Gambling, the Law and Online Poker in Florida
2020 Update: Can I Play Online Poker in Florida?
Florida still hasn’t passed online poker legislation and that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change either. The state recently picked up sports betting legislation, which has been sweeping the US and would be huge in sports-crazy Florida. But that effort failed. Legislators were discussing it and the negotiations involved the Seminole tribe. But the parties weren’t able to reach an agreement in time and the legislative session closed on March 13, 2020 without an agreement.
There’s a chance things could get worked out in a special session, especially since there seems to be interest in getting it done. Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he wants to see something get done on gambling, but any new deal would have to include approval from the Seminole Tribe. Tribes have been reluctant to accept online poker legislation, so it might be some time before we online poker legislation in Florida.
Online Poker and the Law in Florida
Florida is a large and populous state and they have a large array of laws governing gambling in the state. Gambling is covered by the Florida Statutes. Chapter 849 of the Title XLVI Florida Statutes details everything you need to know gambling in Florida. The key element of any gaming statute is what it means to gamble. Section 849.08 of the state statute defines gambling:
“Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”
This definition is interesting because it would seem to include and exclude poker. The keyword here, like in a lot of statutes, is chance. This gives poker more legal leeway since it was ruled to be a game of skill by a federal judge in 2012. This opened the gates to regulate online poker since it would fall out of the purview of “chance” statutes.
This makes it easier for states to regulate it since they don’t have to go through the trouble of expanding gaming. But here, in the Florida statute, we see the phrase “any came at cards”. Poker is undeniably a game of cards though. And if you play for money, it looks like that would qualify as gambling under the state statute.
Can I Play Poker on PokerStars in Florida?
Back in the day, you could relax on a sunny Florida beach and easily fire up a game of PokerStars, but those days are gone. In 2011, a years-long investigation by the Department of Justice came to a crescendo. The DOJ seized the domain names for PokerStars, Full Tilt, and others for money laundering, bank fraud and more. PokerStars reached a settlement with the government and now some states are letting it back in. It’s now a state-by-state choice to whether to allow PokerStars back in, but they have to legislate online poker first.
Luckily, there are sites that still take players from all 50 states, including Florida, and have large player pools and great tournament series. So, even if you can’t play PokerStars in Florida, there are several great alternatives. Ignition Poker and Bovada are two of the top sites we recommend as PokerStars alternatives for poker players in Florida. They have a great selection of cash games, solid tournament guarantees and good rakeback rewards.
For more details, check out our reviews below:
Legal Gambling in Florida
Florida is a big state and has a few gambling options for its residents. Florida allows charitable gaming and pari-mutuel wagering. It also has a state lottery and tribal casinos. You can find race tracks around Florida, but there are no commercial casinos. Sports betting or any other form of online gaming still hasn’t been regulated by the state legislation.
Florida has dozens of Racinos and tribal casinos and two casino ships. There are two federal tribes that run the tribal casinos in Florida. The Miccosukee Tribe and the Seminole Tribe of Florida don’t just run casinos, but they have some exclusive gaming rights in the state. Any gaming expansion, including online poker and sports betting legislation, would need the state tribes to be on board. There are card rooms in these casinos though and there are plenty of tournaments that go on year-round.
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