I don’t know what state you live in or, for that matter, even if you live in the United States. Depending on where you live, a casino license might or might not matter.
This post looks at some of the aspects of casino licensing that matter (or don’t), depending on where you live. It’s not meant to be a guide to legal issues. I’m not a legal professional.
But I am good at evaluating risks, though, and that’s the approach I’m going to take in this post.
What Is a Casino License?
Some businesses, especially those that deal in “sin,” require a permit from the local government to operate. In the case of gambling, this is called a “casino license” or “gambling license.”
In the United States, regardless of what kind of gambling activity a business is engaged in, the state requires a license before they let you go into business, offering games of chance for money. Almost everywhere, it’s illegal to operate a gambling business without a license.
If you live in Texas, for example, you’ll find plenty of bars and convenience stores with slot machine-like games called “eight-liners.” These are gambling games, but the companies operating them don’t have casino licenses. I know this because the state of Texas doesn’t issue gaming licenses for those kinds of games.
The only gaming licenses you can get in the state of Texas are for running bingo halls. This doesn’t mean you’ll get arrested for playing such a game, but I suspect that you could.
What About Private Poker Games and Bookies?
Playing poker at an underground cardroom is a misdemeanor, but the company running the game is actually committing a felony. Bookies are local bookmakers who take action on sporting events. In Las Vegas, sportsbooks are legal and licensed by the state of Nevada.
But the neighborhood books, which don’t usually have ties to organized crime, have no license.
If they take bets over the phone—which most of them do, by the way—they’re technically violating the Wire Act. This is a law that prohibits betting on sports over the phone. It was explicitly aimed at organized crime which, at one time, did have its fingers in all the local bookmaking operations.
What About Online Casinos, Poker Rooms, and Sportsbooks?
Until recently, none of the United States had explicitly legalized or offered licensing for any kind of gambling business taking action over the internet. There was a lot of debate over whether the Wire Act applied to internet betting.
One side of the argument suggested that the action was taking place in the country where the online casino was located, so the laws of that jurisdiction applied. The other side suggested that the action was taking place from the country where the bet was initiated.
So far, no citizen has been arrested or prosecuted for playing blackjack or slots for real money online. I don’t know of any individual being arrested or prosecuted for playing poker either.
I do know of a couple of cases where an individual faced legal action for betting on sports, but the implication in both of those cases was that the bettor wasn’t betting as an individual bettor. In other words, he was conducting business, which is a different category of crime in the eyes of the law.
Recently, though, three states have legalized gambling and started to offer gambling licenses. If you live in these states, your safest bet is to gamble at one of the licensed casinos. In fact, it’s illegal to play elsewhere.
Multiple states are racing to legalize and regulate sports betting, too. Stick with the licensed books if you live in one of those states, also.
If you’re living in less enlightened states with a worse attitude toward online gambling, you might consider doing business with offshore casinos. My advice is to stay within the law, but I also understand that some readers are interested in their options and the risks involved with each of them.
Where Are Online Casinos and Sportsbooks Usually Licensed?
For the most part, the online gambling websites which accept bets from gamblers in the United States are from the smaller countries. And here’s the thing about the licensing authorities in those countries: They really don’t provide much oversight at all.
The bigger, more legitimate gambling companies don’t accept gamblers from the United States through their websites because they don’t want to run afoul of American authorities.
After poker’s “Black Friday,” online gambling sites grew even more leery of getting in trouble with the US government than ever before.
But Does a Casino’s License Really Matter?
When you deal with an online casino, one of the questions you should ask yourself is how much money you are comfortable losing forever.
Because here’s the situation at many online casinos, even if you win, you might have trouble withdrawing your funds. Online casinos and sportsbooks are often notorious for not paying their winners
And if you think the government in Antigua and Barbuda are going to intervene on your behalf, well, let’s just say that’s a little naïve.
What matters more than the license or the jurisdiction of the gambling site is its reputation.
Why Reputation Trumps Licensing
Legitimate businesses that rely on their customers’ goodwill don’t want bad press. Smart gambling site owners know that a lack of complaints leads to more signups, more deposits, and loyal players.
When a site makes it hard for a gambler to withdraw his funds, the player often resorts to complaining about the experience on one of the many online gambling forums on the internet.
And once a gambler has been burned, you can bet that he’s going to do some due diligence before signing up at another online casino.
It’s not that most of the people running online gambling sites are crooked either. They’re usually just underfunded.
The Role of Online Gambling Portals and Blogs Like This One
It would be impossible for a site like this, an online gambling portal with a blog, to take responsibility for your experiences at an online casino advertising here. But in some respects, you can expect a certain amount of help from a site like this.
For one thing, sites like this rely on repeat traffic and a good reputation. If a gambling portal sells advertising to every crooked or mismanaged online casino on the internet, it won’t take long for word to spread.
The amount of research into reputations a portal like this does vary. Some sites will advertise for anyone willing to pay a referral fee. But casinos that will cheat their players will also cheat when it comes to paying referral fees, so most sites like this one prefer not to advertise them.
Some Sites Act as Watchdogs
They do extensive research and follow-up. They maintain active moderators who will negotiate on behalf of a player so that he gets his winnings. They often publish online casino blacklists and provide seals of approval.
Don’t blindly accept these watchdogs’ word for it. They have a financial interest in whether you deposit with a casino, so they’re not exactly impartial. Some of them are better than others, but skepticism is your friend.
Other sites take a more informational approach, providing game tutorials and strategies along with detailed reviews of what you can expect from your prospective online casinos.
Be mindful of how enthusiastic a review is on a site like this. If they do nothing but rave about the property they’re recommending, they might just be shilling for the site in exchange for a commission.
Legitimate information sites, like this one, offer the pros and cons of various websites and explain which sites are more appropriate for which gamblers and why.
Does a casino license matter?
If you live in a state where casinos are legal and licensed, then yes, you should play at casinos that are operating within the realm of the law. If they’ll flagrantly ignore the rules regarding their operation, how much can you trust them when it comes time to cash out?
On the other hand, if you live in a state where casinos aren’t licensed and regulated, consider the reputation of any place you do business with carefully before getting started. Lean toward only gambling with money you wouldn’t mind losing.
Or just plan to gamble somewhere else next time you’re on vacation.
Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016. ...
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