I have to assume that if you live in a state with legal gambling sites that you would choose to play there over unregulated offshore gambling sites. You’d be crazy not to. Regulated gambling sites offer safety, security, and peace of mind that you won’t get when you ship your money to an anonymous overseas gambling site.

But if you’re located in a state without legal online gambling options, you might be tempted to gamble for money at an offshore gambling site that accepts US players. That makes more sense. And I have to be honest, I’ve played at offshore gambling sites in the past. So I get it. 

I’m not here to convince you that you shouldn’t gamble at offshore sites. I’m here to present you with the facts and let you decide for yourself if offshore gambling is safe.

Note: What you won’t find here is a list of recommended offshore gambling sites. LetsGambleUSA.com only promotes state-licensed online casinos, sportsbooks, and poker sites.

Common Risks/Problems with Gambling Offshore

This most significant risk of gambling offshore is that whatever offshore casino/sportsbook/poker site you’re playing on shuts down and takes your money with it. It’s happened dozens of times before, and it will happen again.

Below are some common issues players have with offshore gambling sites—these range from annoying to a warning sign of a shady operator.

Poor payment processing

US financial networks and banks cannot knowingly transact with offshore gambling sites because of the UIGEA. So these illegal transactions result in a game of mouse and cat, with offshore sites desperately trying to get credit card payments to process. The payments are going to succeed usually (though it comes at a price to the gambling sites, which they pass on to players in one form or perhaps another).

The disadvantage is the fact that you will never know when the credit card payment of yours is going to get through. Are you able to imagine missing out a great bet since your offshore gambling website could not accept the deposit of yours that day?

Alternative payment options are available. Although cryptocurrency is typical, bettors are exposed by it to volatility in values. Bitcoin and other coins also require a few steps to establish a wallet, exchange dollars for coins (and then back again), which is an intimidating process for many.

Withdrawal delays

If you experience a delay, or perhaps hear that other clients are experiencing them, then you definitely must get your total bankroll out quickly. You need to never deposit at a book that has a record of late payments.

Voiding bonuses

Some offshore sites void bonuses for obscure, petty reasons. While even offshore sites have a right to protect themselves against bonus abuse, voiding offers, including great bonuses and promotions that have been taken in faith that is good, is a signal that all isn’t well with management.

Lack of an operating license

While licenses from offshore jurisdictions do not offer you a lot in the manner of protection should things fail, the total absence of one is an enormous red flag.

Lack of deposit options

Offshore sites have problems with deposits (and will charge you for these in one way or perhaps another). If you simply see just one or possibly two non-mainstream options, e.g., only cryptocurrency or maybe a little known voucher system, then be wary.

Bonuses and promotions that are too good to be true

Sure, online gambling is competitive, and extras are a fantastic advertising tool. If you notice bonuses that seem so large as to be unprofitable, in that case, they most likely are. These sites may not be complete scams, although they’ll probably claw back that money by offering bad lines as well as adding processing fees.

High minimum withdrawals and/or withdrawal fees

If you’re a small stakes bettor, then creating a minimum withdrawal of $1,000 could effectively trap your bankroll on their website. Many sites are going to let you withdraw monthly at no cost, and many won’t. Look out for those sneaky fifty dollar withdrawal fees. These may drain your profits quickly.

Biggest Online Gambling Scams of the Last Decade

If the warnings above still leave you tempted to stray into the gray, these cautionary tales should ensure you do not take the risk. Naturally, gambling scandals pre-date the internet by over a century.

What we can find out from those scandals are the predictable elements of theirs. Betting sites, casinos, and poker rooms from jurisdictions with very little oversight are usually required. It starts with complaints from bettors about late payments, denied (or voided) bonuses, and an overall lack of responsiveness from staff. Once late payments become the norm, it’s unusual for a site to recover.

As an internet gambling site’s reputation crashes, new deposit options fail, which produces a death spiral for the website.

Sad to say, the gambling world has had absolutely no shortage of scandals throughout the years. Even when the organized criminals of the past are excluded, there are loads of much more recent examples of gambling companies acting dishonestly.

