Is it legal to bet on sports? You’d think it would be easy to answer this question. Either it’s legal or not.
Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. The law on sports betting is a confusing and complicated topic because each country has its legislation concerning sports betting. Most of this legislation does not give a clear idea of what is legal and what is not, especially when it comes to online sports betting.
In this article, we will have a look at a few complex aspects of sports betting legislation and give you only the information that you need to focus on. We do not use a legal language that is difficult to understand, as we want the relevant laws in the various regions to be as clear and concise as possible.
We also want you to know precisely how these laws will affect you, as this is what matters.
Sports Betting Laws in the United States
The United States has two types of federal legislation that apply specifically to sports betting.
Let’s sort out these acts.
Interstate Wire Act
The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 is often called the Federal Wire Act. This law made it illegal to place or receive bets on sporting events using “wires.” In 1961, it meant the use of a telephone. Now it also applies to the internet.
Theoretically, the law on wires affects everyone who bets on sports. However, the introductory text of the judge said: “Whoever makes bets or wagers.”
The keyword here is business. This Act was aimed at people and organizations that engage in sports betting as a business – that is, bookmakers. It was not aimed at people who were betting on sports as a hobby.
It was explained during the discussion of the bill in the House of Representatives before the law was passed. This quote from Emanuel Keller, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, made it very clear.
“This bill only comes after the bookmaker, a gambler who does his business to accept bets or put off bets. He’s not talking a casual gambler.”
As you can see, Celler explicitly stated that this Act was never intended to be applied to pursue recreational sports betting. The FBI confirmed this. They recognized that their only interest in this Act is to engage in illegal betting activities.
There is no surprise that we have never heard of a single case where this Act was used to prosecute a person for betting.
Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act
Typically known as PASPA, this law was introduced (presumably) to protect sports from the effects of gambling. It was aimed at making all forms of sports betting illegal throughout the country.
Again, however, this law was not aimed at persons who place bets. PASPA did not make sports betting illegal. Instead, it made it illegal to operate a “public-body” or to allow sports betting.
PASPA does not allow any state to place its own sports betting, nor does it allow any state to pass laws that, in any way, legalize sports betting.
Nevada has been exempted from this law due to existing legislation on sports betting. It is why sports betting is still 100% legalized in Nevada.
The following three states have also been exempted from this law:
These states also had sports betting legislation in place, but only for limited forms of sports betting.
In Delaware, for example, the law only allows betting on sports betting at NFL games. Another type of betting is prohibited.
A few years ago, Delaware tried to broaden the scope of its sports betting laws. The state wanted to introduce bets on singles games, as well as to allow bets on college football and other sports. However, the courts rejected their proposal, citing PASPA.
According to one judge, “…any effort by the State of Delaware to allow bets on sports that involve sports outside the NFL will violate the PASPA.”
They were not the only state that was affected by PASPA, as New Jersey also faced problems on behalf of that Act. When the law was passed, the country was granted a one-year provisional exemption. It was done so that it could implement its laws permitting sports betting in Atlantic City casinos.
However, the state did not react quickly enough and missed its chance. When Governor Christy tried to introduce new laws, the move was blocked by the courts. PASPA was the reason again.
In light of this evidence, and because of the language of the law itself, it is clear that PASPA is aimed solely at state governments. Just like the Interstate Wire Act, it does not target or directly affect people who like to bet on sports.
What about ONLINE sports betting?
When these two laws were adopted, online sports betting did not exist, so neither of them made direct reference to the use of the internet for betting.
There was much debate about whether the term “wireline” used in the Wire Act should apply to the internet. However, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has always insisted on this.
Initially, the MoJ argued that the Wired Communications Act applied to all forms of gambling. However, in 2011, they changed their position. The Deputy Attorney General at the time, James Cole, stated:
“The Office of the Legal Adviser of the Ministry of Justice has analyzed the scope of the Wire Act and concluded that it is limited to sports betting only.”
Although it was good news for poker players and those who love casino games, as these simple online casino games, it was bad news for sports bettors.
Remember what we wrote earlier about the Wire Act? It’s aimed at those who provide betting services, not at those who use them.
Thus, concerning online betting, it is aimed at those who operate online betting sites, not at the users of those sites.
There have been many cases where federal authorities have referred to the Wire Act in connection with actions taken against those who provide online betting services.
In 2006, for example, the executive director of the BetOnSports betting company was arrested and charged with involvement in illegal gambling business.
How many betting clients do you think were arrested under the Wire Act? To the best of our knowledge, none. This is another reason why we believe that this law does not apply directly to people betting on sports, even when they gamble or bet online.
There’s not a single federal law that prohibits online betting. The only relevant section of federal law that applies specifically to online gambling is the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA). It was passed in 2006, and it was widely believed that the law makes it illegal to participate in any online gambling forum from within the U.S. However, this is not the case.
UIGEA has made it illegal for organizations to simplify financial transactions related to online gambling. As a result, it made it more difficult for U.S. residents to deposit and withdraw money on betting sites (and other gambling sites).
How does all this affect you? Well, in our opinion, it means you can bet on sports without fear of prosecution.
