Is Online Poker Legal in the United States?

The answer is yes, no and sometimes. Confused yet? Well to be honest, the online gambling landscape in the United Sates can be very confusing, and there have been some distinct victories and set backs that have combined to dramatically alter the online poker industry. One of the first victories was when the Department of Justice determined that the Federal Wire Act does not apply to poker games or casino games. This allowed the potential for the development of state regulated and legally sanctioned online casino and poker gambling. The DOJ went on to declare that each individual sate could determine their own fate when it comes to online casino and poker gambling entertainment without violating US federal laws. Where the federal government has drawn the line in the sand is when it comes to sports betting, which they decided was subject to the federal wire act.

Several states, including Nevada and New Jersey have launched state licensed and regulated online poker initiatives for their state's residents and visitors. It is legal to own and operate an online poker site within these two states. California is the next state expected to legalize state regulated online poker gambling, with multiple other regions getting into position to also get on board. For those players who do not live in one of the states that has expressly legalized online poker for their residents, there are still multiple legal options available for participating due to the fact that none of the US federal gambling laws prohibit US players from participating in legally licensed and regulated online poker that is located outside of the United States. Our guide provides a refined listing of recommendations for these types of sites based on our own personal examination of the various brands, their legitimacy and what they have to offer to players.

Best Legally Regulated Online Poker Sites For USA Players

Are There Any US Federal Laws That Impact Online Poker Options for US Players?

Since the Federal Wire Act is not a threat, are there any other US federal gambling laws that affect access to legal online poker gambling? There is one federal law that has some bearing on US online poker options, and state laws must be considered as well. This section of our guide will address the UIGEA bill of 2006, discuss what types of state laws can influence available gambling opportunities, and explain what poker Black Friday was all about and what it means for US players. We wanted to spend some time on these topics to clear up multiple industry misconceptions that needlessly keep players from enjoying online poker, as well as arm the online poker community with the data they need to for confidently making the most informed decisions possible regarding their choices for online poker entertainment.

What is the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and Does it Affect US Online Poker Options?

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, also known as the UIGEA bill was passed in 2006. Many people are under the misconception that this law makes it illegal for US residents to participate in online gambling. This is not true. The law does not even address players. What the UIGEA bill does is provide regulatory oversight concerning how online gambling transactions can be processed. This law was written in an effort to address money laundering, fraud and other crimes that were once associated with some online gambling operations. The law is directed at the online gambling site operators and payment processors, and does not impact player participation.

The restrictions and regulations that the law places on US gambling related transactions are considerable, and did cause some issues initially. The law's existence alone drove multiple brands and payment methods out of the US gambling market simply because they didn't want the expense and effort associated with jumping through the many hoops that the law requires. The law initially caused US based credit card companies to completely block all gambling related transactions in order to not risk any actions that could be interpreted as non-compliant. As of this writing, all e-wallet payment methods have pulled out of the US gambling market.

While the UIGEA did impact the range of selection available to US players for a period of time, things have stabilized considerably, with many brands returning to offer their services to US residents, and payment processors improving their procedures, standards and policies to work within the industry without violating the law. Credit card deposits are once again an option for US players, and the online gambling industry's banking processes are overall much safer now for both operators and players. The growing pains were difficult for US players, but now that things are calming down on that front, finding viable online deposit methods is not as challenging.

The UIGEA bill does not prohibit or make it illegal for US players to participate in online poker that is legally licensed, regulated, including those sites which are regulated and located outside of the United States. Because only a small segment of poker players lives in either Nevada or New Jersey where state licensed online poker is available, the majority of American players rely on legally sanctioned offshore poker sites that are licensed to provide their services to players in the US. The UIGEA does not impact your access to these types of sites in any way as long as they are operating legitimately within the industry.

US State Laws Impacting Regulated Poker Gambling

There are multiple states in the US that allow land based poker gambling, as well as several states, including NJ and NV, which allow online poker gambling. While most states do not have any laws addressing online gambling specifically, nearly all states that permit any type of gambling within their borders do have laws dictating a minimum legal age. The legal gambling age in any state must be adhered to by poker players, even if the online gambling site at which they are playing provides differing terms in their business policies. For example, if an online poker site accepts players as young as 18 years of age, but the state in which you live requires players to be 21 in order to legally participate in any type of poker gambling, then the player is subject to the legal gambling age law in their state despite the fact that a poker room may offer more lenient terms. The state's law supersedes the gambling site's policies. Should you violate your state's gambling age law, you will be subject to prosecution. All online gambling sites include a disclaimer in their terms and conditions that states that you that you are responsible for adhering to the laws in your jurisdiction.

2011 Poker Black Friday and The Impact it Had on the US Online Poker Gambling Industry

In 2011 the US Dept. of Justice openly investigated and seized three prominent online poker sites. This investigation and subsequent proceedings was directed solely at the gambling site operators, and was not directed in any way towards players. At no time were players a point of interest nor were they investigated, arrested or in any type of trouble. Players were inconvenienced briefly concerning access to the funds in their account when the business assets of these three operations were confiscated, however all players did eventually receive their money.

These sites were suspected of not adhering to the UIGEA law and were consequently targeted by the DOJ since they provided services to US players. As we discussed above, this law is directed only at gambling site operators and payment processors, hence players have nothing to be concerned about when it comes to violating this US federal gambling law. Several years has passed since this event, and US friendly online poker is still alive and well through legally licensed and regulated offshore poker rooms, and now through several US based online poker brands located in Nevada and New Jersey. The primary affect that Black Friday had on US players was in the reduced selection of online poker rooms to choose from, and some shifting that occurred within the online payment method industry.