Is it Legal to Deposit for Online Poker in USA?

The most common questions professional poker players hear from those first learning of their profession go something like: “oh wow! Have I seen you on TV?” and “isn’t online poker illegal?” The first of those questions is generally met with a chuckle and a response to the tune of “umm, no” followed by a now confident “I mean… Not Yet!” The second question can be answered many different ways and is the one we’ll address on this page.

One place, has continued to accept deposits for over 10 years because they are licensed to ‘legally’ accept players in the U.S.  Their stance is that it’s the world wide web, and it’s legal in their jurisdiction.  In fact, the US DOJ has stated many times it’s not illegal for poker players in the US to play at offshore sites, therefore no laws are being broken. There has begun a movement of brick and mortar casinos opening up through the H2664 and UIGEA Poker Clarification Act.  This is allowing a few state run poker sites to operate within state borders online.  Only Nevada, New Jersey and Deleware (with Pennsylvania and California as a potential very soon) have done it so far (you must live in each state) with the opening of Ultimate Poker (which recently went out of business until new states open up) the Borgata, The WSOP, etc.

As with marijuana, poker is legal on some states level, but not on federal level due to the skill has been losing this battle on a Federal level.  It’s an interest topic – segregated poker – on the internet.  In recent news there has been a large push by politicians and of NJ republicans, and governor Christie of New Jersey to legalize everything, including sports wagers.  It will certainly happen but will take a lot of greasing before it does.

Is it Legal to Deposit for Online Poker in USA?

poker lawsThe answer to this a definite “yes, it is perfectly legal to deposit for online poker in USA”. If you’re not familiar with H6663, this is a bill that proposed the legalization and regulation of online poker in the United States. In July 2011, H6663 passed the US House Representatives Financial Services Committee by a 41-22 vote. After passing the House, the Senate and then the President signed it into law. Many poker players, operators and affiliates are optimistic that more USA licensed poker sites will be available sometime in 2016-2019.

In the immediate and best of our knowledge, there are no federal laws that make it illegal to deposit or play online poker from the US. Of course, we’re not attorneys, nor do we come from a legal background. Also, while there might not be federal laws against online poker, there are most certainly laws against it in some states as well as certain counties and Indian reservations. In matters of the law, while Google search is convenient, we strongly suggest consulting with a licensed attorney rather than going by what you read on the net. With that said, we’ll now address some misconceptions regarding the legality of poker in the United States and lead into some of the more asked about state laws.

Specific State-by-State Laws
AlabamaArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutGeorgiaIdahoIowaKansasMaineMarylandMassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippiMontanaNebraskaNew HampshireNew MexicoNorth CarolinaNorth DakotaOhioOklahomaPennsylvaniaRhode IslandSouth CarolinaTennesseeVermontWest VirginiaWyoming

Didn’t the US Ban Online Poker in 2006?

This is most certainly not the case. What you’re thinking of is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006 (UIGEA for short). What UIGEA did was make it illegal for banks and financial institutions to aid in the processing of “illegal” online gambling transactions. Experts on this law have made it clear the bill itself did not create any new laws. It simply made it illegal for banks to assist in situations where old laws had already made gambling illegal.  In any case it has been ‘clarified’ on the legal level that the law does not apply to online poker and when your State allows poker, you can play at the State’s site or overseas.

What about the Wire Act?

Editor Note: This topic has been changed. The courts ruled that the Wire Act now only applies to sports betting. The text below is still important because Sheldon Adelson is trying to have the decision reversed.

The Wire Act is an interesting topic, and what it does and doesn’t do is still being debated in court. Before looking at the bill’s text we should state this law has been on the books since 1961, which was well before the use of home computers, the internet and the beginning of online gambling in the 90’s. With that said, this is how the Wire Act starts:

Whoever being engaged in the business of betting or wagering knowingly uses a wire communication facility for the transmission in interstate or foreign commerce of bets or wagers or information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers on any sporting event or contest, or for the transmission of a wire communication which entitles the recipient to receive money or credit as a result of bets or wagers, or for information assisting in the placing of bets or wagers, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

The remainder of the Act goes on to outline penalties and previsions, none of which span outside the words we’ve underlined “in the business of”. To us this suggests the law simply makes it illegal to “operate” a betting service over the phone, which was the common way bets were placed in 1961, and has nothing to do with targeting “the bettor” (or in the case of poker the “player”). Now we’d normally include a “this is not legal advice” disclaimer to this section of the page, however even legal professionals can’t decide what the wire act means in relation to online gambling; it is largely up for debate.

One thing is for certain, the US Department of Justice believes the wire act makes all forms of online gambling illegal. However, US Courts have rules against this. Most, but not all, experts agree this applies only to those “in the business of” gambling. What’s up for debate is, does “internet-based” gambling apply, and if so what specifically is illegal; sports betting or all forms of online gambling? The legal precedent that has been set so far is that the wire act only applies to sports betting. This came from a US District Court Ruling in 2001, and was upheld in 2002 by the US Fifth Circuit Federal Appeals Court. We’re not even sure if any rulings have been made (or not) that interprets that the wire act even covers “internet-based” betting. Again, we’re not legal experts, but calling online poker illegal under the wire act is quite a stretch as again the legal precedent backed up by the federal court of appeals in plain language states, “The wire act only applies being in the business of accepting wagers on sporting events”.

So, is it legal to deposit for online poker in USA?

Well, we’ve come full circle on that topic. Once again, talk to your attorney and let them decide for you. If they tell you it is okay, you can then read about our various online poker deposit methods for USA. If you do decide to play, we wish you the best of luck at the US online poker tables.

New 2015+ Laws

Certain states of America are coming to their senses and issuing state wide licenses to poker websites in their state (NV and DE share tables) while NJ sits alone.  This also means that if you live in a state that wants online poker, they will have it, like California and Pennsylvania.  You will only be allowed to play against players in your own state and possibly in other countries unless compacts are signed.  This is called ‘intrastate/interstate gambling’ and kind of sucks but it’s one step forward.  Stay tuned for more information in 2015 and beyond…

Author: Savanah Lavinder
Copyright: 2015