Online Poker in the US


 

Contrary to popular belief, you can still play online poker in the US! As of today only 3 states regulate online poker, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still play in your State. The current States that regulate online poker are: New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada. The only State that playing online poker is consider a crime is the State of Washington. The situation in the other 46 States is a bit murkier, and not exactly black and white, but it is not illegal. It is simply just not regulated.

Now we should add a disclaimer that we are not attorney’s. We recommend that you do your own research into the laws in your respective State. And then determine if you are comfortable with the potential risks involved. If you do decide to proceed and give the online grind another shot, you should definitely take advantage of the huge sign up bonuses they are currently offering.

Here at 9to5poker we still play online and are comfortable with the risks. We mainly play on Ignition as we have found that to be the best and safest site to play on in our home State of California. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t still other great online poker sites for you to play on. We will cover these various options further down in this article.

What does Online Poker Regulation mean?

What does the regulation of online poker look like you might ask? And what is different in the States that regulate it vs. the States that don’t? Well frankly it comes down to the benjamins plain and simple. The Feds and State want a piece of the pie. The benefits of regulation for the player is that it adds to the legitimacy of online poker, and requires that the online poker sites are licensed. That is not to say there aren’t completely scandal free sites to play on in the other 46 States! But regulation gives an added sense of security to the players, as most are still traumatized from the fallout of Black Friday, and the scandals that ensued.

How Can I Still Play Online Poker in my State?


Technically as of 2017, there are no federal laws which prevent US players from playing online poker for real money. The State of Washington is the only one where playing online poker is unfortunately considered a crime. And not just a small crime, they consider it a Felony. While this is a bummer for Washington, it is great news for the rest of you! On a State level there is admittedly some gray area. But it is this gray area that creates the loopholes that still allow players in the US to play online poker for real money. Many US states have outdated gambling laws which fail to directly address playing online poker in the US.

When it comes down to it, the US government isn’t interested in chasing or charging online poker players. The key is finding a reputable site that accepts you, and that you feel comfortable entrusting with your money. Laws can change at any time, but as of 2017 US players should be able to continue playing online poker without fear of arrest or retribution for the foreseeable future.

Here at 9to5poker we have reviewed the various respected online poker sites within the poker community. We also provide you with the largest bonuses currently available. Simply click on the links in this article to the sites we have reviewed, or the ads to the right of this article on the sidebar to sign up and get your bonus TODAY! We recommend checking out the article titled “Top 3 Online Poker Bonuses” to determine what site is going to be the best fit for you.

Game of Skill vs. Game of Chance

Judge Jack B. Weinstein, a federal judge in Brooklyn, ruled that poker is predominantly a game of skill rather than chance in August of 2012.  Judge Weinstein stated, “The most skillful professionals earn the same celestial salaries as professional ballplayers.”

At the end of the day, “gambling” is the activity of betting money.  In general, games of skill are treated dramatically different from the games that are considered pure chance. Hence why there are some loopholes in the written law.

Interstate Wire Act of 1961

Also known as “The Federal Wire Act,” The Interstate Wire Act of 1961 was passed in September, 1961 in an attempt to thwart organized crime.

But in December of 2011, The Justice Department flipped a 180 and changed their stance, stating that the Interstate Wire Act of 1961 applies only to sports betting, and not to poker.

In conclusion, unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise, as of 2017, The Wire Act does not currently make online poker illegal in the US.

 The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) was passed as part of the Safe Ports act. This law made it a federal crime to accept payments connected with illegal Internet gambling. What it did not do is define “illegal Internet gambling”, and since the Wire Act is only applied to sports betting, there are no federal laws that make it illegal to play poker on the internet for money.

In short, the UIGEA does not make online poker illegal unless state laws make it illegal.

Black Friday

In 2011, the online poker player pool was approximately 2 million. On Friday, April 15, 2011, The Justice Department, also known as the DOJ, shut down the the three most trafficked online poker sites (Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker, and the Cereus Network) charging them with both money laundering and fraud. The US government contended that the companies had violated UIGEA, but the poker companies operated under the understanding that online poker wasn’t illegal, and therefore did not constitute a violation of the act.

The events and fallout from Black Friday didn’t make online poker illegal persay, but that day had a dramatic effect on the current play pool and left a dark cloud over the current state of online poker. Most people are still sketched out and suffering from post traumatic stress from that tragic day, and avoid online poker altogether as a result. The industry still hasn’t recovered, but players are slowly coming back to it.

 Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey

The three states that have passed laws making online poker legal and regulated are Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey.

As mentioned earlier, this is allowed as long as the state and Feds are all getting a piece of the pie. A bit hypocritical I know. And when it comes to the hypocrisy of the American government, is not much different than the fact that they have no problem sending an 18 year old into a war zone, while the legal age of drinking alcohol is still 21. The current situation with Marijuana in the US is another great example. So long as they are benefitting, they are willing to make exceptions.

For instance, in the State of Delaware the first $3.75 million of online gambling revenue in a year goes directly to the State. This means that casinos need to generate a tremendous amount of traffic to earn any money from online gambling activities.

The requirements to gamble online in Delaware are as follows:

  • You must be of gambling age
  • Operate from a computer/smart phone/tablet within the state.

The current online poker market is pretty small as a result, but state officials are confident that revenues from online gambling will grow as it catches on there.

In the State of Nevada you can legally play online poker for real money at WSOP.com. They have exclusive rights to run online gambling in the state, and currently a monopoly on it as it is the only regulated site in Nevada since UltimateBet went under. Nevada taxes online gambling revenues at the same rate (6.75%) as all other gaming revenue.

The requirements in the state of New Jersey are a bit different. Online poker sites in New Jersey are required to have a relationship with a physical casino within the state. All of their revenue is taxed at 15% (compared to the 8% they tax their physical casinos). All gambling activities, including poker, are legal within this context, but revenues have been lower than expected. The theory, or at least the main contributing factor seems to be credit card companies current lack of cooperation in processing these transactions.

 Is it Legal to Play Poker for Money on the Internet in the US?

Don’t let this discourage you though, as Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada are not the only states in the US where it is legal to play poker. They just happen to be the only states that currently regulate it. In the United States, an activity is legal unless a law prohibits it. And so far there are no concrete laws other than in the state of Washington which say otherwise. And as of 2017, at least nine other states have proposals to legalize and regulate poker on the Internet. So we can’t count online poker as being dead just yet!

State laws vary. If you live in the state of Washington, as mentioned previously in this article, playing poker online for money is considered a felony. To our knowledge, no one in the United States in any other states have been indicted or convicted of a crime related to playing online poker for money. This, of course, might change in the blink of an eye. And we only recommend that you participate in online poker if it is legal where you live.

To determine which is the best site and best fit for you, check out our article titled Top 3 Online Poker Bonuses.”

We have also done more in depth reviews on various online poker websites which you can find here:

As you can see there are still many great options out there, with reputable companies whom have avoided scandal thus far. So do your homework, and when you’re ready give it a try and be sure click on any ads in and to the right hand side of this article to make sure you get the biggest sign up bonus possible. For a second opinion, check out best poker sites for us players according to TopPokerValue.

If you are currently more in the market for Play Money Poker websites, check out our reviews on Pureplay Poker and Replay Poker.