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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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 WSOP.com / 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.

  • POKER SITE
  • BONUS
  • DETAILS
  • PLAY

Nevada

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

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

Delaware

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

States to watch

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

Where do those efforts stand right now?

Michigan online gambling

Michigan represents the newest effort to regulate online gaming in the U.S. 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

California has been looking at the issue of legalizing online poker for the better part of a decade. But 2016 could represent the best chance yet for online gaming in the most populous state.

This year’s legislative effort — AB 2863 — includes a hearing that will be held on April 27, which is better than no hearing at all. Last year, a bill made it past a committee vote before progress stalled.

The 2016 effort differs from the 2015 push in that the horse racing industry could be brought on board with a subsidy in the tens of millions of dollars. That would come in exchange for the horse tracks giving up the right to be an online poker operator.

The bill was amended this week in two substantial ways. First, it no longer has to go through the Appropriations Committee, meaning it has one less hurdle to clear.

At the same time, the “bad actor” debate — aka whether PokerStars will be allowed in the California market — appears to have raised its ugly head again. Given the coalitions that have aligned for and against PokerStars in the past, it could stymie online poker’s progress yet again.

The upcoming committee hearing should give us a good idea of whether online poker will happen this year or not.

Pennsylvania online gaming

Out of all the states in play for iGaming, most believe Pennsylvania has the best chance of passing a bill this year.

Why is that? Legislation including online gaming made a lot of progress last year. The bill — HB 649 — reached the House floor before action on the bill stopped.

The fact that it was tied to other gaming expansions and revenue might have been one of the reasons it wasn’t passed in 2015. Those concerns are still alive and well this year, as a provision to allow video lottery terminals at private establishments is particularly controversial.

The bill’s sponsor — Rep. John Payne — has promised in the past that the bill would be considered in the spring, although it has not been taken up yet. (The bill stayed active, however, via a procedural maneuver.)

Until it shows up on the radar in a meaningful way in the next month or two, it’s difficult to know how real of a possibility iGaming is this year.

New York online poker

New York is taking a stab at online poker yet again in 2016, even though past efforts haven’t gotten past the introductory phase.

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.

Despite the lack of tangible progress, NY online poker is still on key lawmakers’ radar. Whether or not that manifests itself in a bill passing this year, it bodes well for the future.

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 in review

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

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.
Steve Ruddock
Steve Ruddock - Steve covers nearly every angle of online poker in his job as a full-time freelance poker writer. His primary focus for OPR is the developing legal and legislative picture for regulated US online poker and gambling.