Legal Online Casinos
When most people ask the question of whether a casino is legal, they really mean ‘are they legally able to offer real money games to players in my location’. It is possible for a casino to be completely legal in one country and have all the necessary licenses and oversight – yet not be able to offer games to a different country at all.
Making this situation less clear is the fact that some
It is amazing to think of the progress that online casinos have made over the twenty years since the first ones appeared. Back then you could play simple blackjack and roulette games – with limited options and slow, clunky graphics. Online casino games these days look amazing, there is just about every game variation you could imagine (and many that you will never have heard of!) and they work on many different devices too.
This page gives you an overview of the different types of casino games you can enjoy for real money. You’ll find links to different in-depth articles for the different game types. Below you will find information on casino card games, roulette, slots, craps and popular alternatives including video poker and keno.
Casino Table Games #1 – Card Games
This is a very diverse category of games, though you’ll find some common themes running through it. Most card game variations are either based on blackjack or casino poker games. In addition, you’ll find Baccarat and old favorites like ‘casino war’.
There are two main types of blackjack. These are US rules (where the dealer will ‘peek’ at the down card to check for blackjack) and European rules, where the dealer only gets one card to start, and draws the next one after all the players have acted.
Within this you’ll find more variations than you thought possible. These include multi-hand, games with side bets like perfect-pairs (and many others), Spanish 21, blackjack switch and even innovations like Bovada’s mobile friendly ‘Zappit Blackjack’. There are also differences in the details of the rules for splitting, doubling, surrendering and for whether the dealer hits or stands on a soft 17.
Casino Poker games used to be a small niche – with 3-card poker and Caribbean stud the most popular games. These days the number of games based on making poker hands has exploded. There is Casino Holdem, Let it Ride, Pai Gow poker (which really needs a category all of its own!), Mississippi Stud and many more. These games work well with side-bets, with the rare Royal Flushes ideally suited to their role as a jackpot trigger.
Baccarat is a high-roller favorite, and has a low house edge (as long as you avoid the tie-bet and any side-bets). This can also be enjoyed online – along with the close alternative Punto Banco.
Casino card games also work really well in the live dealer casino environment. This adds a social element to the games, and seeing the cards dealt allays any fears that there is something amiss with the deal.
Casino Table Games #2 – Roulette
Again, we can start with a split between US and European rules. The US roulette wheel has two green slots, the zero and the double zero – while the European wheel only has a single one. This makes the house edge on the US wheel much bigger (5.26% vs 2.7%), meaning experienced players stick to the European wheel regardless of where they are from.
There is one more roulette variation worthwhile looking out for – French roulette. This uses the same (single zero) wheel as the European game. The difference is that you’ll get half of your stake back on any even money bet (odd or even for example) when the ball lands on zero. The house edge is reduced by this, though exactly how much depends on the proportion of even money bets you make compared to ‘inside’ bets.
Other entertaining games have been created using roulette as a basis. These include pinball roulette, multi-player roulette (a virtual game with multiple players and timed spins) and immersive roulette – which is a live dealer game with added special effects.
Casino Table Games #3 – Craps
Whether you are learning the complex bets, or fine tuning your strategy – online craps is an enjoyable way to spend some time. Sure, you will not recreate the camaraderie or excitement of a hot roll in a live casino – though the online game can have its share of big moments too.
Other Casino Games #1 – Dice Games
Sic Bo is the main alternative to craps when it comes to casino games that use dice. This game originated in the east, and has many complex bets that can be made on the fall of 3 dice. While some of these bets are even money or 2-to-1 chances (odd or even, totals and so on), you can also take long-shot bets – for example rolling 3 of the same number in a single roll.
Other Casino Games #2 – Slots
The largest selection of games in any real money casino are slots (this applies to brick and mortar casinos as well as online ones). If you still think of slots as simply lining up 3 bars or 7’s, then the latest advances and entertaining games will blow you away.
Slots have evolved into multi-line 5 reel games with bonus games, video clips and symbols which can behave in many different ways. While the core of the game (lining up symbols) is the same, the game-play has gone up many levels in entertainment value. You’ll find many slots with big jackpots online, the biggest are permanently over $1,000,000. Slots with movie and TV tie-ins, themed on stories from your childhood or on historical times like Egypt, Rome and ancient Greece are all common.
