Play Legal Online Poker In The US

Legal online poker in the United States

StateDate LegalizedDate LaunchedGames OfferedGaming CommissionTax Rate1st Year Rev GeneratedTax PaidSites
NevadaFeb 22 2013April 30 2013PokerNevada Gaming Commission6.75%UnknownUnknown2
DelawareJun 28 2013Oct 31 2013Poker and CasinoDelaware Lottery100%$2.09 Million$2.09 Million3
New JerseyFeb 27 2013Nov 21 2013Poker and CasinoNew Jersey Gaming Enforcement Division15%$120.5 Million$18.07 Million15

Nevada online poker


The regulated US online gambling industry started in Nevada. In December 2011, the Nevada Gaming Control Board adopted regulations pertaining to Nevada online poker sites.

The regulations required affirmation through the Nevada legislature. Nevada lawmakers meet on a biennium. The state passed the regulations governing Nevada online poker in February 2013.

On April 30, 2013, Ultimate Poker launched as the first regulated online poker room in the U.S.

The launch was flawed due to poor software and unproven geolocation services. Ultimate Poker attracted about 300 peak players and the same number of players participated in sit and gos and tournaments.

Player complaints were common due to the poor software. The site’s inability to locate some players caused it to lose customers.

Geolocation software was perfected in a short time. WSOP.com launched on September 17, 2013. Most of these issues were resolved by the time it went live. WSOP.com enjoyed massive brand awareness and dominated the market within two months.

Real Gaming, backed by South Point Casino, launched in February 2014. It has never been able to obtain more than one percent of the market.

Ultimate Poker succumbed to the small intrastate poker player pool in Nevada. It left the Nevada market on November 17, 2014. This leaves only WSOP.com and Real Gaming in the Nevada online poker market.

On March 24, 2015, a liquidity sharing agreement between Delaware and Nevada went live.  Delaware and Nevada players now sit at the same cash game, sit and go, and tournament tables at WSOP.com.

New Jersey legal online poker

legal NJ poker onlineThe New Jersey online poker market was thought to be groundbreaking. Six online poker sites entered New Jersey with the hopes of being the trailblazer. The market was only able to support two platforms.

The New Jersey legislature legalized online poker and casino games in the state in December 2012. Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the original language of the bill. Christie insisted that more funds go towards problem gambling resources.

He also demanded that the tax rate be 15 percent, as opposed to the 10 percent proposed by state lawmakers. It only took one day for the New Jersey legislature to approve the changes and the governor to sign it into law.

New Jersey online poker and casino games launched on November 21, 2013. There was a five-day testing period. Most sites successfully completed the test period within the five days. Golden Nugget was the only company that was unable to go live to the public within the prescribed period.

Borgata is the strongest brand in the Atlantic City gaming market. That carried over onto the Internet. Borgata and its partner Party Poker dominated the New Jersey online poker world in the early days.

legal NJ online poker WSOPWSOP.com was the second biggest site after Borgata/partypoker. It used 888 software, but was a standalone room. 888 operated its own platform, but did not share player pools with WSOP.com until January 2015.

Two sites were not competitive in the New Jersey online poker market. Ultimate Poker, and its sister casino UCasino, left the New Jersey regulated iGaming market on October 5, 2014. Betfair dumped its online poker room on December 1, 2014.

Betfair continues to operate an online casino and off-track horseracing in New Jersey. Other New Jersey companies that only operate online casinos include Tropicana, Virgin Casino, Caesars Casino, Harrah’s Casino, Golden Nugget, Resorts, and Pala Casino.

Delaware legal online poker

Delaware was the second state to legalize and regulate online gambling. It was legalized through the state legislature in June 2013. Online casino games went live on October 31, 2013. The online poker network opened on November 8, 2013.

Delaware offers online poker and casino games through its state lottery. Interactive gaming is marketed through its three video lottery racinos:

  • Delaware Park
  • Dover Downs
  • Harrington Raceway

888 supplies the platform all three sites. The online poker room shares liquidity between all sites. Delaware and Nevada started sharing online poker player pools on March 24, 2015.

Online Poker Bills introduced to state legislatures in 2015

StateBillsGamesSponsorChances
PennsylvaniaHB 649, HB 685649 Poker and Casino, 695 Poker-onlyJohn Payne, Nick MiccarelliModerate
CaliforniaAB 167, AB 9, AB 431, SB 278PokerReginald Jones-Sawyer, Mike Gatto, Adam Gray, Isadore Hall IIISlim
MississippiHB 306, HB 782Poker and CasinoBobby MoakFailed
WashigntonHB 1114PokerSherry AppletonFailed

Pennsylvania online poker legislative attempts

Pennsylvania is the most likely state to become the fourth in the regulated U.S. interactive gaming market.

There are two bills that would legalize iGaming at the state level. HB 695 would only legalize poker. It is sponsored by Rep. Nick Miccarelli.

