Those looking to place online sports bets with a legal, fully licensed, and completely regulated US sportsbook have come to the right place. Here at US Gaming Review, we provide you with all the information you need to find legal and safe bookmakers operating in the United States and explain why you should always stick to these operators instead of offshore ones that provide their services without necessary regulatory approvals.
Before we dive into the topic at hand, there is some information you should know about sports betting in the United States in general. For many years, this activity was forbidden across the country except for a few states, most notably Nevada. Even in those states, players were only allowed to place their bets in person and online betting was never a possibility.
The reason why US states were not able to offer sports betting until recently resided with the infamous PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act). The Act was made a law in 1992 by the US Congress, making it illegal for any individual state to offer sports betting.
It took well over two decades before someone was able to successfully challenge the PASPA and change the history of sports betting in the United States.
That “someone” was the state of New Jersey, which challenged the Act as unconstitutional and started a legal battle that lasted for several years and saw numerous turns and shifts before finally reaching the positive outcome the state was looking for.
In May 2018, The US Supreme Court finally ruled that the PASPA was not consistent with the Constitution and, as such, it could not stand. With this decision, every state was given free rein to regulate the matter of sports betting however it saw fit. This ushered the brand new era of fully lawful and regulated betting in the United States.
How to Identify 100% Legal and Regulated Online Sportsbooks
If you do not have much experience betting online, you could still be somewhat confused as to how you can identify regulated bookmakers and distinguish them from the ones that are not. If that is the case, just follow this simple checklist every time to be 100% certain that the sportsbook is truly licensed and safe:
- Regulator’s seal: All licensed bookmakers in the US feature a state’s regulator seal on their homepage (usually in the footer of the site). Look for this information first and if you cannot find it, you can be almost certain immediately that you are not dealing with a legal US bookmaker. If there is a seal but you still have your doubts, you can always visit the regulators site to double-check this information.
- Connection to a local brand: All US bookies are connected to local land-based operators as this is one thing that all state laws have in common. So, a properly regulated online betting site will always have a connection to a gaming brand that you have probably heard of.
- Local customer service: Having access to customer support is an important part of betting online. Bookmakers licensed in the US will usually offer a land based phone line that you can call to talk to a support agent. The phone number and the area code are the ones of the state the bookie is registered in and this is a reliable sign that the operation is actually legitimate.
- Individual state licensing information: At the moment, no sportsbook is licensed on the federal level and they all have to be registered in individual states. Legitimate US operations will have the list available of all the states they have licenses for. If a bookmaker claims they are regulated to cater to the entire US market, it means they are probably not regulated at all.
- Rewarding loyalty programs: You will find that most licensed US bookmakers offer valuable loyalty schemes for their users. This means that you will get all sorts of rewards, like bonuses, free bets, merchandise, and more for being a loyal user, regardless of your betting success.
Why Choose a Legal Online Sportsbook?
For a long time, US bettors were forced to play with unregulated sites if they wanted to bet online. This is no longer the case in many states that have passed sports betting laws, and many more will come in the future.
If you enjoy betting on sports, you should avoid offshore sites at all costs and only wager your money with fully licensed, regulated, and legal bookmakers. There are many reasons for this, the most important ones being:
- Safety of your funds and personal info: all US bookies have to adhere to very strict rules enacted by state regulators, which include keeping players funds safe and their sensitive personal information fully protected at all times. This is something that cannot be said for many offshore operators.
- Access to responsible gaming tools and resources: Regulated US bookmakers take responsible gambling very seriously, providing players with all sorts of tools and resources to stay in control over their betting habits. This includes deposit and loss limits, self-exclusions, and easy access to different organizations specializing in providing assistance for those experiencing gambling problems.
- Dispute resolution: In the event of any disputes between the player and the bookmaker that they cannot resolve internally, the player can always turn to the state regulator for assistance. All gaming commissions provide an easy way for players to file their complaints and request assistance if they feel they were not treated fairly by the operator in any way.
- Easy deposits and withdrawals: You will have no problems getting funds onto your betting account when using regulated bookmakers. They largely support payment methods popular in the US, so you will likely have access to one or more of them without any additional efforts. When it comes to withdrawals, the process is usually just as smooth and waiting times are usually reasonable.
- Community benefits: Locally licensed sites usually help contribute to the communities in different ways. A portion of their earnings is directed towards things like healthcare, education, and other important aspects, which means that at least part of your losses helps finance some positive movements, which is definitely not the case with offshore sites.
Best Value — Welcome Bonuses & Promotions
In most regulated states, there are more than bookmaker licensed to offer their services. This means that these operators need to compete for the users, and having a long list of betting options is not enough. These sportsbooks need to offer some additional value to get potential players interested and keep them around.