America’s Cardroom

Probably the most recent cardroom to run aground is America’s Cardroom. We’re just a year removed from poker forum TwoPlusTwo’s cessation of allowing ACR to promote on the forum. Two Plus Two boss Mason Malmuth alleged that America’s Cardroom was failing on four fronts: late tournament registration, the use of bots, the possible appearance of superusers (as seen in full Tilt), along with other trouble events that reeked of collusion. ACR infamously or famously paid no mind to repeated calls that it submits itself to regulators, and therefore, much more or perhaps less confirmed that shenanigans were underway.

The unfortunate truth is the fact that this list is neither extensive nor final. The lure of access that is easy to a pot of money will draw bad actors towards gambling. There’s an ever-growing list of grey market sports betting websites that have shut down or perhaps been declared rogue by monitoring sites.

Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet Cheating Scandal

Two more critical exemplars of the kind of deplorable behavior that drove the government to enact Black Friday had been the cheating scandals at sister sites Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet. Insiders at the company level for both sites used so-called superuser accounts to spy on the hole cards of many users. Based on an independent investigation, these thieves stole roughly twenty dollars million throughout three seasons.

World Sports Exchange

WSEX was the very first of many betting sites to falter during the original online gambling boom in 2006. WSEX gambled that players will flock to a no rake poker site, and all those players would provide plenty of liquidity for the sports-based areas to run. Unfortunately, payments to bettors started to be more slowly and slower, eventually stopping altogether. Many bettors lost their bankroll.

Full Tilt Poker Ponzi Scheme

One of those seized sites during Black Friday was Full Tilt Poker. Until the time of the seizure of its, Full Tilt was one of the more prominent poker sites and counted numerous big-name poker players as its official team. Nevertheless, according to a September 2011 amendment to the Black Friday indictment, Full Tilt brass defrauded the client base of its for roughly 1dolar1 444 million. Well-known poker players Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson were 2 of the defendants named in the motion, although neither has been convicted of any wrongdoing to date.

Lock Poker

More recently, there have been various cardrooms that have run into trouble and then had to close shop. One of the most prominent examples of this phenomenon is Lock Poker, which finally ended service in 2016. The closure marked the conclusion of a slow, malingering death that saw the site ‘s ownership honor fewer and fewer cashout requests from players. Although Lock doesn’t go through from allegations as severe as Absolute Poker or Full Tilt, the sin of refusing to cash out is an unforgivable one for the poker community.

Offshore Gambling FAQs

Are offshore gambling sites legal?

When it involves offshore gambling sites, there’s a blurred line between safety and legality. A lot of these offshore sites claim they’re authorized under the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. While the government doesn’t agree, there’s very little beyond restricting financial transactions that can be done.

If one of these offshore sites were to shut down immediately and get everyone’s bankroll, its players would not have any recourse. Even in case, you can argue that these websites are legal, they’re quite a distance from being regulated in any practical sense.

Who regulates offshore gambling sites?

The regulation of offshore gambling sites is virtually hands-off.

While each site is licensed, the possibility of an involved licensing jurisdiction in a dispute is minimal. You will find a lot of places offshore gambling sites find licenses.

Allow me to share the most popular:

  • Kahnawake: This tribal reserve inside Canada was involved with licensing gambling sites for numerous years. Run by the Morris Mohawk tribe, this sovereign nation hosts lots of the servers that power gambling sites for North America.
  • Barbuda and Antigua: This nation is essential for instigating a complaint against the US at the World Trade Organization. They mentioned that the federal government was unfairly restricting free trade by stopping financial transactions to their legal gambling sites.
  • Curacao: This Caribbean nation used being recognized as the Netherlands Antilles. They’ve been licensing gambling sites, casinos, and poker rooms for years. As you are going to see from the historical past of offshore gambling sites below, a lot of the scandals came from sites licensed here.
  • Costa Rica: Several offshore gambling sites have reported being certified by this Central American nation over the years. Nevertheless, there’s no official licensing body here. The case is generally created by companies that simply hold a business license in Costa Rica.
  • Panama: This Central American tax haven has been home to big offshore sports betting brands since the days of telephone wagering. Once more, there’s no official body to complain to should you have a problem with a Panama licensed book.

My state doesn’t offer online gambling. Is it safe to gamble at offshore sites?

There are in fact offshore casinos that are legitimate operations. But if safety is your primary concern, I suggest you steer clear of offshore gaming sites and hang on for legal and regulated sites to reach your state. This is true for online casino and poker players as well.

