In the United States, there are three basic ways to play on-the-go mobile blackjack.
The first way — or, rather, the way most people expect to be able to play online 21 — is to download a domestic casino app, make a quick credit card deposit, and gamble anytime you want.
And this works fine, with one big caveat: It’s not available to everyone.
Gambling laws vary from state to state. To date, fewer than a quarter of US states allow online casino gambling for real money. What’s more, those states that do allow legal online blackjack to be hosted and operated by licensed casino brands also require those services to be geo-fenced.
In other words, you must physically be inside the state in question to gamble with a state-licensed online casino. (And no, VPNs aren’t going to help you bypass these geo-fencing restrictions.)
So, as you can see, the state-licensed casino route is perfectly viable for online play if you live in one of the US states where games like online blackjack and other typical gambling amusements are expressly legal at the local level.
There’s also another catch with using these kinds of platforms, which is that players have to be at least 21 years of age or older to participate.
While many states have casinos that only require players to be 18-plus, any online casino component seems universally set at 21-plus, notwithstanding physical/retail gambling ages in the states in question.
In other words, this avenue is restrictive to all players between the ages of 18 and 20 years old, and it only applies to players in a comparative handful of states.
The next way people expect to be able to play online blackjack is through the use of so-called casino apps for iPhone and Android devices.
These apps, which make up the bulk of the highest-grossing App Store games and Google Play games, offer players a simulated mobile gambling experience. The emphasis of such titles is usually placed upon online slots, but online blackjack is right there, too.
There’s a real problem with these amusements, though.
Namely, it’s that they’re not actual real-money casino apps. Instead, these are casino-themed apps that offer players the opportunity to win virtual chips to extend their gameplay sessions.
That’s all you can ever win, and these virtual chips have no cash value. At least not on the back end.
To be sure, they have cash value for their developers and for the App Store and Google Play store. That’s because you have to buy said virtual casino chips with actual real money. It’s a one-way street: money in, no money out.
This way, such games aren’t technically considered to constitute real gambling (albeit this is being challenged via a class action suit against Apple). Since the player can never actually win anything of value beyond extended play time, the government doesn’t consider this kind of activity to be gambling as such.
And while we agree that these kinds of video games are extremely professional and well-made video games, that’s all they are: video games. They’re a lot of fun if you don’t mind spending a few dollars every day for a bit of passive entertainment, but you need to understand that passive entertainment is all you’re getting here.
The third type of legal online blackjack is the best kind: online blackjack hosted by legal international casino sites.
These services are available to all US residents (some sites have a few state-by-state exceptions), and most of them only require their members to be 18 or older.
What’s more, these are real-money gambling sites.
Because state and US casino laws only apply to operations based inside US borders, operators who host real-money online blackjack games, live online blackjack tables, and other casino fare can legally do so if they’re headquartered internationally.
Some domestic gaming advocates will argue that these sites are “illegal,” but they aren’t. Nor do they constitute a “legal loophole” for online gamblers in the US.
On the contrary, these sites operate to the letter of the law, and nobody has ever been arrested, fined, or even cited for using one.
That said, there can be problems with using such sites if you’re a new gambler.
For one thing, not all sites are created equal. That is, there are plenty of online blackjack scams and general online casino scams out there. The trick is knowing which sites are legit and trustworthy, and which ones aren’t.
Fortunately, most of the larger venues — such as those online blackjack casinos we recommend — have been in operation for decades, have built up bulletproof reputations, and always pay out on time and in full.
At these sites, as long as you play by the rules and understand the terms of service, you can enjoy all the mobile blackjack and casino games you want with all the payouts you expect when you win.
The short version of all the above (the TL;DR, as the kids say) is this:
If you’re over 21 and live in a state with domestic online gambling, by all means give those blackjack apps a try.
If you’re under 21 (18+) or don’t live in one of these legal gambling states, try one of the established, reputable “offshore” online casinos we suggest.
And regardless of the above — no matter who you are or where you live — for the love of whatever it is you love, please don’t waste your money on App Store and Google Play blackjack apps that never pay out.
They’re good for a bit of fun, but the second you have to pay to play, that money’s gone forever.