In 2018 the Supreme Court overturned the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA). Since then, states across the country have been scrambling to establish or change legislation regarding sports betting, mobile bets, and online gambling, and everyday Americans have been struggling to keep up.
Navigating the complex world where federal and state laws collide isn’t easy; it doesn’t help that the United States has a complicated and somewhat sordid past with gambling laws and operators. There are plenty of people eager for their own state to jump on the online gambling bandwagon, but they have a lot of questions–especially about what is or isn’t legal in their state. Here, we’ll break down some of the laws that are still affecting online gambling laws in the US and simplify where Vermont sits on the legalization of online gambling.
Laying out the Laws
The repeal of PASPA restored the right to make laws regarding sports betting to states, but there are still some federal laws that create grey areas for activities like online gambling. The Federal Wire Act of 1961, for example, is still undergoing interpretation by the DOJ as to whether or not it criminalizes online gambling across state lines. Aside from wishy-washy federal legislation, Vermont has some pretty clear anti-gambling laws.
The Bad News
Most forms of gambling are illegal in Vermont, with exceptions for the state lottery, daily fantasy sports, and non-profits or charitable organizations that operate “games of chance”. So if the VFW wants to have bingo night with a cash prize, they can. In true Vermont fashion, deer pools are also legal as long as it’s hunting season.
Pari-mutuel horse race betting is technically allowed, but you might have a hard time finding somewhere to place your bets since there aren’t any race tracks or land-based casinos in Vermont. Professional gambling, however, is prohibited as described in this guide about Vermont online gambling at online-gambling.com/us/vermont/.
The Good News
While Vermont is much more strict than some of its neighboring states about gambling, there is actually some hope that state legislators may consider legalizing online gambling in the future. Online gambling and online sports betting aren’t specifically mentioned in the state’s gambling laws, and recent bills are looking at what benefits sports betting could have for the state. Bill S.59, which was first introduced in 2019 and passed in June of 2020, will form a Sports Betting Study Committee.
Other states have been quick to adopt sports betting as a way to cover budget shortfalls brought on by the pandemic, but Vermont legislators aren’t so sure. To focus on questions about the pros and cons of legalizing certain forms of gambling, the committee created by S.59 will investigate exactly how the state could regulate and tax sports betting activities. While the bill doesn’t address online gambling specifically, sports betting operations in Vermont would most likely be online or mobile since there are no land-based casinos or bookmakers in the state. There’s no guarantee, but a willingness to consider online sports betting could lead to the legalization of broader online gambling.
Even if Vermont and other states never legalize online gambling, Americans itching to play online may still have options. Senator Michael Sirotkin, a sponsor of bill S.59, urged fellow senators to consider that Vermonters are already making sports bets elsewhere. “Many of the bets being placed in Vermont now are going to our neighboring states and into other countries,” he said, referring to offshore betting sites.
He also added: “If we want to move sports betting to a legalized, regulated and tax approach, we need more information about the real-world track record of this activity and our own analysis of our different ways to structure a tax and regulated system.”
Running online gambling sites is still fairly tricky for operators because of the grey area of legalization in the US, but individual gamblers are less at risk of prosecution. Some states have legalized online gambling, but play is still only legal within the state. Sites operating in those states are working under the present interpretation of the Federal Wire Act, which says that online gambling across state lines is federally illegal.
Vermont residents–and players from other states without local online casino sites–can and do play on offshore sites, however. These are online operators from out of the country that offer services to players in the United States with the expectation that they are outside the jurisdiction of US federal laws. Typically, the law doesn’t have the resources or the inclination to pursue offshore betting sites or the individuals who use them, but these sites do come with their own risks.
It’s a Gamble
Because offshore gambling sites aren’t regulated by US state or federal law, they aren’t held to any specific standards. This can lead to some sites taking advantage of players with predatory practices like limits on withdrawals, deferred cashouts, and putting off customer questions or contact altogether. When gambling on offshore sites there are no guarantees.
If you’re holding out for better ways to play in Vermont, contacting your state senators and telling them you want safer online gambling options may help spur online gambling legislation for interested Vermonters like you! Will this span any results? It is hard to say. However, if enough people show interest in the issue, the state will certainly have to do something about it.