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With notable exceptions-such as Nevada, American Indian reservations and state-sanctioned gambling venues, such as racetracks and lotteries-gambling is illegal in most states. Gambling includes betting, bookmaking and lotteries. The promotion of gambling, owning or keeping gambling premises and communicating information to aid in gambling are all criminal offenses in states where it is illegal. Gambling devices, including electronic gambling machines, may also be prohibited. Gambling in a purely private setting and gambling where personal financial gain is not received, such as charity casino nights that are open to the public, are usually exempted from state gambling laws.

Federal laws prohibit transporting gambling devices across state lines and interstate communications containing wagering information. Federal law governs gambling on reservations. Importantly, acts or threats concerning gambling activities may be prosecuted under federal racketeering laws in an effort to suppress organized crime.