The US has long had a somewhat uneasy relationship with gambling, but casinos have existed in the country for some time. They were operating long before the days of the Las Vegas Strip, in fact, in the form of riverboat casinos on the Mississippi, but these died out when the Civil War broke out.
In the second half of the 19th century, Strict laws just about killed casino activity, but then the first major casino development appeared in 1906 in the form of the Golden Gate Casino, which was also a hotel. In 1926, a wealthy businessman from San Francisco then built the Cal Neva Casino in 1926, and in 1931, casinos became legalized in Nevada.
By the end of World War II, investors began to see Las Vegas and the surrounding cities as a good place to build casinos. Soon more casinos sprung up in the region.
Today, there are many casinos in the US, and the country has been relaxing its somewhat stern attitude towards gambling, gradually paving the way for the possibility of more online casinos opening up.
Establishing whether you can play legally in a state
Given the US’s somewhat conservative attitude towards gaming, identifying whether it’s possible to play legally in a state is tricky.
Fans of casino gaming will have welcomed the news, however, that states now have a say in whether they allow gambling. A decision by the Supreme Court, in May 2018, ruled that not giving states the power to decide whether they permit gambling was unconstitutional.
As a result, states are at various stages of in the legalization process. In the meantime, there are certain steps you can take to avoid falling foul of the law:
Assume that casino gaming is generally less widespread
State and local governments impose licensing and zoning restrictions. The only two states in which you can truly assume to be playing legally at a casino in the US are Nevada and Louisiana, where gambling is legal state-wide.
American Indian tribes, as sovereign nations, however, have legal protection to open casinos. They have done this not without some controversy in some states, such as California.
Be aware that just because casino gaming is legal one state, it doesn’t mean you can play there legally
The law is a peculiar beast, and if your state doesn’t permit casino gaming, you might try to circumnavigate the law by playing at a casino in another state. It’s a risky game. Some state laws are especially tough on gambling, and crossing state borders to play where its legal doesn’t mean you’ll be playing legally. You could still be breaking the laws of your own state.
This is something to consider when placing a bet in online casinos. It may be perfectly legal to bet in your own state. Betting at an online casino in which the operator is based in another state, however, could be illegal.
Understand whether games are a game of skill or chance
Of course, you can’t roll the dice and know what the outcome is going to be, or turn a card and know what the card will be. Everyone might be gambling if that was the case!
Know, however, that state gambling laws forbid games on which even a partial element of the outcome depends on chance. If chance is the bigger factor in the outcome, the state considers the game one of chance. This means learning the difference between whether a game is a game of skill or just a game of chance.
How you interpret this can be something of a grey areas, as some may argue that card games such as poker, for instance, involve skill. Perhaps the best way to think of it is that if the game rewards a prize to the winners based on skills, such as a car race or a shooting competition, this wouldn’t be gambling.
Don’t gamble a dime in Utah, Idaho or Wisconsin
Although a lot of states have been looking into regulating gaming, Idaho and Wisconsin have been dragging their heels on the issue of sports betting. There have been few developments.
Meanwhile, Utah has long disapproved heavily of gambling, and the state’s own constitution reflects its take on gambling of any kind. It would be wise to avoid gambling in these states.
States that allow casino gaming
The overhaul of the law has seen gaming go through different developments in different states. Right now, however, you’ll find casinos in the following states:
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
The casinos in these states will be tribal casinos or standard commercial casinos and with a licence to operate legally. In some states, only tribal casinos exist.
As mentioned, you should check the laws of your own state regarding gaming to be sure of playing in any casino legally. Now that states are exploring sports betting, you may be able to gamble online in some of these states. Note that legalization and regulation of online casino operation is something several states are looking into.
Times have changed, and the US is beginning to embrace the world of casino gaming more. It’s better to be safe than sorry, however. A quick consultation with local authorities before you start playing in casinos could spare you a hefty fine or other penalty.