This additional value is realized through a variety of bonuses and promotional offers, starting with a welcome bonus for newcomers. You can get a lot of extra money in this way and, generally speaking, promos found at regulated US bookies are quite valuable and player-friendly.
In the online gambling industry, welcome bonuses are designed to attract new players and provide them with a more pleasant first experience with the site. When it comes to legal bookmakers in the USA, most of them have decent welcome offers that players should take advantage of, regardless of what their bankroll or their betting preferences might be.
Most often, you will come across welcome bonuses in the form of a risk-free bet. This means that the bookmaker will guarantee to give back the amount of your very first bet back in the event you lose.
For example, you make a deposit and place a bet of $150. Your picks do not come in and you lose that first wager. The bookmaker will give you $150 in betting credits that you can use to place a new bet and try your luck again with no additional risk involved.
Some bookies still to more traditional bonuses as well, where you will get a match on your first deposit. In these cases, you will need to turn over (wager) the bonus amount a certain number of times, usually with the stipulation of the minimum qualify odds.
Regulated US sportsbooks are known for giving out bonus bets in many different ways. An example is where you place an outright bet on a particular game before the start and the bookie gives you a bonus live bet that you can place while the game is ongoing.
When there is a big sporting event going on, sportsbooks will frequently give out free $5 or $10 bets to all customers who meet certain conditions, like placing any $10+ bet during the qualifying period.
Whether you are an experienced bettor or someone betting just for fun, these bonus bets can be quite valuable and add to your bottom line. With every state having at least several regulated sites, you can find an interesting offer almost every day if you spend some time looking.
Leaderboards and Competitions
For those looking something more engaging and involving, many sportsbooks also offer all sorts of competitions to get involved with. These come in all shapes and sizes and pitch punters against each other to see who can get the best score within certain terms.
For example, players will need to make an accumulator bet on at least five NFL games, and whoever posts the winning tickets with the highest odds wins the competition. Rewards can be in the form of straight-up cash, bonuses, free bets, game tickets, merchandise, and much more.
Advantages of Online Sportsbooks Over Land-based Sportsbooks
Many people are used to betting live, i.e. placing their bets at a land-based establishment, and they are not too keen on online bookmakers. However, when comparing the two, there are many advantages that betting sites have over their land-based counterparts, and we are going to list a few of the most important ones here:
- Convenience: The most obvious advantage online bookies have over the land-based ones is the convenience. You do not need to even leave your home to place your bets. You can do it from your home computer or mobile device, and juggling your picks is much easier as everything is clearly visible on the automatically generated betting slip.
- Variety of betting options: While many land-based bookies do have a good number of sports and betting markets, you will almost always find more variety with online sportsbooks. Since the system is fully automated, it is much easier for betting sites to add new options.
- Live-betting made easier: If you wanted to bet live on a particular game, doing it at a live betting shop can be quite tricky. You often need to place your bets quickly, and in a live setting, there are many factors that can prevent you from doing so. Online, you can place your live bets in a matter of seconds, without missing a beat.
- More valuable promotions: When it comes to player rewards, online bookmakers are simply far ahead of the land-based ones. With lower overhead costs, they can afford to give much more back to the players, which means you will get better value when betting online via all sorts of bonuses, free bets, cashbacks, and similar.
- Banking safety: When betting online, you do not need to carry large amounts of money around with you. Regulated US sportsbooks provide a variety of options you can use to fund your betting account straight from your credit card, e-wallet, or a different method of your choosing. So, this is simply a much safer way of placing bets, especially if you are used to betting larger amounts.
How to Sign Up With a Licensed US Bookmaker?
Players new to online betting are often reluctant to give it a try because they feel like the process of getting started is complicated. Luckily, this is not the case, and you will be able to sign up with a bookmaker of your choice in a matter of minutes. Just follow these simple steps:
- Find the sportsbook you want to bet with. Pick the bookmaker you like and make sure they are licensed in your state using the tips we have shared earlier.
- Begin the account creation process by clicking a button that will usually say something like ‘Join’ or ‘Sign Up.’ It is usually highlighted and you should have no problems finding it.
- Fill in the registration form. This part is pretty intuitive as you will need to fill in your personal information like name, surname, date of birth, and sometimes last four digits of your SSN. Just make sure to enter all the information correctly to avoid any complication later down the line.
- Submit the form. Once you have filled all the info, submit the registration form. You will receive an email notifying you that your new betting account is ready.
- Deposit funds. Use the information from the registration to log in to your account and deposit some money into your account. You will get to pick from several different options, so choose the one that is the most convenient for you.
- You are ready to place your first bet. At this point, there is nothing else to worry about. You can proceed to the main area of the site or the betting app and make your picks for your very first bet.
