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The State of Gambling in the United States

In the past 50 years, gambling in the United States has gone from an activity found only at horse tracks, Nevada casinos, or shady speakeasy-style illegal card rooms to a pastime enjoyed legally and openly by millions of Americans every day around the country.

US federal regulations do not specifically ban gambling or games of chance, which has left regulation up to the individual states. In the 1960s, only the state of Nevada was bold enough to have legalized gaming; now, only two states, Hawaii and Utah have yet to legalize some form of gambling within their borders.

Each state has its own regulations and betting laws, and these vary wildly. Most states allow for charity gambling such as church bingo, or a fundraising casino night organized by a local community organization. The next most widely available type of gaming is a state lottery, with many different states employing lotteries, lottos, and scratch cards as a method of raising money for the state’s coffers.

Pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog racing is also found in a good amount of states. Some states allow only on-track betting, while many states also allow for off-track betting, and gamblers can participate in pari-mutuel betting on races simulcast from around the country.

Even traditional casino gaming has moved beyond the confines of Las Vegas, Reno, and Atlantic City. Indian Casinos bring slot machine, blackjack, and roulette to people in a dozen different states, while casinos are slowly appearing in select states and cities. These days, the closest casino is usually no more than a day away.

While betting shops, ubiquitous in the UK and Europe, are still illegal in the US, bookmaking and sports betting is still a huge industry. A few states such as Nevada and New Jersey allow for legal bookmaking but most Americans turn to the internet for sports betting action.

It is the internet which is the front line of the regulation war. The US government says online gambling, online poker, and online bookmaking are illegal, but this has not slowed the tide of people flocking to the internet to gamble from the comfort of their own homes.

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