10 Years of Legalized Online Gaming in the U.S.: A Winning Bet for States

Legal online gambling marked its first decade in the U.S. on Nov. 21 — the 10th anniversary of New Jersey launching iGaming in the state. This milestone translates to 10 years of substantial tax revenue, job growth and enhanced consumer protections. While New Jersey was the first to regulate legal iGaming, a handful of states that followed suit are enjoying similar economic successes and safeguarding residents who play casino games online.

Unfortunately, regulated iGaming’s limited expansion means that illegal, offshore gambling operators are prevalent online, luring unknowing consumers onto their illicit websites. While they claim to be legitimate, these sites have zero accountability and consumers personal and financial data is at serious risk. Illegal operators also have no incentive or requirements to keep children from gambling online and to help those experiencing gambling-related harm.

The illegal market is hurting states that are standing on the sidelines. By opening the virtual doors to legal iGaming, more states can follow the vision of New Jersey’s and other states’ lawmakers and regulators who created an environment that protects consumers and delivers economic rewards.

New Jersey Wins With iGaming

In 2014, the Garden State’s first full year of operation, online casino gambling generated $123 million in revenue, according to state-provided statistics. In 2022, that amount was a whopping $1.7 billion.

With that growth and success came the payoffs: jobs and tax revenue.

iDEA conducted a study on the economic impacts of New Jersey’s legal iGaming in 2019. The study revealed that more than 6,600 jobs were created by legal iGaming during its first five years. Considering how much the industry has grown, it’s safe to estimate that the number of jobs created has increased many-fold.

Meanwhile, iGaming has proven to be a reliable source of tax revenue that funds critical education, infrastructure, public safety, senior citizen and disability programs throughout the state. Since launching 10 years ago, iGaming has delivered nearly $1.1 billion in tax dollars and it’s only growing. 2022 brought in a record $250 million in taxes and 2023 is on pace to shatter that record. Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia replicated this experience, just as lawmakers in those states intended when they followed New Jersey’s lead and took the bold step to legalize iGaming.

High-Tech Tools Keep Kids and Consumers Safe

Legalized iGaming requires that operators employ technological tools that protect consumers and ensure responsible gaming. For instance, to safeguard players’ identities and accounts, legal iGaming operators use the same cybersecurity and data protection measures as banks and financial institutions. Other technologies keep minors away and block site access. Because of these measures, players who use mobile devices and computers to access online games are afforded an unprecedented level of protection.

In addition, regulated and legal sites are required to provide prominent messaging about responsible gambling and easy-to-find resources for those who need help. Legal providers use sophisticated technology to flag risky or problem behaviors and contact the players directly. Data analytics help identify problems before they arise.

Irradicate Black Market and Overseas Illegal Operators

Off-shore, illegal iGaming operations are beyond regulators’ grasp and not beholden to U.S. or individual states’ laws. They also have no requirements to protect consumers. In fact, when players encounter problems with illegal sites, they are often left without potential help. On the other hand, legal iGaming is one of the most highly regulated industries in the U.S., and operators strive for integrity, responsibility, accountability and transparency. From responsible advertising and marketing tactics to using technology to keep out minors and crime, online gaming brings protection that is unrivaled by its illegal counterparts.

States Should Legalize iGaming

Given the positive track record in the states that have legalized iGaming, it’s no surprise that lawmakers across the country are taking a serious look at their own laws in 2024. While there are, of course, some potential challenges associated with legalized online gambling, its benefits far outweigh the concerns. States need to ensure that they have adequate resources to regulate the industry and to protect consumers from problem gambling. However, lawmakers need to only look to New Jersey and the other states as a model for how to legalize and regulate online gambling effectively. A decade of incredible success has shown that it is possible to create an online gambling industry that benefits both the state and its residents.