Online Gaming Jurisdictions – North America

Online Gaming Jurisdictions – North America

When it comes to online gambling in North America, it’s probably rational to care only about the two most important markets, the United States and Canada. Of course, there are plenty of other wonderful countries in this part of the world and many of the Caribbean islands are actually surprisingly important in the grand scheme of things in gambling, but the markets are so small and the countries so numerous that it’d be an incredible amount of work to go through all the laws.

If you’re located on one of the islands, however, there is a decent chance that you’ll be able to access all the popular online casinos and sportsbooks without any hindrances or problems. With that out of the way, let’s focus on the situation in the United States, the country that has always had a fairly strange relationship with gambling.

United States

With more than 300 million residents, the US market is naturally one of those that investors flock to regardless of the industry one is talking about. And the country is also the home of the famous Las Vegas Strip that many visitors are so anxious to visit – so why exactly should there be any problems when it comes to online gambling? Surely, there isn’t a big difference between gambling at one of those massive casinos and gambling at an online provider!

Well, that certainly isn’t the view the American authorities are holding, as the US online gambling market was brought to a standstill in the year of 2006, when the infamous piece of legislation called The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was passed. Many of the online gambling companies stopped providing their services to American providers in that very year, while many others continued to do so, albeit in a regime that isn’t particularly user-friendly.

While the websites of online casinos and bookmakers aren’t blocked by the internet service providers, there are pretty big problems when it comes to processing payments, with many of the operators using somewhat shady methods to get deposits and withdrawals processed. The saying goes that there’s a way whenever there’s a will and it certainly applies here, but American players currently don’t have nearly as much comfort as their European counterparts.

We also feel obliged to mention that the authorities are targeting big online gambling providers from time to time, with the notorious Black Friday of 2011 being the biggest event of its kind to date. Three massive online poker rooms – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – were targeted and the entire operation basically ripped the entire online poker scene apart. The investigations also revealed that the famous Full Tilt Poker wasn’t a particularly fair company and many players lost big chunks of cash they had in their online accounts. The legal proceedings were still ongoing at the time of writing and their end wasn’t even in sight, but it is already clear that the Black Friday brought significant losses not only to the poker companies, but also to many of their customers.

To round things off, we’d also like to bring your attention to the dispute between the United States and Antigua. The island nation complained to the World Trade Organization about the American online gambling laws, claiming that the Americans are violating a certain trade treaty by not granting full market access to online providers based in Antigua. Eventually, the WTO did rule in favor of Antigua, but the American authorities didn’t react by changing the legislation. Instead, they signed a number of deals with Antigua, giving the country significant concessions in other areas.

We’ll end our brief investigation of the American online gaming market by saying that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel, as many states are currently trying to get online gaming liberalized, but the process seems to be painfully slow despite everyone in the business working incredibly hard. At the time of writing, most of the hopes were pinned on Nevada, which has already started to grant licenses through its Gaming Control Board, but we are yet to see the floodgates well and truly open. You’re guaranteed to hear about that when it happens, however, as it’s going to send big shockwaves across the entire sector – and it would be good not only for the operators, but also for the players.


Although Canada isn’t nearly as liberal as many European countries when it comes to online gambling, it is miles ahead of the United States if you’re just a player that wants to play at his or her favorite online casino or sportsbook.

Put simply, if you’re a player, you can play whenever you want and at whichever casino or bookmaker accepts your bets. There is nothing in the current legislation that would make such behavior criminal and it also seems that no such laws are currently planned, with the new Canadian government focusing on radically different issues.

However, things aren’t completely clear-cut when it comes to the legality of the operators themselves, as they would probably find themselves in a very tough area if challenged in an actual court. As far as we now, there have been no such recent cases and this particular area of the law therefore hasn’t been tested in practice, but many of the experts believe that offshore sites are indeed breaking the Canadian law by offering their services to Canadians.

If you’re one of those players that care a lot about the actual legality of things, you should know that gambling in Canada falls under provincial jurisdiction. Therefore, you have to check with the local authorities which operators are authorized and which bets are completely okay from the legal point of view. The rest of us is free to enjoy the best online casinos and bookmakers out there.