Illegal online gambling is still extremely prominent in the US, and the reason is simple: the sites are accessible from states that haven’t legalized online gambling. But with alternatives like sweepstakes casinos, where players can win cash prizes playing casino games, playing outside of the legal online casinos in the US just isn’t worth the risk. Here’s how to tell the illegal sites from the legal, why you should avoid the sketchy ones, and what to do if you already have an account at an illegal online gambling site.
What Is an Illegal Gambling Site?
To discern whether an online casino is illegal, you can look for a few signs directly on the website, as well as do some light research. We’ll cover some of the quickest and easiest ways to tell below.
- Check for missing badges. Illegal gambling sites often won’t display prominent age restrictions, like the 21+ badge in the example above. They also often won’t display a “Responsible Gaming” badge, a requirement for most (if not all) legal online casinos. Lastly, they’ll never display the badge of a state gambling agency, such as the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement logo in the example above.
- Read the small print. As you can see in the above example, most legal online gambling sites will clearly display information regarding their licensing with a regulating body. They’ll also often feature responsible gambling language here, which illegal gambling sites tend to skip over.
- Consult your state. If you want to determine whether an online casino is illegal, one of the best ways is to visit your state government’s website. If online casino gambling is legal in your state, the government agency tasked with regulation should have a section on the state website that lists all legal online casinos currently operating (see an example on the NJ Division of Gaming Enforcement website). If the site you’re on isn’t listed, it’s an illegal gambling site.
Essentially, an illegal online gambling site is one that does not have the proper licensing, regulation, and monitoring from local government agencies. The steps above will help you determine whether a site is illegal or legal.
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Easiest Ways to Spot an Illegal Online Gambling Provider
Offers real money gambling in illegal states.
If an online gambling provider allows you to gamble for real money while you’re located in a state that does not have legal online gambling, it is an illegal provider. If you live in a state without legal online casinos, there are better and safer options, such as sweepstakes casinos.
Illegal online gambling providers may state that they are regulated, but it’s often by an overseas regulator with extremely lax (if any) regulations. Check to see whether an online gambling provider is regulated and by whom.
If the online gambling provider is based overseas such as Skills & Slots, it may be a clue that it is operating illegally in the United States. Every legal gambling provider will at least have some presence in the United States. In fact, states such as New Jersey mandate a US presence as part of its license and regulation process.
If an online gambling provider accepts cryptocurrency for deposits and withdrawals, it may be operating illegally. While this is not a 100% certain tell, it’s largely true. Pair this with other signs to strengthen your read on the matter.
Legal vs. Illegal Gambling Online
The benefits of partaking in legal versus illegal gambling online are plentiful and cannot be overstated. Below, we’ll cover just a few of the biggest ones.
|Legal Gambling Online||Illegal Gambling Online|
|✅ Personal and financial information is secure||❌ Personal and financial information has no guarantee of security|
|✅ Games are regulated and determined by RNG||❌ Games are unregulated and may be rigged|
|✅ Deposits and withdrawals are conducted with trusted payment providers||❌ Deposits and withdrawals are not guaranteed|
|✅ Terms and conditions are vetted and fair||❌ Terms and conditions, especially bonus terms, may be unfair or even impossible to attain|
|✅ Games and promotions are regularly monitored for fairness by state agencies||❌ There is no accountability or monitoring|
|✅ Responsible gambling tools are built in and readily available||❌ Responsible gambling is generally not addressed, making it easier for players to fall into bad habits|
Why It’s Important to Avoid Illegal Gambling Sites
Illegal gambling sites are unregulated or very lightly regulated.
Regulation serves to ensure safety, security, and fair play. Without it (or without strict regulations), your information is at risk, and you may not have a fair shot at winning.
Safety and security are lackluster.
Legal gambling sites use strong SSL encryption to keep your information safe and secure—the same encryption that online banks use. Illegal gambling sites may not use any encryption at all, and even if they do, you may be unsure of who you’re sending your information to in the first place.
Player funds are kept with business funds.
One consideration that many players don’t even know about is the storage of player funds. On a legal gambling site, your funds are kept in escrow and delivered to the online casino or back to you only when appropriate. There are no such regulations for illegal gambling sites, so many of them simply take your deposited money and store it directly with their operating funds.
May sell user information.
Legal online gambling sites generally have strict policies in place to protect your information and prevent it from being sold. Illegal gambling sites have no such protections and may sell your information and data to make extra money.
Games may be rigged.
Players partake in online gambling because of the excitement of a potential win. At many illegal gambling sites, there is no potential to win (or at least win big) as the games are heavily rigged in the house’s favor. This is one example of what unregulated entities can do with no repercussions.
Terms and conditions may not be readily available.
As we mentioned in the table above, terms and conditions are often extremely unfair at illegal gambling sites. For this reason, they may be purposely buried.
You have no legal protections.
If any of the above things actually happen (rigged games, user information sold, personal or financial information stolen), you have no legal recourse and are essentially just out of luck. Because you were participating in an illegal activity and because the illegal gambling site is not regulated, there’s basically nothing you can do to recoup any losses or hardships.
The bottom line is that illegal gambling sites have horrible reputations. Many considerations make illegal gambling sites a bad choice all around, and their reputations are scarred accordingly.
What If I Already Joined an Illegal Online Casino?
If you already joined an illegal online casino, the good news is that you likely aren’t in legal trouble. However, you should get out immediately to prevent that possibility in the future (here’s how to cancel an online casino bonus), as well as to prevent any of the negative scenarios we mentioned on this page.
Your first step is to opt out of any bonuses into which your money is tied (if possible). Essentially, our first step is to get as much of your money back as possible. Wherever possible, use the most trustworthy withdrawal methods you can find and monitor afterward to make sure the withdrawal comes through. Once you’ve gotten as much money out as possible, close your account and have your data removed from the casino’s servers as quickly as possible. This may involve contacting customer support, which could be difficult in its own right, but it’s an important step that shouldn’t be skipped.
Once you’ve completed those steps, you’re all set to check out other legal options, such as in-person casinos or sweepstakes casinos. Finally, if you ever need a reminder of why to avoid illegal gambling sites, feel free to bookmark this page.