How to get money into an online casino (for U.S. players)
Last update: August, 2018.
While there's no federal law against gambling online, banks are wary of touching online gambling money. That makes it harder for U.S. players to get money into or out of an online casino. Many credit cards don't work, PayPal won't touch those transactions, and the feds have shut down countless small processors. The short summary is:
- If you don't already have a Bitcoin account, try your credit cards, because some of them will work.
- If you already have a Bitcoin account, or if your credit cards don't work, then use Bitcoin.
Below are more details.
1. Credit cards
Try a credit card first, because it might work and because it's super-easy. If it doesn't work then you can try something else, but if it does work, then problem solved!
Credit cards are hit-and-miss—they might work and they might not. I've been lucky and have been able to use credit cards for years to make deposits, including again at my favorite casino just now. I've never been able to use all my credit cards, though. If one doesn't work, I try another one. Also, a card that works one day might not work the next. (But then it might start working again in the future.) I've had success at one point or another with cards from Bank of America, Capital One, Chase, First Equity, MBNA, and Washington Mutual.
Note that you might have to pay a fee (like 4.9%) to use your card. Blame that on the hat dance that casinos use to disguise the nature of the transactions so that banks don't block the use of the card, which is expensive for them. It's also probably illegal, which is why many casinos have stopped even taking credit cards and want their players to switch to Bitcoin.
If your credit card doesn't work, most casinos now accept Bitcoin, using a service like Bitstamp. If you're unfamiliar with Bitcoin, it's basically a currency like dollars or Euros, but it exists only electronically; you don't hold physical Bitcoins in your hand. The way it usually works is:
- You open an account with a Bitcoin service like Bitstamp.
- You transfer money from your bank account to Bitstamp (or competing service) to purchase Bitcoin.
- You use Bitstamp to send your Bitcoin to online merchants who accept them, like online casinos.
You can also use Bitstamp or similar service to receive Bitcoin from others, such as a payout of casino winnings:
- The casino sends Bitcoin to your Bitcoin account.
- The service lets you sell the Bitcoin to convert it to U.S. dollars.
- You transfer the U.S. dollars to your bank account.
Bitcoin accounts are sometimes a little trouble to set up, but once they're set up, moving money in and out is very easy.
3. Instant Check (aka, e-Check)
Some casinos let you easily deposit money by just typing in your bank account number. They withdraw the money from your account as though it were a check. You might be rightly wary of giving an offshore online casino access to your bank account, which is why you should do this only with established, trusted casinos.
Before Bitcoin was on the scene, I used this method successfully at Bovada.
As I mentioned in the Credit Cards section above, U.S. banks try hard not to handle online gambling money. So there's a good chance they'll reject the transfer, and there's a good chance that your online casino of choice won't even offer this deposit method in the first place.
4. Western Union (aka "Money Transfer")
Don't use this method. It's cumbersome, Western Union charges hefty fees, and they have pathetic customer service.
Online payment services
No longer an option! Everyone used to use PayPal, then PayPal stopped handling gambling transactions. Then we switched to Neteller, but the feds subsequently forced them to stop serving U.S. customers, too. A number of smaller processors sprang up, but the feds smacked them all down as well. Even if you can find such a processor, they won't last long, and you risk losing your money if the processor is holding it when they get smacked.
Okay, that's how you get money in. How do you get money out when you win big? The easy way is to have the casino send it to you as Bitcoin, but most casinos are also willing to mail you a check. Note that the casino might require that you fax them a copy of your ID before your first withdrawal. Don't freak out, that's just standard security protocol at many online gaming sites to make sure that no one else is pretending to be you and trying to steal your money. Also, be prepared to wait a couple of weeks or more for your check. If you're not prepared to wait that long, use Bitcoin.
Note that if you deposited with e-Check, you'll have to wait for that deposit to clear before your payout request will be processed. It can take up to two weeks for an e-Check to clear.
DISCLAIMER: Gambling laws change all the time, and I'm not a lawyer besides. You are strongly advised to check the laws relevant to your jurisdiction before you gamble online.