Bart Calendar spent 10 years as a journalist for Gannett covering murder trials and rock and roll.
Since then he has traveled the Earth gambled in the best casinos in the world.
The question of legality of offshore online casinos in the US has been asked by many players over the years and it remains a burning topic even to this day. While it is clear these sites don’t operate in line with laws and regulations, it is often unclear just how legal it all is. In this article, we’ll address the topic of legality of offshore operators and try to answer some of these questions.
Offshore Casinos Quick Facts
Offshore Casinos operate against US laws
These sites are often dodgy and not properly regulated
Playing at offshore casinos can have legal implications for players
Offshore Online Casinos: Why Do They Exist?
The first and the most obvious question that comes to mind when talking about offshore casinos is why do they even exist in the first place? While those in the know have heard it all countless times before, not everyone is fully familiar with the US online gambling scene. To an outsider, this may seem like a proper conundrum.
Back in 2006, the USA passed the infamous UIGEA, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which effectively prohibited online gambling sites from accepting money originating from US players. The Act was aimed specifically at the operators and it didn’t go into any particularities concerning casino games or gambling as such. It simply prohibited operators from accepting funds and US banks from knowingly processing any transactions related to online gambling activities.
Before the UIGEA, the situation was somewhat unclear in the States but after the Act was passed, it became more than obvious that the US didn’t want their residents playing at any online casinos. This forced many large brands out of the market, leaving only a handful of operators still around. These operators were now fully aware they were acting against the laws but decided to take their chances regardless.
Offshore Casinos: Should You Play Here?
The fact of the matter is, while some of these offshore casinos do seem to offer attractive bonuses and other things to appeal to US players, you should never play here. Even the best offshore online casinos operate against the laws, which is a big red flag that you can’t afford to disregard. If they’re willing to go against country laws, why do you think they’ll treat their players right?
Talking purely from the legal aspect, it is more than clear these operators are not following the law no matter how you try to spin the things. There are two major pieces of legislation that come into play here:
The Wire Act
The Wire Act is an old piece of legislation that doesn’t quite address modern online gambling and only deals with accepting sports bets over the phone. So, there is some room for interpretation here and there have been some developments in this area lately. However, while the Supreme Court has overturned the Wire Act and gave states the right to do as they see fit, this doesn’t change the situation for offshore casino operators.
Where the Wire Act may be unclear, the UIGEA is more than clear. Any and all gambling transactions going to and from non-legal offshore casinos are not permitted. There is really no room for interpretation here and while the particular Act may not address all the important details, there is no gambling if no money exchanges hands.
Whether these laws are fair and in spirit of the US Constitution is another matter entirely. We could debate that for days and months but the fact is, these are current laws in place, which means that, as far as operators are concerned, they aren’t allowed to accept moneyfrom US players, effectively making it impossible for them to offer any real money gambling.
Risks of Playing with Offshore Casinos
Now that we’ve clearly identified that offshore operators are, in fact, illegal, we can move on to other reasons why players shouldn’t play at these sites. The fact is, all of these reasons in the end come back to the legality as casinos offering their services without proper control and oversight can pretty much do whatever they please.
Some of the direct risks you can face when playing on these sites include:
Difficulties funding your casino account
Very slow payouts
Refusal of payout based on very questionable reasons
Your personal information being abused or sold to a third party
Losing your money due to the casino going out of business
All of these are very real risks and there have been numerous examples of all these things happening to different players over the years. With nobody to control their business and make sure they are doing things in the correct way, these offshore casinos will often resort to dodgy and shady strategies to improve their bottom line and stay afloat.
All of these things make it so that it really doesn’t make sense for US players to test their luck and get involved with these operators. While online gambling can be fun and even rewarding at times, the amount of potential problems and the high risk of a financial loss that goes well beyond of what happens at online slots or at the tables simply makes it not worth your while.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that all casinos are like this as some do try their best to do right by the players. However, operating without a license and in a country where they’re not wanted, they simply have to use underhanded tactics to even make it possible for money to go in and out of the accounts. Hence, the entire operation is usually set in a way where it is impossible for you to feel fully safe and comfortable.
Legal Implications of Playing with Offshore Casinos
Beyond all of these problems that can come from the casino, US players also have to consider the fact that dealing with non-legal operators can also backfire in a legal sense. While the governments haven’t been going after players thus far, there are certain states where playing with offshore online casinos leaves you open to a possibility of criminal persecution.
Luckily, this isn’t the case with most states as laws mostly focus on the operators and go after those in charge of organizing and facilitating gambling activities. However, there are exceptions to this rule and, in some jurisdiction, you could actually go to court and even end up in prison for simply playing slots at an unlicensed casino.
Once again, this is highly unlikely and hasn’t happened yet in any state but is it really worth the risk? As long as a state has the foundation in the laws, they can change their mind at any point and decide to go after players. In this event, you’d be out of luck as you’d have no way to defend yourself if laws are clear on the issue.
The Future of Offshore Online Casinos
The online gambling climate in the United States has changed quite drastically in the recent years, which doesn’t bode well for offshore casinos. While they’ve had their day in the sun, with more and more states passing gaming regulations and establishing legit sites, the need for these operators is starting to dwindle.
Furthermore, as the US starts to become more regulated, it is likely we’ll see an even stronger push against these kinds of offshore casinos. This will create a situation where they probably won’t be able to conduct their business in a feasible manner, leading to their departure from the scene altogether.
Of course, it isn’t likely these sites will go down without a fight as they’ve been present in the market for so long. But, as more US players get access to legal and fully regulated casinos, they will simply have no need or urge to play with these offshore sites. We’re already seeing the trend with only a few regulated states and as things continue to move in the right direction, this trend will become even stronger.
Avoid Offshore Casinos & Stick to Licensed Operators
When all things are considered, you’re not doing yourself any services by playing at offshore sites. There are just too many potential problems and complications all over the place so why bother? Stick to properly licensed and state regulated casino sites instead. Check out our comparisons to find the best casino for your bankroll and style of play and enjoy every second of your gaming experience with no fear or concerns!
If you had any uncertainties about legality of offshore casino operators we hope this article was able to shed some light on the topic. Clearly, these casinos are bad news and you’re best off avoiding them altogether. While some of them may seem worth the trouble, this just isn’t the case when all things are considered. So, stay safe, play only with properly licensed and regulated casinos, and avoid all the problems right from the start!