17 Mar Is Online Poker Legal in the United States?
Playing online poker is not illegal in the United States. The issue is more of a conversation about free-to-play sites vs. paid gambling websites that offer tables.
Four states currently offer live poker games for real stakes in the United States: New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. You must be a resident of one of those states with a valid address to create an account at one of the casinos authorized to provide this service.
Established poker brands are providing services for online games that are permitted for real stakes. PokerStars went live in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, while Party Poker and Pala Poker offer services to New Jersey residents.
WSOP/888 US is usually the top-ranked online poker site, providing services to each state. West Virginia has authorized online poker, but it doesn’t have the same shared liquidity pool needed for a successful experience.
What About Playing Poker at an Off-Shore Casino?
Playing online poker doesn’t violate federal laws explicitly, but there are some states where it is expressly forbidden to participate in this type of wager. If you don’t have any local requirements that prohibit the table action that you want, it won’t take long to find an off-shore site that accepts American customers to play poker.
Residents in Washington, Utah, Texas, Tennessee, Hawaii, Alaska, New Hampshire, and Georgia should verify what local rules and laws say about playing online poker before trying to participate in a game.
The one issue that prevents a lot of poker players from playing on the legal casino sites today involves the available choices of games. No-Limit Hold’em continues to be the most popular game played online, while limit options are also available. Omaha is gaining in popularity, and some stud tables are beginning to develop.
If you enjoy playing a niche poker style, then you may not find what you want when searching for legal online poker.
Why Is Online Poker Hard to Find in the United States?
The primary issue that online casinos face when accepting American players at their tables is a law called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Congress passed this legislation in 2006 to make it illegal for banks based in the U.S. to process transactions for online gambling operators located outside of the country’s borders.
That law effectively forced the most prominent online poker sites out of the American marketplace, creating a gap in services that would last for over five years. Some companies remained, including Ultimate Bet, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker, but the U.S. government charged them with various crimes based on the 2006 law.
As more states push for increased access to online poker and other casino games, the companies that jump through the regulatory hoops are finding that there are plenty of players who still want tables.
It isn’t worth the risk to play poker online if it is against the law where you live. Even if you win, the government may have the right to confiscate your income. That’s why knowing the legal status of this game is essential to having a good time.