
UIGEA: One of the most important pieces of legislation at the federal level is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). The UIGEA was passed with the intention of blocking financial transactions to and from illegal betting websites.
The UIGEA does NOT target players; it only targets companies that process payments on behalf of gambling websites. The passage of the UIGEA made it difficult for online poker and gambling sites to continue operating in the US and signaled the beginning of the decline of offshore gaming for US citizens. The UIGEA did provide two notable exceptions for fantasy sports and horse/greyhound racing betting, provided individual states took steps to legalize those activities.
PASPA: The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was passed in 1992 and made it illegal for state legislatures to endorse or regulate sports betting in any form. When it was passed, it “grandfathered” in four states that had already legalized sports betting to varying degrees.
At the time it was passed, Nevada was the only state with full-fledged sports betting. Nevada remains the only state to this day that allows betting on individual sporting events. Oregon, Montana and Delaware may only offer limited forms of sports parlays through their state lotteries. PASPA is the primary reason states today have been unable to legalize online sports betting.
Wire Act: The Federal Wire Act prohibits the use of “wire communication” facilities to process bets or wagers in the United States. It was originally passed in 1961 but has since been interpreted to also apply to online gambling.
In 2011, the Department of Justice issued an opinion on the Wire Act that concluded that it only applies to sports betting and not other forms of gaming. This opinion played a pivotal role in allowing states such as Nevada and New Jersey to legalize online poker and casino gambling.
Gambling Laws at the State Level
Each of the 50 states takes a different approach to online betting. Most states are fine with daily fantasy sports and horse racing betting, but restrict online casinos and online poker. There are exceptions, however. New Jersey, Nevada, Oregon and Delaware have all legalized online poker, online casinos or both.
Online Sports Betting: Online sports betting remains illegal in all 50 states to date thanks to the afore-mentioned PASPA. In recent years, New Jersey has challenged PASPA in court as it seeks to legalize sports betting within state borders. That legal battle is ongoing today. Of all the forms of online gambling out there, sports betting is the least likely to be legalized any time soon.
Online Poker and Casino Games: The Department of Justice’s 2011 legal opinion made it possible for states to legalize online poker and casinos. Only a handful of states have taken action to date, but more states could be joining the online gambling bandwagon soon.
Horse Racing Betting: Thanks to an exemption written into the UIGEA, a majority of states permit betting on horse and greyhound races. Legal racing betting sites must be licensed by at least one state’s racing commission in order to offer their services to US citizens.
Daily Fantasy Sports: One other exemption included in the UIGEA extends to fantasy sports contests. This exemption was originally intended to apply to traditional season-long fantasy sports contests, but enterprising entrepreneurs were able to take that exemption and run with it. They set up fantasy sports websites offering one-day contests that have become extremely popular in recent years.
The growth of online fantasy sports has caused considerable controversy. An increasing number of states have come out and either declared daily fantasy sports contests to be illegal or have formally legalized the activity with legislation. Numerous court cases are in progress to this day.