Legal Types of USA Gambling

The American Gaming Association describes the types of legal gambling available in the United States as follows:

1. Public & Private Card Rooms – Card room gaming, such as poker, that is regulated in-state.
2. Legal bookmaking – Bookmakers that are explicitly allowed to operate within several states as of 2023.
3. Commercial Casinos – Casinos owned by non-tribal interests.
4. Charitable/Bingo Games – These can be small-time or larger, but they’re still Bingo or Raffle style gameplay.
5. Native American Gambling Casinos – Casinos owned by Native American Tribes.
6. Lotteries – Less than 10 states do not operate a state lottery.
7. Pari-mutuel Betting – Horse racing is a time honored tradition.

Let’s go over all of them, and how they work in the US!


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Public & Private Card Rooms

Public and private card rooms are accessible in many states in the US. These rooms are governed by state laws as well as local laws. Some online poker laws also exist which create online poker rooms that are generally regarded as safe to use, but they are not regulated by the states. Instead, these poker rooms are regulated by international bookmakers and the agencies that govern them.

Legal bookmaking

Legal sports betting has been a common pastime for decades, and international sportsbooks were always there to shoulder the burden. After the repeal of PASPA in 2017, state-regulated sports betting laws began popping up as well. Now, people can use websites like FanDuel and DraftKings as easily as websites like Bovada and BetOnline. However, it should be noted that the state-regulated websites are far more restricted in terms of access –the international websites are available in far more states.

Commercial Casinos

Commercial casinos are arguably the most restricted type of gambling, and many states do not have a single commercial casino.It’s actually at the point where online casinos located outside the US are far more easily used than the ones inside the US, because at least you can use those from your couch.

Charitable/Bingo Games

Charitable raffles and bingo games are usually specifically carved out under state and federal laws. When writing the laws, they wanted to make sure that they allowed for all kinds of charitable games to still be played. Charity raffles and charity bingo are allowed, however, they were very thorough in terms of making sure that this kind of law cannot be exploited as a loophole. This is not how you sneak gambling into any state – they made sure of that.

Native American Gambling Casinos

Tribal casinos exist thanks to tribal compacts made before modern gambling laws, and the precedent that those compacts set. The Native American tribes use their exclusive rights to casinos (thanks to the fact that their reservations are their land, not state-owned) in order to raise money for the tribe, provide jobs on the reservation, and more. They typically are more permissive than many commercial casinos thanks to their licenses being more broad.


The first state lottery was formed in 1963 in New Jersey. Since then, the vast majority of states have begun to enact state lotteries. State lotteries work in two ways. First, there’s the in-state lottery, funds from which are directed to various educational programs in most cases. Then, there’s the multi-state lottery games like Mega Millions and Powerball, which operate in almost every state.

Pari-mutuel Betting

Pari-mutuel betting means “betting amongst each other”, and it almost always refers to the system of betting on horse races, where the odds are fluid, and change based on how much action is going to a given horse. While oddsmakers in other sports change odds as a response to some action, Pari-mutuel betting sees that process happen much faster. For our younger audience, when you wager channel points in a Twitch stream, that’s a Pari-mutuel betting market.