If you ultimately decide to take the risk of gambling offshore, make sure to do your research. There are a lot of gambling review websites promoting shady offshore sites because they pay higher commissions to be ranked highly. So stick with reputable watchdog sites like Safe Gambling and The Pogg when looking for safe gambling sites.

Why should I wait for regulated gambling in my state?

Regulation for online gambling is moving fast. After successful early adoption in PA and NJ, more states will carry out over another couple of years. These gambling sites combine local businesses with big global betting brands.

They don’t just bring you top-of-the-line platforms, but you will also get a great selection of lines and innovative types of bets like live and early cash out bets.

Compare these options to offshore sites, wherever you’ve minimum recourse when your bankroll goes missing, and you will understand why the regulated sites will be the way to go.

How can I tell if a gambling site is offshore or locally licensed?

Legal gambling sites and overseas gambling sites look identical, initially. Currently, legal gambling sites only run within the state borders of New Pennsylvania and Jersey. These gambling sites tend to be licensed by racetracks or casinos, which have brick-and-mortar operations and technology partners that run the websites.

Each website is going to display a badge from its licensing authority, e.g., the New Jersey Division of Gambling Enforcement (NJDGE). Legal gambling sites will have a responsible gambling policy in place, which includes self-exclusion and deposit limits.

Additionally, you will have the ability to locate an official registered address within the state. Lastly, all regulated, legal gambling sites offer a selection of mainstream deposit options, including credit cards, PayPal, and bank transfers.

Offshore gambling sites use professional branding to look legit, and several have logos and designs which will be recognizable to gamblers.

The critical difference is in the licensing authorities. You are going to find this info in the footer of every site. Search for jurisdictions like Panama, Antigua, and Curacao, which are foreign nations that allow gambling sites to use. Another strong tell that a gambling site operates offshore is the kind of deposit options available. If Bitcoin (and some other cryptocurrencies), money transfers, and voucher systems are the sole method to deposit, then this’s a red flag.

How did sports betting get legalized in the United States?

For decades, the sole method to place a sports bet would be to make use of an offshore gambling website. They began via telephone in the late 1990s, and, together with the internet, a brand new breed of gambling sites began operating online only.

While several of these websites have good reputations, not one of them has oversight, which means their clients have no recourse if one of these offshore gambling sites refuse to pay.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992 stopped domestic licensing of sports betting sites for years. In 2018, the act was challenged and overturned by the US Supreme Court.

The ruling paved the way for new, legal gambling sites regulated by the states. New Jersey was first to offer regulated online sports betting with Pennsylvania close behind. Presently, more states are in the system of introducing legislation for their internet gambling websites, including Michigan, Indiana, Iowa, Tennessee, Colorado, and West Virginia.

How do offshore casinos and sportsbooks get licensed?

Offshore online casino websites contend they are legal because they have gotten a license in one or more jurisdictions.  The online casinos thus contend that they are legal gaming enterprises, not illegal gambling operations.  Being licensed supposedly adds legitimacy and credibility to the business that has received a license.  To my mind licensing should imply investigating and assuring the legitimacy of the licensed company and ongoing regulation of the licensee.

Is there substance to the licensing process in the jurisdictions that grant licenses to online casinos?  What is the cost of the license?  How much effort does it take to get a license?  Are there any meaningful standards that have to be met to get a license?  Is ample time provided to conduct a background check?  Is the licensee required to prove its legitimacy?  Is there any ongoing regulation and oversight by the licensing authority.  Here is some background on the licensing process in Nevada and New Jersey, jurisdictions we know thoroughly investigate licensees.  Information on the procedures in the jurisdictions that license online casinos is not available. Still, some inkling of what it must comprise can be discerned from the costs involved in obtaining those licenses and the time it takes to get them.

In Nevada and New Jersey, the applicant for an unrestricted gaming license can expect the process to take one to two years.  The applicant has the burden of proving to the licensing authorities that it is legitimate and has the necessary skills available to operate a casino in compliance with the law.  The applicant must pay the costs of the independent investigation undertaken to test the accuracy and complete truthfulness of its responses to the multiple questions answered in filling out the application.  These costs routinely amount to between $500,000 and $1,000,000.  There are public hearings to delve into personal and business transgressions admitted in the application or turned up in the investigation.  These amounts do not take into consideration the legal fees that each applicant incurs in getting help and advice in connection with the process.