Our detailed real money slots pages will give you more information on this colorful area of casino gaming.
Other Casino Games #3 – Video Poker
Moving online has enabled video poker to expand into many variations in addition to the old favorites like Deuces Wild or Jacks or Better. These games are less complex than the modern titles, aiming to please the hardcore VP fans with small house edges and solid gameplay. You will find Video Poker games with big progressive jackpots, many multi-hand games and some themed games too.
Other Casino Games #4 – Keno and Entertainment Games
This is a broad category, here I would include Keno and Bingo games, scratch cards and entertainment type games too. You’ll find these at most online casinos, and some of them are very entertaining. Examples of the mini-games include Deal or No Deal based games or real money games of chance based on the game play of bejeweled. While these might not be a reason for most players to join an online casino – they do provide some light entertainment for when the old style casino games run bad. Offshore countries (notably the USA), make the banking transactions between banks and casino sites illegal – though do not target individual players at all. This means that an individual can enjoy the games legally, though casinos inside the US can’t accept their money.
Wherever you are based, there are legal online casinos which will accept your bets. This article breaks down the questions to ask. You’ll find information on the big geos below, followed by some important advice on why trust and a proven track record are required alongside a clean legal status.
Legal US Casinos in the United States
Aside from a few state regulated casinos in Delaware and New Jersey, casinos which legally accept bets from US based players are based offshore. They are mostly located in Central America or on Caribbean island nations, which issue licenses and protect their own (legal) gambling industry. There are also US casinos operating out of the Kahnawake native territory inside Canada.
When it comes to the Federal law, there is nothing on the statutes at all which prevents you from playing real money games at these casinos. The laws which stand are all focused on banking and financial providers – who are not allowed to knowingly fulfil requests to fund casino accounts.
At the state level the picture is mixed. Some states (for example Utah) expressly prohibit real money gambling. Even in the most restrictive of states, individuals are not prosecuted for merely enjoying the real money games.
The casinos are fully legal within their own jurisdictions. One country, Antigua and Barbuda, has gone as far as to file a dispute via the World Trade Organization – claiming that the US is blocking their right to freely trade with customers from around the world.
In theory, the European Union was designed to synchronize trade laws across the member countries – taking down barriers to trade. When it comes to gambling, the momentum of the last 5 years has been in the opposite direction. Several big countries have imposed their own laws on online casinos, making them report play to the tax authorities (and taxing the casino’s profits) and segregating their player pools from casinos offering games to other countries.
While it depends on where you are located exactly what the law says, residents of France, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and the UK can legally enjoy casinos which are locally licensed. There are many other countries at different stages of the regulatory process.
You will also find that many casinos get their global gaming licenses from European jurisdictions. There are many reputable licensing bodies, including Malta, Gibraltar and the Isle of Man. These jurisdictions provide more oversight and player protection measures than the equivalents out in the Caribbean.
Legal Casinos in Other Jurisdictions
Several other countries have nuances to their laws on casino gaming which are worth a note.
Canada: As long as the casino is not physically located in Canada (the servers at least) then Canadians are free to play. Note that local banks do sometimes block gambling transactions, this is a reaction to the US gambling laws and not something Canadian.
Australia: Again locally based casinos can’t offer real money games to Australians. In theory, international brands can’t do this either – though the scope of the local laws do not extend out of Australia – meaning that games are freely offered even from the big publicly listed brands. Neighboring New Zealand is more relaxed about casino gambling, not restricting access to brands based outside the country.
South Africa: Here online gambling is not legal, though this does not stop many casinos from offering real money games to South Africans.
United Kingdom: Casinos need to be separately licensed by the UK Gambling Commission to offer real money games. Many of the biggest international brands come from this traditionally very liberal gambling jurisdiction.
Legitimate Casinos and Legal Gambling
Choosing a casino which is trusted and legitimate is closely related to the question of legality. After all, a legit casino is far more likely to get the required licenses for each jurisdiction they offer real money games in. I would never play at any online casino which did now have an operating license from a known jurisdiction. Closely related to this is a certificate showing that the deal at a casino is fair (from a trusted 3rd party). You should also check online to make sure that there are no current scandals – particularly involving withdrawals of your winnings.
Playing online casino games with real money is legal in almost all major countries – make sure that you are playing with a popular and trusted brand, and enjoy the experience without concerns about breaking any laws.