Legal US Online Poker News & Updates for 2016
Online Poker Report

US Online Poker News And Resources

This page provides a variety of resources regarding legal US online poker.

Get snapshots of the three open markets directly below, click here to jump to the latest US online poker news and developments, click here to learn more about the states that are considering regulating online poker, and click here for some of the legal background surrounding US online poker.

Where can I play legal US online poker?

Online poker is currently regulated in three US states: Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.

New Jersey

The largest of the three regulated markets in the United States, NJ is home to several distinct online poker networks, including / 888.comParty / Borgata, and PokerStars NJ.

Learn more about NJ online poker here. A snapshot of the leading sites in NJ’s online poker market is provided in the table below.

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The second-largest state offering regulated online poker sites in the US, Nevada’s regulated Internet poker space is dominated by

Nevada differs from NJ and DE in that Nevada only offers poker online – no casino games.


Delaware is the smallest online poker market in the status quo, although a recently-signed liquidity agreement with Nevada should help to bolster numbers.

Delaware operates a single online poker site that all three authorized brands feed into.

Legal US online poker news

Online poker USA: States to watch

Four states have active legislation that could allow them to offer legal and regulated US online poker and casino games.

Where do those efforts stand right now?

Pennsylvania online gaming

Out of all the states in play for iGaming, Pennsylvania is the only one left with a realistic chance of passing a bill this year.

In 2015, a bill (HB 649) sponsored by Rep. John Payne reached the House floor before action stalled.

The fact that it was tied to other gaming expansions and revenue might have been one of the reasons it wasn’t passed. Those concerns were still alive and well going into 2016, with a provision to allow video gaming terminals at private establishments at the center of the debate.

This year’s effort got off to a shaky start, as two amendments — one that included the addition of VGTs at non-casino locations — were soundly defeated.

The tide turned in late June, when HB 2150 – a multifaceted gaming reform bill that included daily fantasy sports, online poker and casino, and other reforms – was amended to not include VGTs. The Youngblood amendment passed by a 115-80 margin.

Just one week later, HB 2150 cleared a vote in the House.

Momentum reached a fever pitch in mid-July, when Gov. Tom Wolf allowed a spending plan to become law. Earmarked as part of the revenue package to fund it was $100 million from gambling expansion within state borders.

However, the Pennsylvania Senate felt no urgency to act on the bill, electing to wait until at least its brief fall session to consider gambling reform, and possibly early 2017. A House Gaming Oversight Committee hearing was scheduled for Sept. 27 to get the ball rolling, but was cancelled.

The situation complicated in late September, when the state Supreme Court ruled that a local casino tax was unconstitutional, and gave legislatures just 120 days to fix it.

Although, sources suggest that online gambling revenue will not be used to offset lost tax dollars, there’s reason to believe the Senate will act on gambling reform while resolving the tax issue, especially if more session days are added. (At present, the Senate is only slated to meet from Oct. 17 – 19 and Oct. 24 – 26.)

At least that’s what the House GO Committee is pushing for, evidenced by the scheduling of two hearings: one on the Supreme Court ruling (Oct. 18), and another on gambling reform (Oct. 19).

Should the Senate punt on expanded gambling until 2017, the legislature will essentially be starting from scratch. And with Payne retiring, and new officials being elected, online gambling legalization will face an uphill climb.

Michigan online gambling

Michigan represents the newest effort to regulate online gaming in the US. As such, it’s the one that has the most optimism behind it.

The bill —  SB 889 — was just introduced last week. There has been little in the way of temperature taking, so far, as the bill hasn’t even gotten through a committee hearing.

The good news in Michigan? It already has one form of online gaming: The state offers lottery games over the internet.

The legislature is set to adjourn late next month, so the prospects of passing the bill in the short term might seem bleak, barring a quick turnaround. But adding another state to the iGaming conversation still represents a positive development.

California online poker

Despite some promising developments, California did not legalize online poker in 2016. The latest effort officially died when legislators failed to act before adjourning on August 31, 2016.

The 2016 legislative push — AB 2863 — kicked off in similar fashion to last year’s, with the bill passing in the committee by unanimous vote.

However, this year’s effort held more potential than the 2015 push in that the horse racing industry was largely in favor of the bill. This was thanks to a subsidy in the tens of millions of dollars it would receive as part of the legislation. In exchange, the horse tracks gave up the right to be an online poker operator.

