Online gambling is an extremely popular pastime in the United States. While online gambling is legal in every state, the laws vary by location. The laws against gambling are intended to be broad, encompassing any device used to place a wager or place a bet. A computer connected to the Internet, for example, is probably illegal if it is used for gambling. The United States authorities treat online gambling the same way they treat any other vice. As such, they focus their enforcement efforts on the business people offering the services.
The popularity of online gambling grew exponentially in the 1990s. It seemed like an end-run around government regulation, as operators could set up shop in an offshore jurisdiction and allow anyone with a web browser to place bets. In addition, online gambling was so widely available that, by 2006, the number of players had reached eight million. As of 2015, online gambling revenues reached a worldwide total of $400 billion, with online casinos accounting for about a third of that total.
In the United States, online gambling is legal in some states, but the legal status is murky. Under the Federal Wire Act, it is illegal to place bets on sports using “telephone-like” devices. In order to operate legally in the US, gambling websites must be licensed. Several of the top online gambling sites are based overseas. In certain states, however, online sports betting and casino gambling is legal. As of January 1, 2017, the legality of gambling online in the United States is still up in the air.