This page provides a variety of resources regarding legal US online poker.
Get snapshots of the four open markets directly below, or:
- Jump to the latest US online poker news and developments
- Learn more about the states that are considering regulating online poker
- Some of the legal background surrounding US online poker
Where is online gambling legal?
If you are in a state with regulated real-money online poker or casino games, read on for your legal options in your state.
Which US states have legal online poker?
Online poker is currently regulated in three US states:
Pennsylvania became the fourth state to legalize online poker and casino games when Gov. Tom Wolf signed the state’s gaming expansion package into law in 2017. Expect the PA market to go live in early 2019.
Players in NJ, DE and NV can now compete against each other, as the WSOP/888 network announced that it had combined the states’ player pools. Multi-state poker should lead to better cash-game traffic and bigger tournaments.
If you have questions about player pooling, what you need to do if you have an account, or if you are just signing up, check out this FAQ.
The largest of the three regulated markets in the United States, New Jersey is home to four distinct online poker networks:
Learn more about NJ online poker sites here. A snapshot of the leading sites in the NJ online poker market is provided in the table below.
- POKER SITE
The second-largest state offering regulated online poker sites in the US, Nevada’s regulated internet poker space is dominated by WSOP NV.
Nevada differs from NJ and DE in that Nevada does not offer online casino games — only poker.
The state operates a single online 888 Poker site that all three authorized brands feed into.
Well, you can’t play online poker legally in Pennsylvania yet, but it’s coming soon.
With that signature, PA officially became the fourth state with legal online poker, and the third with online slots and table games. Launch is approaching early in 2019.
Here’s everything we know about PA online poker and PA online gambling so far.
Legal US Online Poker Sweepstakes
Play online poker for cash prizes. GlobalPoker.com is one of the few sites that allows sweepstakes online poker for real prizes. They accept credit card deposits and are available in most states.
Which states is PokerStars legal in?
PokerStars is currently licensed in two US states, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
PokerStars NJ operates under the land-based casino license of Resorts Atlantic City. PokerStars PA will operate under the license of Mount Airy.
Legal US online poker news
Snapshot: February 2019
The online gambling landscape is very much in flux as the new year settles in.
A new opinion from the US Department of Justice broadens its interpretation of the Wire Act to cover internet gambling in a broad way. The implications on the industry remain unclear pending a set of enforcement guidelines from the Office of Legal Counsel.
Here’s some required reading on the subject:
- Read the written opinion in full here.
- Rod Rosenstein directs department to withhold enforcement for 90 days.
- Will the new opinion affect legal online gambling payments?
- Can US online poker survive the change?
- Pennsylvania regulators tell casinos to comply with the new opinion.
- Former NJ Sen. Ray Lesniak preparing a legal challenge?
Multiple states and stakeholders have criticized the new Wire Act opinion, but New Hampshire is the first to bring legal action against the DOJ.
New Jersey online casinos posted another record month in January, combining with NJ online poker sites to generate $33.6 million in total revenue.
The recent DOJ Wire Act opinion is facing an upswell of opposition from states with online gambling industries and/or lottery programs.
The new DOJ Wire Act opinion has caused uncertainty within the gambling industry, but some gaming law experts don't think it will hold up to...
Could West Virginia legalize online poker this year? Del. Jason Barrett tells OPR about the prospects for his new online gambling bill.
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
Pennsylvania is on the precipice of launching its legal online poker and casino market, after the state’s gaming expansion bill became law in October 2017. The legal online gambling industry in Pennsylvania is expected to be up and running soon.
Here are some handy facts about legal online gambling in PA:
- Online poker, slot machines and table games were all legalized.
- Daily fantasy sports and sports betting were both authorized as well, though sports betting will only be offered in the event that the federal ban on sports betting is lifted.
- The state’s 13 casinos got first crack at online gambling licenses. Licenses are divided up by the three types of games: slots, poker and table games.
- Tax rates come in at 54 percent for online slots and 16 percent for online poker and table games.
- The gaming expansion also means that PA will allow VGTs in truck stop locations as well as new Category 4 mini-casinos.
When can you gamble online? That’s not known yet, but it should be sometime within the next couple months.
New York online poker
New York made significant headway in the fight to regulate online poker in 2016 and 2017, with legislation making it past the introductory phase for the first time. Online poker passed the Senate in both years, but little progress was made in 2018.
Now, New Yorkers will have to wait till 2019 to see if the state will take another crack at legalization.
New York voters: Use this simple tool to urge your lawmakers to pass an online poker bill this year. It only takes a minute.
Michigan online gambling
Michigan represents the newest effort to regulate online gambling in the US. Despite making some headway in 2016 and 2017, the state legislation faces a steep uphill climb if it hopes to cross the finish line in 2018.
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, Rep. Brandt Iden said he hoped to get his online gambling bill through the House prior to Thanksgiving. That didn’t happen, but the bill did carry over to the 2018 session. Whether or not the issue gains any traction this year is largely dependent on whether or not the state’s tribes will be on board; Detroit casinos are in favor of Michigan online gambling.
In December 2017, language was added to the bill to permit online sports wagering, should the federal prohibition on sports betting fall.
California online poker
Despite some promising developments, California did not legalize online poker in 2016. Nor did it legalize online poker in 2017.
Unfortunately, the same issues that plagued the 2016 and 2017 sessions are bound to reemerge in any 2018 push. They are the same issues that have been stymieing online poker in California for more than a decade.
However, 2016’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.
Likewise, in 2017, a bill was introduced but consensus between the many factions remained elusive. The bill died without much action.
The outlook for 2018 is similarly bleak, with New York and other states now deemed more likely to legalize online poker than California.
The broader federal picture for US 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.
2018 – The status quo is likely to persist
With each passing year, it becomes far less likely than any type of online gambling ban is implemented at the federal level.
We now have four states that have legalized online gambling of some sort, with seemingly more on the way in 2018 and beyond. Congress is going to be increasingly unlikely to ban something that is becoming more and more established at the state level. And seeing action from the DOJ seems far-fetched as well.
The possibility of legal sports betting outside of Nevada will also likely have some states looking at online wagering; indeed mobile wagering is a part of many of the bills we’ve seen throughout 2018.
It’s foolhardy to think there will be no attempts at a ban at the federal level this year. But their odds of success get longer as time goes on.
2017 – A revitalization of anti-online poker efforts?
There was 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.
- Attorney General Jeff Sessions is no fan of online gambling. When Sessions was asked by Lindsey Graham about the OLC opinion at a confirmation hearing in January, he cited the opinion as “unusual,” but stopped short of saying he would overturn it.
- Mike Pence has a history of opposing online gambling, going so far as to write the Indiana congressional delegation urging support of RAWA.
- As a casino owner, President Donald Trump could be viewed as an online gambling ally, but his ties to Sheldon Adelson may see him turn the other way.
Again, some members of Congress — Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) — asked the DOJ to act.
Still, with the OLC opinion still intact, and several states exploring online gambling legislation, it was unlikely that we would see legislation pushed through Congress that either legalized or banned online poker. And that was the case again.
2016 – The anti-online gambling rumblings continue
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:
- Lobbying firm McAlvey Merchant Associations penned a letter citing the cannibalization risks of online gambling in Michigan.
- Pennsylvania Sen. Robert Tomlinson encouraged the PA legislature to remove online gambling language from the host community casino tax fix.
- A letter signed by 10 attorney generals directed at Vice President-Elect Mike Pence and the Trump transitional team called for Congress to institute an online gambling ban.
- Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick introduced an anti-online gambling House resolution (H.R. 6453), attacking the 2011 Department of Justice OLC opinion.
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.
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.