Online Poker Laws In The United States
Confused and frustrated with the lack of explanation on what online poker laws actually mean in the real-world? Well, look no further as OnlinePokerLaws.com is a new authority for U.S. residents that wish to learn more about the legality of playing poker on the Internet.
This site aims to do many things besides just simplifying the U.S. gambling laws which deal directly with the practice of playing online poker. Things like how to make deposits and how to get payouts will be covered in depth as those are two of the most important area that Americans should be focused on due in part to the laws. Along the way, we are going to recommend several poker sites which accept players from the United States that are safe, trusted and above all, fun.
Before going any further we want to point out the fact that we are just merely American poker players which know all about playing online and what comes with it. We do stay on top of all the latest news coming from the state and federal legislative floors however we are not legal professional nor were we trained to give legal advice; as we said, we are just avid online players that have seen and done it all. The team here at OnlinePokerLaws.com always recommends that our readers consult their local laws and statutes pertaining to online poker or seek the advice of a paid professional licensed in their state if they are unsure on whether it is legal to play poker online.
Help Us Spread The Word On Facebook And Google!!!
Online Poker Laws By State - Is Poker Legal Where You Live?
There is no doubt that there is online poker players in all 50 states that are wondering if they are breaking the law when they play online poker. We have state pages that break down the online poker laws and tell you whether or not it is legal to play online poker in your state. On top of that, we give you links to all of the state resources that you would need like links to your state website so that you can read the laws for yourself. If you need more detailed information about the online poker laws in your state then the pages below are the best place to start.
On top of the individual state pages that we have, we also have some articles related to online poker laws that may have to do with your state. Take a look at these articles if you want to get some more general knowledge about legal online poker and the gambling laws that you need to know about.
Legal Online Poker Sites That Accept USA Players
Unless specifically said to be "illegal" in your state, any poker site that accepts Americans is legal provided it is located off U.S. soil; those located off U.S. soil are "safe" for all 50 states. Staying offshore allows these websites to operate under International laws and therefore they are able to welcome American players without violating any law. The UIGEA does cause havoc on American deposits at offshore poker rooms however authorities will not actually go after any of the poker providers as the law says it should.
Staying "offshore" (off American soil) is the key here and below we've hand-picked a few of the better poker sites that Americans can choose. These sites are all located outside of the United States and while they are not regulated, they can be trusted with your more as well as for fair play.
Bovada Poker Room - 100% Poker Bonuses For USA Players
Bovada Poker – Because Bovada is based in Costa Rica and several other countries such as Canada, the only poker laws that players should consider is the age to play poker. At Bovada that age is 18 years old for which players can register for free and then use the deposit methods offered by the site.
Deposit options are somewhat limited in the U.S. but the good news is that Bovada does have a high rate of success when processing VISA deposits, credit or debit. Bovada also accepts many VISA branded gift or prepaid cards but players should contact the cashier to find out exactly which ones are accepted at the time. VISA is the only card brand accepted however players who are unable to access the method, or are blocked because of the UIGEA do have other options through wire transfer services like Western Union, Moneygram and Rapid Transfer. Some services function online with credit cards as the funding source while others operate at physical retailers which means cash can be used to fund poker accounts.
U.S. residents, except those living in Washington State, New York and Maryland are welcome to sign up for an account without any pressure to make a deposit. Bovada Poker allows all users to play without commitment by offering several freeroll tourneys and ring games that can function simply as practice for the player... after all, poker is truly a game of skill and it is a skill that requires practice.
As an incentive for taking the plunge and depositing real-money into your account, all first-time transactions that are successful can earn as much as $1,000 in free cash. This bonus starts out completely "locked up" but players turn this money into real cash as they play in real-money games/tournaments; earn "player points" to unlock the cash within the first 60 days of depositing. Bovada only requires users to acquire 5,000 poker points to claim all $1,000 of bonuses (provided you deposited $1,000) and player points come faster when playing for higher stakes.
Even if your state has allowed online poker to be regulated, until it is actually done (state "regulated" poker sites are running online) Bovada will continue to be the best choice for anyone living in the U.S. provided they do not live in one of the three states that are excluded. For Washington, Maryland and New York residents, there are options available besides Bovada and we have listed them for you below.
Is Online Poker Legal In The USA?
This is the million dollar question and it's probably the reason why you are here. From a federal standpoint, the practice of playing online poker for real money is 100% legal provided the player meets the minimum age to play poker in their state.
Before the United States Department of Justice re-defined their stance on the Federal Wire Act (see more below) in late 2011, all forms of online gambling were in fact, illegal. However, that all changed following the aforementioned re-interpretation of the law which now only says that online sports betting is now all that the law applies to.
With online poker no longer being included under the Wire Act, there wasn't and still isn't anything that prohibits Americans from playing poker online... as far as the United States government is concerned. Yes, there is always another side to things and the other side to this is that individual states sometimes have laws on the books which forbid their citizens from playing online.
This is why we recommend checking the status of online poker in your state or contacting a lawyer/attorney however the key thing to note about state law is that you will not get into trouble provided that you use poker sites located off U.S. soil. Using offshore poker sites means that neither U.S. nor state authorities have the power to subpoena any information from these companies including your name, address, etc... That means that no matter where you live, no matter what the poker laws say, you are not going to get into any trouble for playing online because no one will ever know. Loose lips sink ships and as long as you keep your mouth shut, you will have nothing to worry about.
