Legal Poker Sites 2018 - USA Poker Site Reviews & News

Is online poker legal in the US?

The good news is that there is no federal law prohibiting US players from creating online poker accounts and playing for real money online.  When it comes to state laws, the picture is much cloudier. Many American states have outdated gambling laws that fail to directly address US poker sites.  A few have updated laws to address online gambling and/or poker in general, but just one state - Washington - explicitly makes playing online poker a crime. Conversely, four states have legalized online poker – Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania – and all but Nevada also allow internet casino games in addition to poker.

Our site offers an objective, informed guide to every aspect of legal US online poker sites for players who are serious about playing poker from the United States in the safest, easiest, and most secure way possible. Our guide reviews the top sites to play on which includes Bovada, Ignition.

State by State - Click Your State to Find Poker Laws

The majority of players living in the United States won't have any issues playing poker site sites accepting US players. Use our interactive map to find everything you needed to test know about the gambling laws in your state.

Just click on your state to view your state poker laws.

Stay current with the gambling laws and news within your state here. Our gambling news section covers all aspects of US online poker news including laws and regulations, revenue, internet and brick-and-mortar establishments, and more. To understand the full picture of online poker in the US, it is important to stay informed about all of the laws related to American poker and gambling, even some pertinent happenings overseas as well.

  • New York Lawmakers Step Up for Online Poker
    April 20th, 2018

    As of this month, New York online poker supporters have a new champion for their cause. While State Senator John Bonacic has shown his unwavering dedication to passing his bill on the Senate side – passing the entire Senate for two consecutive years is a good sign of dedication – the same cannot be...

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  • PartyPoker Removes Bounty Rake, Launches LIVE Cash
    April 20th, 2018

    The race is on. PokerStars may currently dominate the global online poker market, but PartyPoker is making big plays to increase its standing. Over the past month, the two sites have made numerous announcements. Most recently, PokerStars introduced Split Hold’em, expanded the Seat Me system to more markets, and rolled out early payments for...

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  • Galfond to Launch Poker Site This Summer
    April 18th, 2018

    Throughout the past few decades, several poker pros wanted to launch their own online poker sites. In 2015 and 2016, however, some of them took the idea more seriously. Several major poker sites had been minimizing the benefits for professional players, and PokerStars made the biggest impact when it announced the elimination of the...

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  • Washington Law Sparks More Free-Play Gaming Lawsuits
    April 18th, 2018

    The state of Washington has not exactly minced words with regard to internet gambling. It is one of few states that explicitly forbids online poker and casino games, but it goes even further to deem offering or playing games online a criminal offense. The state code and Washington State Gambling Commission make those points...

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Online Poker Compatibility - Mac / Linux / Mobile Poker

Even the best United States poker sites & online gambling sites aren't equal when it comes to compatibility. Some sites only offer a Windows version of their software, while others are compatible with Macs and mobile devices. Use the links below to read about compatibility with your Mac, Android, or even tablets and Windows devices. Each review covers how to play on your device or setup, how to play for real money, and which poker or gambling sites support your operating system.   

  

  • Playing poker on an iPad or iPhone is easy when you know which poker site offers real-money iPad poker games. Our Apple page covers US poker sites compatible with the iPhone and iPad, as well as the steps necessary to play real-money poker on your Apple devices.   

  • Similar to our iPad page, our Android review covers real-money Android poker sites as well as online casinos. You should be able to find everything you need in this review, including which poker sites have Android apps, how to play for real money, and the specs required to play poker on an Android smartphone or tablet.   

  • Do you own a Mac? If so, you should have no problems playing poker in the United States. Our Mac review lists the best Mac poker sites for USA players. All of the poker sites featured on our Mac page offer a native download, and some even include special bonuses available only to players that join from our legal poker site

  • Linux poker players aren’t as lucky as Windows or Mac players as far as options for legal poker sites. Our Linux review covers everything you need to know about playing poker in the US on a Linux. This includes the available options to play poker on a Linux system, how to perform a dual boot, and how to use and/or install Wine and the no-download Flash options.

Laws & Regulations for US Online Poker Sites

Online poker in the United States is a topic that generates lots of information, much of it conflicting but all that can be broken down by state, as we have here.

As mentioned, legal United States online poker is not a black and white situation. Adding to the complexity of the issue are new forms of US online poker sites, such as subscription-based poker rooms that defy classification under traditional US gambling laws. 

Many of these new formats, along with challenges to decades-old gambling laws, are being tested in courts across the United States and reexamined by legislators on a state-by-state level to keep up with technology, stay competitive with other states, and generate additional revenue. 

While there may be always be some confusion regarding US law as it applies to the best US poker sites thanks to the bedeviling nature of the topic itself, one thing is definitely clear: Almost everyone from the United States has a variety of completely legal ways to play poker online for real money.

As for the best of those options, our readers have rated BovadaIgnitionBetonlineSportsbetting & Intertops as the top options available to American players today.

To gain a better understanding of the state of USA online poker, we have compiled all of the relevant information pertaining to online and live poker laws, the status of the US online poker market as a whole, some happenings around the world that may affect American players, and the potential for the game’s future.

 

What Are The US Poker Laws at the Federal Level?

The United States has been involved in gambling laws since lotteries were prevalent among early settlers and when New Orleans became the gambling center of the country in the mid-1800s. It wasn’t until the 1900s that states began to legalize bingo for charitable purposes, and Nevada led the way to broader legalized gambling in the 1930s.

Wire Act

The Federal Wire Act, also known as the Interstate Wire Act of 1961, was the first major law enacted to specifically address sports betting and wagering across state lines using wire communication. It was originally enacted to stop the spread of gambling by organized crime syndicates, and it served its purpose until online gambling became a factor and challenged the applicability of the law to betting over a wireless internet. And eventually, a request by New York and Illinois put the Wire Act up for reconsideration, as the states wanted to use the internet to sell lottery tickets via out-of-state transaction processors.

