Legal Gambling / Poker Laws in New York

New York Online Poker Laws
Legal Poker / Gambling in New York

Just like massive slices of pizza and talking far more loudly than appropriate, poker is a part of New York culture.  Many know New York more for its legendary underground poker rooms than its online poker scene, but a sizeable chunk of online poker's best talent hails from the poker proving ground of New York state.  For players looking to join that elite class - or maybe just hoping to try their luck with a few hands of poker played online - we present this complete Guide to Playing Online Poker From New York.

New York and Online Poker

The best New York online poker sites share a few qualities.  First of all, we only list sites that hold a legal and current license to operate.  Second, we only list rooms that have long-standing reputations for treating players fairly.  Finally, we only consider rooms for inclusion on our list of the top New York poker rooms that attract casual players - meaning you can profit at the games.  The rooms that best meet those thresholds make up our suggested online poker sites for players from New York:

Making Online Poker Accounts From New York

Thanks to the state's involvement in online poker's Black Friday, there are some online poker sites that restrict new sign ups from the state.  Thankfully, however, this prohibition is not absolute, and you can be sure that you pick a room that allows players from New York simply by choosing any of the sites on our Top New York Online Poker Rooms list above.

New York State Law and Online Poker

Gambling law is always almost open to interpretation, and New York's gambling laws are no exception.  For that reason, it's imperative that you retain qualified legal help if you need an answer about the legality of a given action such as playing online poker for real money.

So what's the point of this section?  We've tried to create a synopsis of the key points of New York gambling law, one that will make it easier for you to review the actual law yourself.  This isn't a substitute for legal advice, but it should help you to obtain a better sense of how the law works and provide a foundation for additional research.

  • New York law defines gambling as risking "something of value" on a future outcome beyond their "control or influence" with the understanding that they might receive "something of value" if a "certain outcome" occurs (Section 225.00(2)).
  • The state law of New York also offers a definition of contest of chance: "any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein" (Section 225.00(1)).
  • There are no criminal penalties for persons who act only as players in illegal gambling activity.  There may be other crimes stemming from the activity (tax avoidance, for example) but the criminal penalties in New York state gambling law are directed squarely at those who run and profit from the business of illegal gambling.
  • The size of the illegal gambling operation matters under New York law.  Once your operation hits either 5 bets totaling over $5,000 in one day related to bookmaking or more than $500 in a single day for operations involving a "lottery or policy scheme or enterprise," your charge bumps up from a misdemeanor to a felony (Section 225.10).

To review the rest of New York gambling law, click here for the online version of the state's statutes [1].

Will New York Regulate Online Poker?

You don't hear much about online gambling plans coming out of Albany, but that doesn't mean work isn't underway.  The current New York government has shown little opposition to gambling expansion, and poker is especially popular in the Empire State.  It would be very surprising if New Jersey and other states came online and New York did not quickly follow.  With that said, New York is obviously behind states like New Jersey insomuch that no bill has been proposed and a coalition of support for regulation of online gambling has yet to publicly emerge.

New York Poker & Gambling Facts

Gambling's History in New York

That's a topic worthy more of a book than a quick section in our guide to New York and online poker.  Suffice it to say, unregulated gambling has been a part of the makeup of the state since there was a state to be made up.  As other US states moved full-steam ahead to expand regulated gambling in the mid-twentieth century with pari-mutuel betting, lotteries and even casinos, New York followed.  The lottery opened in 1967, horse racing came in 1970, tribal casinos in the 1990s and racinos in the 2000s.

Regulated Gambling Activity in New York

Every major form of regulated gambling is available in New York, and the one type that isn't - commercial casinos - seems poised to enter the state soon.  In fact, you could argue that casinos have already come to the state thanks to the presence of VLTs at state racetracks.  While those in New York wait for a proper casino to break ground, they can occupy themselves with the state lottery, pari-mutuel wagering on racing, a variety of electronic games at the state's racinos and tribal gambling facilities like the Seneca Allegany Casino.

Regulated Online Gambling Activity in New York

As of now, there are no state-regulated gambling options in New York.  That doesn't mean there aren't legal online gambling options for New York residents - it only means that the state does not issue any sort of licenses for online gambling operators.

New York Gambling: Recent News

The hot topic in New York right now: commercial casinos.  New York Governor Andrew Cuomo wants to bring them to the state [2].  A number of opposition groups would prefer that the status quo holds [3].  Expect the debate to carry on well through the next year and possibly beyond.  The longer it drags on, the better the chances that online poker or some form of online gambling will become part of the conversation.

New York Poker & Gambling: Useful Sites

New York Gaming Association [4].  Website for the primary trade group representing the racinos of New York state.  Offers wealth of statistical information regarding gambling at New York's racetracks.
NY Times Local Coverage [5].  Arguably the best source for following the arc of commercial gambling expansion in the Empire State.
New York Gambling Industry Snapshot [6].  Timeline, basic facts and figures and an overview of the financial contours of regulated gambling in New York from the UNLV Center for Gambling Research.

New York's Role in Poker History & Culture

Poker and New York have intersected at interesting points in history.  For example, one of the most famous gamblers in American history, Arnold Rothstein, was shot to death in New York's Park Central Hotel during a game of poker [7].  New York's card clubs have been the breeding grounds for such well-known poker pros as Dan Harrington and Erik Seidel. 
The city's poker underworld provided a compelling and credible backdrop for the greatest poker movie of all time: Rounders.  More recently, it was a New York-centered poker case that led Judge Jack Weinstein to rule that, for the purposes of federal law, poker should be considered a game of skill [8].

Sources & Citations For This Article on New York Online Poker