Where Is Online Sports Betting Legal?
Right now, there are about two dozen US states allowing sports betting, with more to come in the following months. However, not all of them offer the ability to bet online.
Here is a quick overview of all US states where you can legally bet on sports online:
- Arizona — sports betting was legalized in Arizona in September 2021 and now there are about a dozen options available to players in the state.
- Arkansas – The law allowing online sports betting was finally passed in Arkansas in Feb 2022, allowing up to eight betting platforms in the state.
- Colorado — in Colorado, sports betting went live near the end of 2021, and there are now more than two dozen sports betting apps available in the state.
- Connecticut – online sports betting became regulated in CT in 2021 but there are only three online betting operators licensed in the state.
- Illinois — while online sports betting is available in Illinois, players still need to register in person to be able to do so. This is poised to change in 2022.
- Indiana — sports betting in Indiana started in September of 2019. Online bookmakers joined the fray about a month later.
- Iowa — since 2019, Iowa has been the full-service sports betting state, with players having access to retail and online options right from the get-go.
- Kansas – Kansas passed the online sports betting regulation in the first half of 2022 and today, there are close to a dozen betting platforms readily available to the players.
- Louisiana – In Louisiana, retail sports betting went live in October 2021. The online component joined a few months later, with the first operators going live in the state in late January, 2022.
- Maryland — the state joined the legal sports betting landscape relatively late, in December of 2021.
- Massachusetts – somewhat late to the party, Massachusetts legalized online sports betting in 2023.
- Michigan — regulated sports betting went live in Michigan in January of 2021. Ten sportsbooks opened their doors on the launch day, with more added in following months.
- Nevada – although online sports betting is available in Nevada, players are required to register in person before being able to place bets.
- New Hampshire* – The state legalized sports betting in June, 2019, and the first sportsbook went live a few months later, in December of the same year.
- New Jersey — The state of New Jersey played a key role in bringing regulated sports betting across the US. First bookmakers went live in 2018, ushering the way of the sports betting renaissance in America.
- New York – Regulated sports betting went live in New York early in 2022. Nine operators received their licenses, with five launching immediately and the rest joining later.
- Ohio – Ohio was also one of the late comers to the online sports betting party, finally passing the required law in January of 2023.
- Oregon – Sports betting in Oregon has been legal since 1989 and this did not stop with the passage of PASPA as the state was exempt and allowed to continue offering legal betting within its borders. The activity was stopped in 2007, though, and then renewed in 2019. In 2022, DraftKings officially took over the charge over sports betting in the state.
- Pennsylvania — one of the largest regulated states, Pennsylvania has been offering sports betting since 2019, and it features over two dozen licensed sportsbooks.
- Rhode Island – online sports betting has been available in Rhode Island since 2018. The state once had the in-person registration requirement but it was eventually removed.
- Tennessee — in Tennessee, players can only bet on sports online as there are no land-based casinos in the state. Sports betting debuted in Tennessee in November 2020.
- Virginia — after regulating sports betting in January of 2021, Virginia is now home to more than 10 licensed bookmakers.
- West Virginia — the state joined the sports betting market quite early, becoming one of the first states to offer it in August 2018.
- Wyoming — sports betting launched in the state in September 2021 through several mobile apps.
Legal History of Sports Betting in the US
The US has a long and complicated relationship with sports betting. We are bringing you a quick overview of more recent events that had a significant impact on the activity and led to the current situation.
- The Wire Act of 1961 — the act made it illegal to use telephone lines to place any kind of wagers across state lines, looking to curb the rise in illegal sports betting and hinder organized crime. In the decades to come, it was one of the main obstacles for regulated sports betting in the US.
- Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA): With PASPA, lawmakers came after sports betting in individual states, banning state governments from offering legal betting within their own borders.
- Unlawful Internet Gaming Act (UIGEA) of 2006 — the passage of the UIGEA meant that bettors from the US could no longer place their wagers with offshore sports betting operators, either. With this move, the US Government made it really hard for people to find safe and reliable betting options, but this did not decrease the popularity of the activity in the country.
- In 2011, New Jersey started its battle against the PASPA. The state governor Chris Christie filed a lawsuit, emphasizing that parts of the Act were unconstitutional. This started a long and hard legal battle to change the situation with sports betting in the US.
- On May 14, 2018, the US Supreme Court struck down the PASPA. After going through a long legal process, New Jersey finally claimed an important victory, when the Supreme Court decided that the Federal Government had no hold over state governments in terms of regulating sports betting within their own borders.
- 2018 — 2023 — over 30 US states have legalized sports betting in one way or another. With legal obstacles out of the way, a majority of US states have now legalized and regulated sports betting, with more likely to come in the near future.