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.
Online poker is currently regulated in three US states: Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware.
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.
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 operates a single online poker site that all three authorized brands feed into.
A bill signed by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie appears to have set the stage for wide-reaching online lottery sales in the state.
New York Assemblyman J Gary Pretlow, at times a critic of online poker, appears to have decided that 2017 is the year to pass a...
The introduction of AB 1677 is meant less as a proposed path forward and more as a placeholder for continuing the California online poker debate...
When the MGM Springfield opens in 2018 it will be the first full casino in Massachusetts, but it won't be too long before it's joined...
Gov. Tom Wolf talked about the possibility of legal online gambling in Pennsylvania recently in an online question-and-answer session.
Where do those efforts stand right now?
After a roller coaster of a ride, that saw Pennsylvania come closer to legalizing online gambling than any state in the past three years, the 2016 effort stalled in the Senate.
However, the future looks bright, as there are claims from at least one key Pennsylvania lawmaker that online gambling now has enough support to pass.
Last year’s push got off to a shaky start. But by late June a multifaceted gaming reform bill that included daily fantasy sports, online poker and casino, and other reforms (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.
A wrench was thrown into the works in late September, when the state Supreme Court ruled that a local casino tax was unconstitutional, and gave legislatures what later turned out to be a soft deadline of 120 days to fix it. If left unresolved, it would lead to a $50 million local budget shortfall; money slated to go to municipalities.
The Senate sprang into action, approving an 11th hour amendment to a responsible gaming reform bill, HB 1887, that included a temporary (5 month) fix for the local share tax issue. Online gambling and other gaming reforms were not included as part of amendment’s language.
The following day, the House countered with an amendment of its own; one which tied a patchwork quilt of gaming reforms (including online gambling, daily fantasy sports, and mobile gaming tablets at airports) to a permanent fix for the local share tax. The amendment passed easily, by a margin of 108-71.
Any optimism was short-lived, as sources close to the legislature suggested that the Senate would not be acting on any local share bill that included iGaming language.
Sure enough, the last scheduled session day for 2016 (November 15) came and went without a vote on online gambling.
Looking to 2017, Sen. Mario Scavello is now chairman of the Senate Community, Economic and Recreational Development Committee, which acts as the gatekeeper of gambling related legislation. In January he opined that online gambling will pass both the House and the Senate in March.
Questions still linger though, most notably:
It’s presumed that the legislative picture will come greatly into focus over the coming months.
A strong 2017 push seems imminent, as Rep. J. Gary Pretlow — who chairs the Assembly committee that handles gambling — appears more confident about security issues pertaining to regulated online poker.
That 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 in 2017.
Michigan represents the newest effort to regulate online gambling in the US. But despite making some headway in 2016, the state legislation faces a steep uphill climb if it hopes to cross the finish line in 2017.
A bill — SB 889 — was introduced by State Senator Mike Kowall back in April 2016. Shortly thereafter, the Michigan Regulatory Reform Committee held an informational hearing on the bill and online gambling in general.
Hopes rose, when in mid-May, Kowall was quoted stating that he was “fairly confident” online gambling legislation could pass a vote 2016. His optimism gained merit when SB 889 and a substitute bill sailed by a vote in the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee in early June.
Unfortunately, the ensuing months saw nothing but inaction. And it wasn’t until the legislature reconvened in November that online gambling once again became a hot topic among Michigan lawmakers.
Advocates were hoping for a late push to legalize online gambling, but with only a smattering of session days scheduled for December, and with ambiguity looming as to whether the bill(s) will be addressed at all, the prospects of legalizing in 2016 were bleak. Ultimately, the 2016 effort stalled.
Turning to 2017, Michigan lawmakers will likely face immense hurdles crafting a bill that balances state law governing commercial and tribal casinos.
On the upside, Michigan already offers one form of online gambling: The state offers lottery games over the Internet. And with most vested interests either neutral or in favor of online gambling, the future looks bright.
Unfortunately, the same issues that plagued the 2016 session are bound to reemerge in any 2017 push.
However, last 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.
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. That’s if lawmakers even bother broaching the topic of online poker.
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.
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.
In 2016, there was little movement toward either legalizing or prohibiting online poker on a national scale. This was to be somewhat expected, as 2016 was a presidential election year, which are historically slow on the legislative front.
On the pro-online poker side, no legislation to legalize the activity was introduced.
Opponents of online poker were more active, yet failed to match even the modest traction gained in 2015.
In March, supporters of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act (RAWA) bill refocused away from RAWA and toward stopping illegal offshore online gambling. This was largely viewed by the industry as a way for backers of the unpopular bill to save face.
Then in May, RAWA senate sponsor Lindsey Graham attempted to backdoor RAWA language into a funding bill penned by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Little would come of the effort.
During the Lame Duck, anti-online gambling supporters attacked from multiple fronts, on both the state and federal levels:
But despite the aforementioned, and rumblings that RAWA would rear its ugly head during the eleventh hour of the 2016 session, the 114th Congress closed without the introduction of RAWA into a larger piece of legislation.
There’s reason to believe that supporters of a federal online poker ban will launch revitalized efforts in 2017, if only because the new administration appears more willing to listen to their arguments.
Still, with the OLC opinion still intact, and several states exploring online gambling legislation, it’s unlikely that we’ll see legislation pushed through Congress that either legalizes or bans online poker.