Three states have legalized online poker. Two of those states also offer legal online casino games banked by the house.
Nevada was the first state to regulated online poker. Ultimate Poker was the first site to launch, but has since closed. It opened on April 30, 2013.
Delaware opened online poker and casino games to the public on November 8, 2013. New Jersey went live on November 26, 2013.
Nevada online poker sites
- WSOP.com Nevada
- Real Gaming
New Jersey online gambling sites
Legal online poker and casino sites in the United States
|State||Date Legalized||Date Launched||Games Offered||Gaming Commission||Tax Rate||1st Year Rev Generated||Tax Paid||Sites|
|Nevada||Feb 22 2013||April 30 2013||Poker||Nevada Gaming Commission||6.75%||Unknown||Unknown||2|
|Delaware||Jun 28 2013||Oct 31 2013||Poker and Casino||Delaware Lottery||100%||$2.09 Million||$2.09 Million||3|
|New Jersey||Feb 27 2013||Nov 21 2013||Poker and Casino||New Jersey Gaming Enforcement Division||15%||$120.5 Million||$18.07 Million||15|
Nevada online poker
- 1 Nevada online poker sites
- 2 New Jersey online gambling sites
- 3 Legal online poker and casino sites in the United States
- 4 Online poker bills introduced to state legislatures
- 5 Legal US online poker FAQs
- 5.1 Is it legal to play online poker in the US?
- 5.2 What’s the difference between a legal and offshore poker site?
- 5.3 Why isn’t there a federal online poker bill?
- 5.4 Will online poker ever be legal in my state?
- 5.5 Can I play at a legal online poker site while not in that state?
- 5.6 Is my money safe at legal US online poker sites?
- 5.7 How do I deposit at legal poker sites?
- 5.8 How do I withdraw from legal poker sites in the United States?
- 5.9 What is the UIGEA?
- 5.10 What is Black Friday?
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 US.
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
The 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 online gambling side. Borgata and its partner Party Poker dominated the New Jersey online poker world in the early days.
WSOP NJ 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.
The site opened at around the same size of WSOP.com and Borgata. PokerStars offers a unique lottery sit and go product called Spin & Go. This has helped it attract more sit and go players than the other two New Jersey poker sites.
Betfair continues to operate an online casino and off-track horse racing 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
|Pennsylvania||HB 1235||649 Poker and Casino, 695 Poker-only||John Payne||Moderate|
|California||AB 431, AB 2863||Poker||Reginald Jones-Sawyer, Mike Gatto, Adam Gray, Isadore Hall III||Slim|
|New York||S 5302, A 9049||Poker||J. Gary Pretlow||Slim|
|Washington||HB 1114||Poker||Sherry Appleton||Failed|
Pennsylvania online poker legislative attempts
Pennsylvania is the most likely state to become the fourth in the regulated US interactive gaming market.
It was supported by Rep. John Payne, who retired after the 2016 session. Many proponents of online gambling see 2017 as a “best chance” scenario for passing online gambling regulation in the state.
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.
The 2016 legislative session came to a close with no forward movement on the issue. Here’s a rundown of previous legislative efforts in the Golden State:
AB 2863 would have awarded the state’s horse racing industry with the first $60 million in tax revenue generated each year. Most of this money would have gone towards purses. About five percent of it would have gone towards pensions and insurance for employees in the industry.
The tax rates and licensing fees were not determined under California’s latest online poker bill. Initially there was no bad actor language in AB 2863, however the bill was later amended to include a blackout period for so-called bad actors. This language was a major sticking point for PokerStars and its coalition.
AB 167 was introduced by Assemblyman Reginald Jones-Sawyer. This bill would have allowed racetracks and sites that accepted US players without proper licensing after December 31, 2006.
It was supported by the PokerStars coalition, including Morongo, Hawaiian Gardens, Bicycle Casino, and Commerce Casino, as well as some other tribes and card clubs that had not joined that group.
A seven-tribe coalition that includes Pechanga, Barona, and Aqua Caliente opposed this bill.
AB 9, known as the Internet Poker Consumer Protection Act of 2015, was introduced by Assemblyman Mike Gatto.
The bill would have excluded racetracks and sites that accepted US players without licensing after December 31, 2006. This bill was opposed by the PokerStars coalition, but supported by the tribes that opposed AB 167.
Legal US online poker FAQs
Is it legal to play online poker in the US?
It depends on the state.
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.
It is a misdemeanor in Utah and Louisiana to play online poker or any other form of gambling over the internet. 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. The operators go through the same licensing process as a land-based casino company. The funds are held in an account within the oversight of the state gaming commission.
An offshore poker site is often illegal and does not have licensing in the jurisdiction where it accepts bets. Players deposit money at these websites at their own risk. There is no recourse if the site fails and funds are not paid.
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 anti-online gambling bill that has seemingly died and resurfaced a few times in recent years.
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.
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?
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 US 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 US accept deposits by:
- Electronic checks
- 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
- 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 US market after the UIGEA was enacted.
These included Party Poker, iPoker, Microgaming Poker Network, Ongame, and 888. All of these examples returned to the US market when states started to regulate online poker.
What is Black Friday?
Black Friday was the day the US online poker community describes April 15, 2011.
On that date, PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker were charged with gambling crimes by the US 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.