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Online Casino Gaming in the United States
The US gambling market is one of the biggest in the world – and there’s no doubt that every single company in the gaming industry would love to get its fair share of it. However, the recent decade saw it going through some radical changes, making it a prize that’s both the biggest and the most unreachable.
In this article, we’re going to look not only at what were the events leading to the current situation, but also how easy (or hard) the players have it at the moment – it’s a read that you shouldn’t miss if you’re interested in how things are and also how they may develop in the US.
A Bit of History
Although online gaming veterans might still have some fond memories of the pre-2006 era, the modern age began with the infamous UIGEA that brought the entire industry to a screeching halt in the second half of 2006. While this piece of legislation doesn’t really allow for any blocking of websites, it makes processing deposits and withdrawals so costly that the vast majority of online casinos simply decided that it’s not worth the bother.
Many did continue to operate, however, and so did many online poker rooms – that particular segment of online gaming, however, received a second direct hit in 2011 during the so-called Black Friday. The three biggest online poker rooms – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – were targeted by the authorities, who basically took the entire US poker scene apart. To be fair, the investigation did uncover some truly serious issues within Full Tilt Poker and also some shady dealings elsewhere, but many players – who really didn’t do anything wrong – lost money in the process and we guess that they aren’t ever going to forget about that.
The Black Friday naturally wasn’t only about the poker room themselves – it was also about sending a clear signal to the entire industry by pointing out that the companies that are circumventing the legislation a bit can’t ever feel safe.
Apart from these two events, we also feel obliged to mention that the UIGEA itself has been challenged on numerous occasions, most notably by the small country of Antigua, which wanted the US authorities to change the legislation on the basis of a certain trade treaty, but, in the end, the dispute was solved by the United States giving Antigua concessions in other areas.
Although there weren’t many US-friendly casinos right after the UIGEA was passed by the US authorities, the situation has been picking up some decent pace since then and we could now recommend at least fifteen very solid casinos that are accepting players from the United States.
There are two basic tips that you can use to identify US-friendly sites even without clicking the registration button and trying to find an answer there. The first one is that US-friendly sites tend to have the US flag proudly displayed on the homepage, while many of the well-respected online casinos that are staying away from that particular market also show that very flag crossed-out, so that’s a nice little sign that you should be able to spot right away.
However, there’s also one small thing that should give you a clue even before you actually manage to find your way onto a given website – and that’s the domain that it’s hosted on. Although this naturally isn’t a completely reliable indicator, online casinos that are hosted on unorthodox domains such as .eu or .lv are more likely to be US-friendly than online casinos that are hosted on the traditional .com domain. If you’re wondering what’s the rationale behind that, it has a lot to do with the US authorities not being able to seize domains outside the .com realm very easily. There are also some other – slightly more nuanced – reasons, but this is the main point really. The funny thing here is that you’d expect online casinos that are hosted on .eu domains to be EU-friendly, but that’s actually not necessarily correct.
While players from Europe can usually choose from at least ten different deposit methods, those who want to play from the US will need to work a bit in order to get a deposit processed, as it’s currently impossible to use things like e-wallets for casino deposits in the United States.
At the time of writing, the most widely accessible options were credit cards, Rapid Transfers and various gift cards, although not all of these options are available at all US-friendly online casinos out there. There’s always a way, of course, and, from our experience, it’s the credit cards that are both the most convenient and nearly always at hand.
Those of you who are willing to go through certain hassles at the start in exchange for there being less problems later can also go for Bitcoin deposits, which are cheap, fast and completely anonymous. You’ll need to find a casino that accepts them, however, and you’ll also need to first buy a couple of them somewhere, so to say that this is the most convenient method would probably be a stretch.
If you’re now thinking that deposits to US-friendly online casinos can be quite tricky, we guess that you shouldn’t even read the following lines, as withdrawals are actually even more complicated. Well, perhaps complicated isn’t the right word – the main issues are that they aren’t comfortable and that they can take more than just a few days, which is the typical time frame that players from the vast majority of countries are usually working with.
The three most popular methods for withdrawals are checks, Visa Fast Funds and Rapid Transfers, with each of those methods coming with its own advantages and disadvantages. Players that value privacy above everything else – and privacy is a big issue when it comes to online gaming in the US – will probably want to go for the checks, but that particular option usually has some sort of a limit (so you might need multiple checks in order to get your entire bankroll back) and carries a certain fee. On top of that, you’ll probably have to wait for a week or so before you get to actually hold the check in your own hands.