Furthermore, the only reason states have laws for online poker is because they usually have regulated live poker games at venues which are taxed meaning that they create revenue for the state. It's not hard to figure out why the state would want you in their poker rooms and not taking your business to the Internet. It's a valid reason but the product is nowhere near the same; playing with a few hundred players (at best) versus playing with thousands of players at any time of the day... state-run live poker venues simply can't compete.
Thankfully most of us do not even have to worry about that as the majority of states do not have laws on the books for it or against it. In most cases states concede to the Federal government which means that U.S. residents are free to play at will. In fact, we have good news to report as several progressive states, New Jersey being the latest, have already passed bills which allow the regulation of online poker websites in their states (Delaware, Nevada).
Just remember that the only time a citizen risks serious penalty is if he/she decides that it would be a good idea to use or license some online poker software and host/operate/profit from their own online poker site. Chances are it is located within U.S. borders and is within the reach of the law; we'd recommend not even playing at sites like those at all costs as your personal details could fall into the hands of the authorities.
State + Federal Online Poker Laws - What Makes Online Poker Legal?
We touched briefly on a lot of the things that make online poker legal in the United States but we're going to delve a little deeper into all of the laws surrounding the game and it being played on the Internet below. Again, we're not going to drill you with legalese by just copying and pasting the laws below like other sites do. If you want to read what the laws say, go to Wikipedia but if you want to find out what they mean then keep it clicked here.
Federal Wire Act of 1961 - We're going to lead with this law even though it no longer applies to online poker because it essentially opened the door for players in the U.S. to play freely. Introduced in 1961, the Wire Act was originally created to combat inter-state sports betting such as someone in Ohio phoning in a wager to a bookmaker in another state whether that bookmaker was regulated or not.
As the definition of "wire" communication expanded to include cellular and Internet communication, all forms of online gambling were lumped in under this law. Though no one ever really got into any trouble for simply playing poker online, it still loomed over the industry and even shut down a few of the biggest names in the business (see Poker Black Friday). And while the definition of wire communication has not changed, the forms of gambling prohibited by the law have and poker is no longer included.
Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006 - There is absolutely nothing about the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006, herein UIGEA, which says it is illegal for Americans to play online poker for real-money. What it does say that gambling business like poker rooms (though whether poker is actually "gambling" is hotly debated) are not allowed to accept payments from U.S. residents which are to be used for wagering over the Internet.
What that means is that it is illegal for a poker room to accept your payment that you plan to use for playing in real-money ring games or tournaments. But, do you think the online poker business just went away after 2006? Obviously it didn't because we're talking about it now which means that Americans can find ways to deposit into poker sites despite it being illegal for the website to accept those funds.
This law has caused some headaches when it comes to depositing funds because banks help enforce this law by not allowing transactions to go through to payment processors which have been linked to gambling. Poker rooms and other gambling sites change their payment processors all the time (at least the good ones do) in order to throw the banks off their tracks but there can be periods where players have excessive problems when trying to make instant deposits via credit cards and other electronic transfers. When that happens the game is not over but it will take a little more work to get funds into your account. We'll get into more about that below in our deposits section but the main thing to take away from this is that it is only "illegal" for the website to accept your money and not for you to play there.
Note: We put the word "illegal" in quotations simply because by inhibiting financial transactions to countries where the operation of online poker websites is permitted, the UIGEA is actually in violation of International trade laws. It's amazing that this hardly ever gets brought up. The U.S. government doesn't want to draw attention to the fact it is in violation which is why you don't see Interpol slamming down the doors of these poker websites; the reason why only American deposits are affected by this law and not the actual business as the law would suggest.
Will I Go To Jail Or Be Arrested For Playing Poker Online?
Being arrested for playing legal online poker is very unlikely even if you live in a state that has laws on the books against the activity, as those are usually just scare tactics to keep players from taking their money to the Internet. Plus, if you do not tell anyone that you play online, how is anyone going to ever find out?
We always recommend sticking to the poker rooms that are offshore because they will not disclose any of your info to authorities. The U.S. has no jurisdiction in the countries where these sites operate and therefore cannot force the websites to reveal their clientele.
Furthermore, these websites take great steps to ensure their networks are secure and most go as far to not even store your details in servers that aren't even connected to the Internet. For someone to gain access to them, they would have to go in guns blazing because these servers are kept in secure off-site facilities with armed guards. If a thirteen year old sitting his parent's basement cannot hack your details, you have nothing to worry about from the U.S. government.
As a final word, check your local booking reports. Most counties make them available to the public online. Do you see anyone booked in the county jail for playing poker online?
The Regulation Of Legal Online Poker In The USA In 2013
Right now, the online poker laws in the U.S. do not regulate the practice of playing poker online but with that said, things are heading in the right direction. As mentioned earlier, several states are on the path to actually putting regulations in place but for now, all the laws (New Jersey, Delaware, Nevada) say is that online poker can be regulated. Just allowing it to be regulated is a major hurdle and once states put successful online poker regulations in place, they will serve as a model for other states to open their doors.
Being regulated is where this industry needs to get to in order to gain credibility with the American public. That is NOT saying that the poker sites that take U.S. residents today are not credible, only that the perception of the activity's legality and legitimacy will improve.
Our staff is well-versed in the pre-regulation era of online poker and knows which websites are legitimate even though they are not "regulated" by U.S. authorities. OnlinePokerLaws.com makes sure to only suggest those websites which can be trusted and that are safe until state-run regulated poker rooms go live.
When those sites do go live, we'll have all the info posted right here. Times are very exciting for the industry and the players as well. We welcome you to keep coming back for more news and info about the latest developments in online poker laws and regulation.