HB 649 would also include house-banked casino games. It is sponsored by Rep. John Payne.

California online poker legislative attempts

California is a hotly debated market. Indian tribes, card clubs, and racetracks all want a piece of the pie. California has been trying to legalize and regulate online poker since 2011. All proposals have excluded casino games.

AB 167

online poker in CAAB 167 was introduced by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer. This bill would allow racetracks and sites that accepted U.S. players without proper licensing after December 31, 2006.

It is supported by the PokerStars coalition, including Morongo, Hawaiian Gardens, Bicycle Casino, and Commerce Casino, as well as some other tribes and card clubs that have not joined that group.

A seven-tribe coalition that includes Pechanga, Barona, and Aqua Caliente opposes this bill.

AB 9

AB 9, known as the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto.

The bill would exclude racetracks and sites that accepted U.S. players without licensing after December 31, 2006. This bill is opposed by the PokerStars coalition, but supported by the tribes that oppose AB 167.

Legal U.S. online poker FAQs

Is it legal to play online poker in the U.S.?

It depends on the state.

In Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware, there are online poker sites that are licensed by the associated state gaming commission.

There are laws that make it illegal to play online poker in Louisiana, Utah, and Washington. In Washington, it is a felony to play any form of online gambling. No other states make it illegal to play online poker, even if the site is located offshore.

No federal law applies to individuals playing online poker. No online poker player has ever been charged with a crime.

What’s the difference between a legal and offshore poker site?

A legal online poker site is licensed by the state in which it accepts bets.

An offshore poker site is often illegal and does not have licensing in the jurisdiction where it accepts bets.

Why isn’t there a federal online poker bill?

There have been many attempts to pass an online poker bill at the federal level. Rep. Barney Frank first proposed regulated online poker in 2009. Frank was joined by Rep. Joe Barton in 2011 in attempting to get Congress to repeal the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

In 2012, Sen. Harry Reid and Sen. Jon Kyl combined to propose a poker-only bill known in the poker community as Reid/Kyl. The proposal was a massive antigambling bill that would have banned most forms of it, while exempting poker.

Reid/Kyl was proposed during the lame duck session after the 2012 elections. Kyl, a former sponsor of the UIGEA, was retiring. Reid saw the bill as a compromise. It died when Congress adjourned.

There is an online poker bill before Congress at this time.

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act would not legalize online poker. It would reverse state licensed online gaming, including poker and lotteries. It is sponsored by Rep. Jason Chaffetz. Sen. Lindsey Graham is expected to introduce it in the U.S. Senate.

The bill was written by lobbyists of Las Vegas Sands, opponents of most forms of online gambling.

None of these bills have managed to gain traction. Many politicians do not want to get involved in an issue that would normally fall under states’ rights.

Will online poker ever be legal in my state?

This depends on the state.

It seems impossible to think online poker will ever be legal in Utah as it offers no other forms of legalized gambling.

On the other hand, legal online poker in California, Illinois, Iowa, New York, and Pennsylvania is a real possibility. Most other states have had little in the way of proposed legislation or discussion.

Can I play at a legal online poker site while not in that state?

Legal online poker sites licensed in Delaware, Nevada, and New Jersey use geolocation software to ensure that players are located in the state at the time of action.

This takes into account the IP address of the player, location of a related cell phone, and nearby wireless access points. It is impossible to play at legal online poker sites when located outside state lines.

Is my money safe at legal U.S. online poker sites?

Money held at legal poker sites is just as safe as it would be behind the cashier cage at the casino.

The same gaming regulations that apply to live casinos are also valid for regulated sites. All deposits are held in separate accounts from cash used for operations.

How do I deposit at legal poker sites?

Legal poker sites in the U.S. accept deposits by:

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • Electronic checks
  • Neteller
  • Skrill
  • PayNearMe
  • Cash at associated casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas

How do I withdraw from legal poker sites in the United States?

Legal poker sites pay winnings by:

  • Electronic check
  • Check by mail
  • Bank wire
  • Neteller
  • Skrill
  • Cash at associated casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas

What is the UIGEA?

UIGEA is an acronym for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. It passed Congress in September 2006 and was signed into law by President Bush two weeks later.

The UIGEA made it illegal for banks to process payments for unlawful gambling sites. It did not define what that was. Most publicly traded sites immediately left the U.S. market after the UIGEA was enacted.

These included Party Poker, Ongame, and 888. All of these examples returned to the U.S. market when states started to regulate online poker.

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday was the day the U.S. online poker community describes April 15, 2011.

On that date, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker were charged with gambling crimes by the U.S. Department of Justice in the Southern District of New York.

Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker did not have enough cash on hand to pay players. PokerStars paid all customers within weeks. PokerStars eventually made all Full Tilt Poker players whole after coming to an agreement with federal authorities.