Where is Gambling Legal in the U.S.?
By The Editors

Whether or not you can place a legal bet depends on where you’re standing. Here’s a guide to the United States of chance.

Where is Gambling Legal in the U.S.?


Remember the good old days of street-corner bookies with names like 'Louie' and 'Scats?

We don't either. Besides, today, you can carry your bookie in your pocket—which is fair, considering how often your bookie carried you.

“Far from being immoral, they [lotteries, aka games of chance, aka gambling] are indispensable to the existence of man.”

Who said it?

No, not Pete Rose.

And no, it’s not a Kenny Rogers song lyric:

It was this guy, Mr. Nickel:

Yep, Thomas Jefferson. 

That’s because games of chance, aka lotteries aka gambling have been around for years and years and years. 

In 1826, the Virginia state legislature gave Jefferson permission to hold a private lottery to help him pay off his debts. He died before he could do it, but that right there sums up the United States’ attitudes towards gambling: Some forms are more acceptable than others.

Nevada made gambling legal in 1931.

New Hampshire started the first modern state lottery in 1964 and it caught fire.

Today, the only states without a lottery are Utah, Hawaii, Alaska, Alabama, and Nevada (!). 

Our many beloved mob movies have chronicled our country’s lust affair with more recognizable forms of gambling, from table games to slots to horses, and their legal/illegal forms. And even now, Las Vegas, Nevada, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, are still the major gambling hubs in the U.S., even though casinos have begun to pop up across the country.

Still, legal gambling is heavily regulated and restricted. For example, some states outlaw commercial casinos, but allow tribal casinos. Some states (notably Pennsylvania, NJ and Michigan) allow online betting but not all permit casino-style betting (on-site).

You can find a complete grid of all the different types of gambling and where they’re legal, here.  

Sports betting, perhaps our most popular form of modern gambling, is also regulated but spreading. ESPN keeps a running tally on sports betting states and where non-betting states stand on potential changes in the law.

For now, you can bet on sports in the following states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

If we were betting men, we’d wager that gambling in some form will someday be legal in all 50 states. Until then, book that suite at the Bellagio and good luck. You’ve been puttin’ it up your whole life. You just didn’t know it.