The one big solution that’s already beginning to gain some footing is the Bitcoin currency, which has already been adopted by a decent range of online casinos that cater to players from the United States. Since Bitcoins can’t be hunted down by the banks and authorities, they are a splendid alternative to traditional currencies – and getting a Bitcoin withdrawals is almost always both cheaper and quicker than getting a withdrawal in a traditional currency. There are some disadvantages to using Bitcoins, however – not only is their value very volatile, but you’ll also need to do some research of what they are all about before you start using them.
Quirks and Details
We’ve already mentioned some of the intriguing details that online casino gaming in the US comes with, but there’s so many of them that we could go on for ages just listing all the things that we’ve managed to come across over the years.
For example, did you know that US-friendly online casinos can currently choose from only a handful of games providers and that they’re basically locked out of live casino games at the moment? If you were wondering about why US-friendly casinos don’t have games from, say, NetEnt or Microgaming, the answer is that those developers just aren’t willing to give the casinos access to them, as they aren’t willing to take the risks that are associated with entering the US market.
And did you know that many of the fresh-looking US-friendly casinos are actually just re-skins or re-makes of some of the old US-friendly casinos that got under so much scrutiny by the authorities that they were forced to abandon their previous domains and operations? Yes, that’s right – not everything that looks new is indeed new.
Another thing that we would like to highlight is that US-friendly online casinos typically have very good customer support services, so don’t hesitate to contact them if you’re not sure about certain things, especially when it comes to deposits and withdrawals, which are undoubtedly the most crucial parts of it all and which might not be incredibly easy to deal with if you’re a complete newcomer to the entire thing. Before you run away to the nearest store to buy a gift card that you intend to use for a casino deposit, check with the customer support that it’s indeed one of those the casino accepts.
Apart from all this, we should also say a few words about how account verification typically works at US-friendly online casinos, as that’s a very tricky subject nowadays. In the rest of the world, the given online casinos usually asks you for certain personal documents once you request a withdrawal, which is what the various licenses require them to do. However, many US-friendly casinos don’t have licenses valid for the European Union, so they might be able to follow different rules – some of them will never ask you for anything, while others will ask for the standard fare of a government-issued ID and/or a scan of your credit card.
The fact that these online casinos aren’t bound by the strict rules that EU-friendly casinos are should make you be very careful about these things, so we highly recommend reading all the reviews and community forums before you make your first deposit at a new online casino. That said, perhaps we’re going to witness a very new era in this regard very soon thanks to the advent of Bitcoin payments, as requesting an account verification from someone who’s dealing exclusively in Bitcoins would be very strange to say the least, as one of the cryptocurrency’s unique selling point is that you can’t really identify the person that’s behind the given payment unless he or she wants to reveal the identity.
Although the future outlook for online casino gaming in many countries seems to be rather bleak, we’ve got nothing but good news for those who are living in the United States. Truth to be told, it couldn’t even possibly be the other way around, as the situation in the US is so bad at the moment that it’s hard to imagine that it could deteriorate even further. The politicians can naturally surprise us by changing the set course, as that’s exactly what they’ve already done on a number of occasions, but, as things stand at the moment, it seems that everything is pointing in the direction of the market getting at least slightly liberalized in the near future.
It’s not only about the handful of proclamations coming from the official places, it’s also about the companies that are supposedly in the know gearing up for big investments, some of which have actually already taken place despite there still being some uncertainty over the specifics.
That said, it should be noted that the process of liberalization could take different amounts of time depending on the state you’re in, as – perhaps contrary to common sense – it appears that it’s the states who might have the final say on which (if any) online casinos will become legal.
The Nevada Gaming Commission is the one body that most hopes are being pinned on, as it’s already made concrete steps to allow certain online casinos to open their doors to US players, but there’s also some light at the end of the tunnel in Massachusetts, as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has also started to become very active on the online front in recent months.
Although online casino gaming in the United States has already seen better times, the current situation is relatively stable and – if you’re willing to invest a bit of time into it – it isn’t particularly hard to find a US-friendly online casino and make a deposit. Withdrawals do get a bit tricky from time to time, but it seems that there are at least two good things on the horizon. The liberalization of the market promises better times for both the players and the industry, while the slightly more widespread adoption of Bitcoin could lead to players having less issues making transactions if the liberalization doesn’t live up to the expectations.