In Nevada, the fees charged licensees are based on the number of slot machines and games that the licensee wants to operate.  The annual fee is $250 per slot machine and between $200 and $1,000 for each table game. There are also quarterly fees paid on a per-machine and per-table basis.  The annual total of these fees for a brick and mortar casino with 2,000 slot machines and 200 table games would come to over $800,000.  The licensee is also taxed on the gross revenue from the gaming operation, with the tax being 3.5% of the first $50,000 per month, 4.5% of the next $84,000, and 6.75% of the amount over $134,000.  So, if gross revenues amount to $100 per day per slot machine and $500 per day per table, the annual gross income would come to about $100 million, with a resulting total yearly state tax of about $6,700,000.

The following table is taken from information presented by Slogold (Last Visited 11-9-2003), a member of the Haglley Holding group, which assists in setting up offshore businesses and obtaining foreign casino licenses.  The table shows the license fees, tax rates, estimated times for licensing, and estimated legal fees that an applicant can expect in each of the offshore jurisdictions noted.

License Fee
Tax Rate
Legal Fees
One week
2-3 weeks
4-5 weeks
Mohawk Territory (Canada) [1]
2-4 weeks
Costa Rica
1 week
3 weeks
1 month
$10 to $20 thousand
2 weeks
1 week
1 week

[1]  A report in 2001 commissioned by the Canada West Foundation says: “Internet Gambling: Kahnawake Gaming Commission   In June 1996, the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake established the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to approve Internet gambling activities. The Commission has been providing gaming licenses for firms to use their Internet servers to host online casinos. The Kahnawake First Nation claims that they are
offering their clients the legal protection of a sovereign nation. While the Kahnawake Nation are not themselves conducting gambling activities, under the Criminal Code they do not have the authority to license such activities without provincial approval.

    The issue of Internet gambling and online betting is a controversial policy area. While in North America Internet gambling is prohibited, it is relatively hard to regulate. There is concern that even if Internet gambling continues to be prohibited in Canada, there is no realistic way to stop Canadians
from placing bets on offshore gambling sites. Some people, including Liberal MP Denis Mills, have lobbied for legalizing Internet gambling in order to stop revenues from being lost to Internet gambling sites located offshore.

What are the benefits of sticking to legal gambling sites?

You will discover there are many reasons that legal gambling sites are much better than the offshore operators. Listed here are the key benefits:

  • Safety: If you’re betting offshore and your money goes missing, there’ll be no one offered to assist you. With regulated sites, each state is going to have its licensing body. Examples are the NJDGE and Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board (PGCB). These divisions have strict licensing requirements as well as offer an avenue for complaint if for unfair treatment. With big brand names with reputations worth protecting behind the legal gambling sites, the chances of yours of having an issue are small.
    Mainstream deposit methods: If you don’t want to have to wire money to a mysterious individual over a Caribbean island or learn how to use cryptocurrency for online gambling, then you are going to want to choose legal gambling sites. At legal sites, you can gamble for real money using options like bank transfers (via ACH or even bill pay), PayPal, Mastercard or Visa credit cards, as well as cash at any nearby casino’s cage. A number of these deposit options have built-in consumer protection.
    Responsible gambling tools: Legal gambling sites have controls that protect minors and problem gamblers. Even those of us that gamble responsibly is going to appreciate this feature. Having tools as deposit limits, self-exclusion and time-out, and links to local area charities that assist with issues is a vital benefit of legal gambling sites.
    Quality of platforms: Regulated gambling sites are partnerships between local casinos and global technology partners. For instance, large casino brands as Borgata, SugarHouse, and BetMGM run in state-licensed gambling sites. These partnerships not just provide you with the very best software program, which includes features like in-play (live) betting, it offers you access to Android apps and Apple, also. When you compare these to the offshore sites, you will find the offshore platforms are a decade out of date.
    Bonuses and promotions: Legal gambling sites work in competitive markets. You could gain from this by taking advantage of better bonuses and promotions offers than at offshore locations, including a plethora of free bet bonuses. Almost all regulated gambling sites either give you cash in the beginning, a no-lose first bet as well as free bets based on your very first wager. These’re usually followed up with matched bonuses, promotions as parlay insurance, contests, and more.
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