If you ask any foreigner to list three things that perfectly describe the United States, chances are that the vast majority of them will mention poker. The card game has been one of the most popular forms of entertainment among US citizens for more than a century, as millions of people enjoy testing their luck and skills against other poker lovers.
The problem with the US and poker is that the laws about poker legality are often left to individual states. As you probably know, some states do not allow any sort of gambling within their borders, so if you live in one of those states, you are aware that playing online poker is not an option.
On the other hand, there are states that not only recognized online poker as legal but also regulated it. Let’s take a closer look at the legality of poker in individual states and see how to play it online if it is not allowed in your state.
UIGEA and Wire Act
Before we proceed to discuss individual states, we need to take a look at the two acts that made a complete mess in online poker legislation (and gambling in general) in the US.
The first one is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Prohibition Act (UIGEA) that was passed back in 2006 and signed by the president. At that time, the law did not actually affect individuals who wanted to play online poker. Instead, offering online gambling services was deemed a crime by the legislation.
Although this act is still active, states received a green light to decide on the future of online poker on their own. One of the main reasons for that is the reinterpretation of the so-called Wire Act that was the main weapon for making internet gambling illegal. However, as of 2011, the Wire Act only applies to sports betting (that has changed as well recently).
Which States Allow Online Poker?
At the moment, online poker is allowed and regulated in New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Nevada. Once you are in these states, you will be able to log in to their local poker sites and start playing poker against other players on the web. In fact, the first state to enter the online poker market was Nevada, and it is still one of the leaders.
The main advantage of these sites is that they are local and regulated, meaning you will not go against the law if you register and play the game. In fact, states such as New Jersey and Nevada have been quite active when it comes to creating online poker communities — after all, by doing that, they create an additional revenue stream for the states’ budget.
The main downside of interstate poker sites is that they are also subject to taxation, which is quite high in some states. In other words, whenever you win some money in poker, you will have to pay taxes for it in these states.
In Which States Is Online Poker Prohibited?
There are a couple of states that are openly hostile toward online poker; those are Florida, Utah, and especially Washington. In fact, if individuals are found with online poker software on their computers and mobile phones, they could be prosecuted for that.
One would think that Washington is pretty serious about the illegality of online poker, but that is quite different in practice. Needless to say, not a single resident of the three states that prohibit poker has ever been prosecuted for playing this game online.
Although prohibited officially, the law is not so strict as many poker players and regulators consider it slightly outdated. On the other hand, you will never be able to play on interstate poker platforms because there are none at the moment.
Which States Plan to Legalize Online Poker Soon?
Online poker is getting increasingly popular, and some states are aware of that. By legalizing poker, states would create more revenue streams in addition to more jobs, meaning that online poker could improve the economy.
Michigan is the state that first comes to mind when talking about poker regulation as they have made the most significant progress toward legalizing online poker. In fact, its lawmakers are actively working on this issue, and the first results are expected by 2020. In other words, the residents and visitors of the Great Lakes State will have an opportunity to enjoy online poker in less than a year.
New York is the next one on the list as they have been trying to make online poker legal for quite a while. However, their lawmakers always stumble upon some obstacles that slow down the legalization process. Nevertheless, this state is also expected to complete the procedure in 2020.
Other states that are expected to make online poker legal soon include Massachusetts, California, Illinois, West Virginia, Mississippi, and Iowa.
The Unregulated States
At this point, it is only logical to ask the following question: What about all the remaining states? They seem to be in a bit of a problem when it comes to their opinion of online poker. By default, they all consider it illegal as long as legislation is not passed in order to legalize it. Nevertheless, the lawmakers simply don’t make any moves regarding online poker.
Players may not be able to play on a regulated market and domestic sites, but they can enjoy playing online poker, nonetheless. In fact, there are plenty of online poker sites for US players available even to players coming from places where this type of activity is prohibited.
Poker is an inseparable part of American identity. As such, it is popular in almost every US state. Although some states frown upon online poker and prohibit their citizens to enjoy this activity, many sites are still available to poker lovers despite the prohibition. It seems that the entire country is moving toward legalizing online poker everywhere, but it is up to the lawmakers and the people to decide whether they want that in the future or not.