Legal Gambling in the State of New York

All in all, unless you’re making wagers at a licensed and regulated setup, you are going against the law. The licensed set-ups are native US casinos, racetracks licensed to provide slots-style video lottery gambling machines or any of the new commercial casinos that were recently authorized to do business across New York. For the likes of poker, on the other hand, the laws governing gambling in New York State comprise a clause that clearly says games of luck where skill may be utilized are still prohibited.

Luckily for fans of betting on sports, sportsbooks were recently given the green light, including mobile betting. However, you must still pay attention to the regulations such as being physically present in the sportsbook, and creation of mobile betting accounts in person. If you want to go gambling online on the other hand, well, you’ll have to stick to fantasy sports, lotteries, skill games or off-track betting on horse and greyhound racing. For online casino games and fully-fledged online sports betting (on any location), we’ll all just have to be a little more patient until lawmakers pass the appropriate laws.

New York State Gambling Laws

Like many states in the US, New York State has its own legal definition of gambling, often heavily aligned with federal law. The state’s legislature devoted very much time on the concept of a “contest of chance” to define gambling, with two different passages mulling over this definition. To help you understand the state law better, here’s a quick teardown of the main components;

Section 225.00(2)

You will have engaged in betting if you stake something valuable upon the aftermath of a contest of chance or an upcoming reliant event not under your influence or control, upon an understanding or agreement that he will get something valuable after a given outcome.

The aspect of chance is a critical element of New York betting. To some extent, this is defined as an event that is not under someone’s influence with promise for rewards at the end of it all.

Section 30-19.1(B)

‘Contest of chance’ implies any competition, gaming scheme, game, or gaming device where outcome relies on a material degree upon an aspect of chance, even though the skill of the competitors may also be a factor.

A contest of chance could be a game of pure luck or could be a game base on a material degree upon an element of chance. This implies wagers made on games of skill such as sports betting, poker, or DFS are deemed a contest of chance. This is because these games have some aspect of luck in them.

Section 225.00(3)

Social games, in particular, are exempted from New York betting regulations. A ‘social game of luck on equivalent terms’ in which no person works for the organizer is permitted. However, you should bear in mind that it’s permitted only if there is no ‘remuneration fee’ involved.

Of course, there are a lot more clauses with more detail and definitions in these gambling laws and if you like you can go to the state website for a closer look.

Laws that Hindered the Legalization of Sportsbook & Online Casino Betting in New York

Like all other forms of gambling, proponents of sports betting other than horse races had to fight tooth and nail for the state and national laws to legalize the practice. Before sportsbook betting and online gambling saw the light of day in the USA, some of the laws that bottled-up the progress included;

The Wire Act

All the trouble began all the way back in 1961 when the Wire Act was introduced by Robert F. Kennedy, who was the then-Attorney General. Fundamentally, the Wire Act was presented to the national assembly to ban sports betting except for pari-mutuel and off-track betting on horses.

This move was made with the intention to try and crush the sports betting black market which had become wildly notorious among organized crime circles. Illegal bookmarking had become a remarkably lucrative source of income for mobsters, especially in New York. It was not until four decades later in 2001 when the Wire Act was expounded to include the banning of all forms of online gambling.


Then there was the PASPA (Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act) which took effect in 1992 to prevent further growth of sports betting activities in the entire country except in four states; Oregon, Montana, Delaware and Nevada. This law was mainly passed owing to the increasing concerns of the morality of betting on sports as well as how it affected the integrity of sports, starting from college level all the way to the professional leagues.


In 2006, the Bush administration tightened the laws to suppress online gambling further by signing the UIGEA, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This new law essentially dictated punishments for money transfer merchants that facilitated the movement of money in illegal online betting sites. However, fantasy sportsbooks and horse racing activities were exempted from this law.

While the noose was tightened on the hopes for regulating sports and online gambling in New York, there were still rays of hope thanks to zealous lawmakers who kept introducing bills now and again.

Repealing of PASPA in 2018

The spark of legalizing sports betting and online betting finally burst into flames when New Jersey tabled a case in the supreme court challenging the PASPA. In this case, New Jersey argued in the SCOTUS that the PASPA was acting against the anti-commandeering principle in the USA, which essentially gives each state mandate to create their own laws.

As a result, New Jersey won the case, and the PASPA in its entirety was struck down, giving states room to regulate sports betting as they saw fit. Right after this ruling, which took effect on May 2018, a handful of states, including New York started making strides towards regulating sports and online betting by working on a practical legal framework.