At the same time, the “bad actor” debate — aka whether PokerStars would be allowed in the California market — reared its ugly head yet again.

A June amendment to AB 2863 further defined the tax rate and moved the bad actor bright-line to December 31, 2011, but that was hardly enough of a compromise for an influential coalition of tribes spearheaded by the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians and Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

Despite the ongoing debate, the bill passed Appropriations, leaving hope that it would head to the Assembly floor in August.

That never happened. In an attempt to get the bill to a vote, Assemblyman and AB 2863 author Adam Gray introduced 11th hour amendments that would place PokerStars in the “penalty box” for a period of five years.

While the amendment satisfied the Pechanga coalition, it was now the PokerStars coalition — consisting of Amaya/PokerStars, the Morongo Band of Mission Indians, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, and three of the state’s largest card rooms — that strongly opposed AB 2863.

Ultimately, without both sides on board, the bill could not drum up the necessary support to justify a vote.

Suitability is likely to be at the center of the debate once again in 2017, and if the competing coalitions do not reach a compromise, online poker proponents in California may be in for another long year.

New York online poker

New York made significant headway in the fight to regulate online poker in 2016, with legislation making it past the introductory phase for the first time.

Optimism ramped up this year when a standalone bill passed a committee vote, and then again when regulation was tied to the Senate’s state budget.

Optimism gave way to malaise when the bill’s progress came to a standstill, and when iPoker didn’t survive in the final budget.

Assembly member Gary Pretlow further dampened hopes when he put the odds of online poker reaching a vote at 100-to-1 or worse.

A late legislative push brightened the outlook momentarily, but on the same day S5302 passed by an overwhelming margin in the Senate, Pretlow pronounced the online poker bill dead in his chamber. An explanation as to why the bill stalled in the Assembly has yet to be provided.

Although NY online poker failed to cross the finish line in 2016, momentum is building rapidly, rendering New York an odds on favorite to pass a bill next year.

There are currently no federal laws that directly prohibit or authorize online poker.

However, several federal statutes have the potential to prohibit online gaming in some way shape or form, if state laws are ambiguous. That said, only two of the four federal statutes that could apply to online gambling, IGBA and UIGEA, could reasonably be applied to online poker.

The other two federal laws often cited in online gambling discussions, 1992’s Professional and Amateur Sports Act (PASPA) and the 1961 Wire Act, are sports betting specific.

For the Wire Act, this wasn’t always the case.

Up until 2011 The DOJ’s interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act (first officially entered in 2002) effectively made online poker illegal in the US. That changed when, at the urging of Illinois and New York, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel reexamined the Wire Act, and concluded its scope is limited to sports betting.

2015 – Online poker USA advocacy comes up short

Congressman Joe Barton introduced his semi-yearly online poker legalization bill in 2015, dubbed The Internet Poker Freedom Act of 2015 (HR 2888). Unfortunately, there is simply no momentum for this issue at the federal level and HR 2888 managed to entice just two other members of Congress as cosponsors in 2015.

On the opposite side of the coin, the continued efforts, led by Sheldon Adelson, to ban online gaming has also garnered little support in Congress.

In 2015, the Adelson-inspired Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill was introduced in the House and Senate for the second consecutive year by Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) respectively.

RAWA managed to muster two hearings in the House in 2015, but both hearings seemed to have done more harm than good, as they hypocrisy of the bill was on full display, and the wind has completely been taken out of its sails. RAWA is one of the rare bills in Congress that has widespread bipartisan opposition.

A late effort to attach RAWA to the budget bill passed in December of 2015 never received serious consideration, and warranted a single sentence in a Politico column on the bill.

2016 – Some progress, some steps back for USA online poker legalization

Progress on a bill either legalizing or prohibiting online poker is unlikely in 2016 for several reasons:

  • 2016 is a presidential election year, which are historically slow on the legislative front;
  • Efforts to prohibit online gaming have failed to gain any traction in 2014 and 2015;
  • There is little appetite for legalizing online poker at the federal level now that states have the capability of doing so thanks to the 2011 opinion by the OLC.
Chris Grove
- Chris is the publisher of Grove also serves as a consultant to various stakeholders in the regulated market for online gambling in the United States.