Sports Betting Laws in Canada
National laws on sports betting in Canada are set out in the Criminal Code of Canada. You can see the relevant laws here. Keep in mind. This is not easy to follow. That’s why we set out the critical points for you below.
- It is illegal to own or run a “general betting shop” (without government permission).
- It is illegal to attend an unlawful “general betting shop.”
- It is illegal to establish any form of betting business (without government permission).
- It is illegal to bet on behalf of someone else.
- We have not found anything to bet on sport as an individual.
- There are no links to online betting.
An ordinary bookmaker’s office belongs to any place where illegal sports betting takes place. The entire Canadian Penal Code was first adopted back in the 19th century. However, it has been amended several times since and could be considered outdated.
One significant amendment came in the 1970s, which signaled a significant change in attitudes toward gambling in Canada. Individual provinces within the country were given authority to allow, license, and regulate gambling within their borders.
As a result of this change, land-based casinos were built throughout Canada. Most provincial governments have also started to run lotteries, many of which are still in place today. Some of them also authorized sports betting, but only in a limited form.
Today you can legally bet on various sports at authorized retail outlets across the country. Most of these outlets are run by Sport Select, although they are called differently in different provinces.
It seems to be good news for sports bookmakers in Canada. However, there are some significant drawbacks concerning betting at Sports Select points of sale. Coverage is limited to only a few sports, and only a few different bets are available.
One game bets are also not allowed, so all bets must include multiple options. This makes winning much more complicated, and the bets offered are also not very attractive.
Residents of Canada can also use online betting and gambling sites for free, provided that the sites are not in Canada. Operating a betting site in Canada (if not permitted) is illegal, and using a betting site that operates illegally may be unlawful.
There are no official laws that would explicitly make it illegal to use offshore betting sites. No Canadian has ever been conducted for using offshore betting sites (as far as we know).
We were also happy to learn that the most prominent names in the online betting industry accept clients from Canada.
Sports Betting Laws in the United Kingdom
The U.K. is one of the most gambling-friendly regions in the world. Different forms of gambling are legalized, including sports betting. Moreover, online gambling is also legal and fully regulated.
There are no grey areas. It is legal to bet on sports at a betting office, and fully legal to bet on an online betting site. The only condition is that you must be older than18 years old.
Most betting places are in the form of bookmaker’s offices. There are thousands of them throughout the region, from small independent shops to large chains run by multinational companies. Most of them accept a wide variety of sports betting.
The U.K. Gambling Commission must license online betting sites before they can legally accept British customers, regardless of where they operate.
The Gambling Commission maintains a list of licensed operators, each of whom must follow strict rules and regulations.
It is all you do not know about U.K. sports betting laws. However, here is a bit more information for those who want to know some of the requirements in more detail.
The two types of legislation that apply to sports betting in the U.K. are as follows.
The Gambling Act of 2005
The Gambling Act of 2005 regulates all forms of gambling in the U.K., both online and offline. It was under this Act that the Gambling Commission was established as the official body responsible for regulating gambling in the region.
However, it did not significantly change the existing laws on sports betting, as sports betting was already legal in the U.K. (since 1963).
The Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Act 2014
The Gambling (Licensing and Promotion) Act 2014 introduced some new licensing rules. One of the most controversial was that all gambling establishments had to obtain a direct license from the U.K. Gambling Commission to operate in the region.
Websites may have been previously licensed by any U.K. white list regulator, such as the Gambling Commission in Gibraltar and the Lotteries and Gambling Authority in Malta.
This rule caused some resistance from many established operators. They argued that reputable authorities already regulated them and that the additional layer of regulation could potentially HARM audience.
Maybe they had a point, but it’s more likely that they were concerned with the new “Point of Consumption Tax” that the Act also introduced. This meant they were responsible for an extra 15% levy on all online bets.
Sports Betting Laws in Europe
There are 50 countries in Europe. Each of them is responsible for its legislation. Therefore, there are no laws on sports betting that apply to the continent as a whole, whether for offline betting or online betting.
Many European countries are in the process of changing their gambling laws, in particular regarding online gambling. Over time, these laws should become more concise. However, at this point, there is still a lot of uncertainty.
Here’s what we know:
- Most of the laws on sports betting are aimed at those who bet (bookmakers), not at those who place them.
- It is rare in a country to place bets on sports that are illegal.
- We do not know that anyone has ever been arrested, charged, or convicted for using online sports betting sites.
- Many online betting sites that are managed legally accept customers from European countries.
Given these four points, we believe it is fair to say that you can probably bet online from Europe without breaking any laws. To be sure, check your local laws. We doubt you’ll find anything to worry about, but it wouldn’t hurt to check them out.
Many bookies are owned and operated by publicly registered companies that must work under the law. If it were illegal for them to accept clients from a particular country, they would simply stop taking them. This is why many countries do not accept clients from the United States.
If you only use betting offices that are appropriately licensed and regulated, and if they act legally by accepting your business, then it is likely to be legal for you as well.
To Sum up
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. The law on sports betting is a complex topic because each country has its legislation concerning sports betting.
Most of this legislation does not give a clear idea of what is legal and what is not, especially when it comes to online sports betting.
However, let’s hope this article has covered the complexities of sports betting legislation and provided you with only what you need to focus on merely and straightforwardly.