Can You Play Legal Online Poker in the USA?
The simple answer is: yes, online poker is legal.
Online poker has had a rocky roller coaster ride since the first online poker hands were dealt in the late 90s. Its biggest setback was in 2011, but after that it’s been steadily rising and things are really looking up. Four states, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware all legalized poker and sites are up and running in each of those states. Most states have at least discussed online poker, many have introduced legislation and Michigan and West Virginia actually legalized online poker. The sites for those states are still in development though but are expected to launch soon.
Several other states are in the process of legalizing it too. This is a big 180 from where poker was a decade ago.
In 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act passed in the United States, making it illegal for U.S. banks to do business with online gaming sites. Some sites left, others stayed. Then in 2011 The Department of Justice seized the domains of major poker sites for charges that included bank fraud and money laundering.
After that, the game pretty much vanished from the United States until a federal judge ruled in 2012 that poker was a game of skill, not luck. This paved the way for Nevada to open up the first state-regulated poker site and several states followed.
The floodgates really opened up after the Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports betting, letting states regulate it as they see fit. Many states have taken the opportunity to address online poker along with sports betting.
Where can I play Poker in the United States?
No matter where you are in the United States, you can play online poker. Where and which sites you can play on vary state-by-state though. States that have passed online poker legislation have sites that you can only play within state lines. But there are a number of poker sites that accept players from all over the United States.
If you’re in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware or Pennsylvania, you have access to a few extra state-specific sites. PokerStars is live in New Jersey and Pennsylvania and you can play WSOP Online in Nevada and Delaware. These sites have partnered up with local casinos to offer poker online and you have to be within state lines to play. New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have share player pools though. That means players from all three states play against each other.
More states are legalizing poker, so this list will grow. We’ll keep it up to date as more sites launch in different states.
But a few sites accept players from all 50 states.
BetOnline, Bovada.lv, Ignition and America’s Cardroom all accept players from any U.S. state. We’ve reviewed each of these sites in detail. So head on over to our reviews page to find out more about each one.
Didn’t the U.S. Ban Online Poker in 2006?
A lot of sites did pull out of the United States after it passed though. The 2006 UIGEA made it illegal for banks and financial institutions to process payments linked to online gambling. The law was a little ambiguous though and there was nothing explicitly banning poker.
Some big sites, like Party Poker, pulled out of the United States, but other giants like PokerStars and Full Tilt stayed in the country. To process payouts for U.S. players, these sites had to break the law. Then, in April 2011, the Department of Justice seized the sites’ domain names and indicted a few key people on charges of money laundering, bank fraud and more.
Absolute Poker imploded, Full Tilt almost went bankrupt. PokerStars, on the other hand, paid the fine, bailed out Full Tilt and is now back in the United States.
New State Laws
After a federal judge ruled that poker was a game of skill, not chance, Nevada took the first step to legalize online poker. The state paved the way for others to do the same. Delaware followed and also legalized lottery and casino games. New Jersey did all of this on an even larger scale. The latest to join the group was Pennsylvania, which passed its law in 2017 and finally launched regulated poker in late 2019.
Michigan has passed legislation but won’t launch any sites until later 2021. West Virginia also legalized it and sites won’t be too far behind.
All these states have sites that are linked with land-based casinos. Several other casinos are developing sites too. We’ll see more develop as online sites keeps gaining popularity. The big question now is whether sites will share their player pools.
New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada have all signed up to share their player pool. Pennsylvania is the most populous state to legalize poker sites, but it has yet to join the pool. A joint pool would be critical to creating large tournaments, a wide selection of cash games and a healthy poker ecosystem.
We here at USPokerSites have been keeping tabs on several different states. Our list isn’t complete, but if you want to find out more information on where each state is regarding poker legalization, just search and click below.
What About Online Sportsbooks?
Online sportsbooks have also been gaining popularity recently. Is that because of poker? Well, not really.
In May 2018, New Jersey won a landmark Supreme Court that overturned a federal ban on sports betting. New Jersey quickly legalized online sports betting and other states quickly followed.
Many states are using the sports betting debate to reconsider other forms of online gaming, especially poker. So many states that are currently debating sports betting are also considering sports betting.
They don’t always go hand-in-hand, but they often do. Many sites that these days even offer both a sports book and a poker room.
So, is it Legal to Deposit on Poker Sites in the USA?
The answer is yes. The laws may be confusing, but we tried to break down the individual components of those laws. And as things change, we will update these pages with the most current information. You can check our poker reviews to learn about potential places to play.
If you’re ready to play poker, let’s get to it. We’ll see you at the tables!