In 2011, the US Department of Justice rendered a legal opinion changing the scope of the Wire Act. The conclusion noted that “interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a 'sporting event or contest' fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.” This decision changed the Wire Act to pertain only to sporting events, not other forms of gambling like lotteries or online poker. It gave every state the right to choose how to regulate and legalize online gambling, with the exception of sports betting, should they so choose.

UIGEA

Several years prior to the DOJ decision, the US government passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, also known as UIGEA. It was attached to a must-pass piece of legislation in 2006, the SAFE Port Act, by Republican Representatives Jim Leach and Robert Goodlatte, who previously authored a similar bill. They attached anti-online gambling language to the SAFE Port Act, and fellow Senators Bill Frist and Jon Kyl pushed the bill through the Senate. With port security as an important issue, the bill passed, and President George W. Bush signed it into law.

Essentially, the UIGEA prohibited gambling companies from accepting or initiating “restricted transactions” in the form of internet wagering. Financial institutions were then required to block such transactions pertaining to wagering on any “game subject to chance,” which was written to include online poker and casino games. Players were not to be prosecuted under the law.

Congressman Barney Frank introduced the Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection, and Enforcement Act in 2009 in an attempt to counter the UIGEA and provide for regulations instead of prohibition of online gambling, but the bill failed to garner the necessary support for a vote.

Black Friday

The UIGEA was used by the US Department of Justice to indict owners of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UltimateBet online poker sites. On April 15, 2011, the domains of those sites were seized by the DOJ, all funds were frozen, and indictments were served. That day became known as Black Friday, when several of the world’s largest online poker sites were forced out of the US online poker market. Executives of each company were indicted, with all eventually settling on plea agreements or short prison sentences except former PokerStars owner Isai Scheinberg, who has yet to surrender to US authorities to face charges.

All companies but PokerStars folded and left players without any access to their online funds. PokerStars worked quickly to come to an agreement with the US government to pay millions of dollars in fines, and those funds were eventually used to repay the victims of the other US online poker sites. Over the course of nearly three years, a total of $114.5 million was paid to 45,180 former Full Tilt players, and that process concluded at the end of 2016. In 2017 alone, former UB and AP players were contacted for reimbursement opportunities, and by the end of November, approximately 12,000 players were paid a cumulative total of $37.5 million. One disbursement of funds is likely to happen before the payment process ends in late 2017 or early 2018.

Few online poker sites remain options for players located in the United States. Several offshore websites do accept players from all states, while some exclude only the states with regulated markets like Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and now Pennsylvania. These sites offer online poker cash games and tournaments to players around the world and accept new accounts and real-money play from customers based in the US.

For more information about Black Friday and its consequences, visit our US Poker History page.

RAWA

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act, also known as RAWA, was an attempt to reverse the 2011 DOJ decision regarding online gambling as restricted by the Wire Act. Several members of Congress have introduced this bill or similar versions of it since 2014 in the hopes of restoring the original meaning of the Wire Act and banning online gambling on the state and federal level. All attempts through 2017 by Senators like Lindsey Graham and Diane Feinstein and Representatives like Jason Chaffetz and Charlie Dent have been unsuccessful.

Billionaire casino mogul and owner of Las Vegas Sands Corporation has been a staunch opponent of online gambling and launched the Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling in early 2014 as a lobbying group to push for the passage of RAWA. All efforts to date have been thwarted, including one most recently when newly-appointed US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was forced to recuse himself from issues related to the Wire Act and online gambling because of his ties to Adelson.

What Are The US Online Poker Laws at State Level?

Since the 2011 DOJ decision clarifying the 1961 Wire Act, states had the authority to legalize and regulate online poker and casino games as desired. This led to several states choosing to do so several years ago, with Pennsylvania following along in 2017 as the fourth state.

As of the end of 2017, Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have chosen to legalize and regulate online poker, with all but Nevada offering online casino games as well. Numerous other states have considered legislation, with some bills making significant progress in 2017, but they will continue to debate online poker in 2018 and beyond.

Nevada

As the first state to legalize online poker, Nevada continued with its tradition as a trailblazer in the world of gambling. The law became official in February 2013, though the Nevada Gaming Commission began drafting regulations in December 2011, just one month after the DOJ decision regarding the Wire Act.

Ultimate Gaming was the first company to launch online poker for residents of Nevada in April 2013 via a partnership with Station Casinos. WSOP launched its online poker site in September 2013 in conjunction with Caesars casinos. South Point then launched its own site, Real Gaming, in February 2014 but never gained any traction or enough players to be a viable competitor. Ultimate Poker then left the market in November 2014, with WSOP the only internet poker site continuing to operate today.

Revenue numbers and statistics are not available for much of Nevada’s online poker history because regulations stipulate that there are not enough sites in operation to warrant the distribution of that information.

Delaware

Legislators in Delaware were quick to jump into the online gaming fray and legalized online poker and casino games in June 2013. The Delaware Lottery dictated regulations, and online casino games launched in October 2013, with internet poker close behind in early November 2013.

All three of the state’s racinos – Delaware Park, Harrington Raceway, and Dover Downs – share an online poker network powered by 888poker. Revenue for the online poker sites started with $348K in the first full year of 2014, increased to $392K in 2015 after joining forces with Nevada in an interstate shared online poker partnership, and slowed somewhat in 2016 with revenue of nearly $376K.

New Jersey

New Jersey was the first state of the initial three to consider online gambling, as its legislature passed a bill to legalize internet poker and casino games in January 2011, even before the DOJ’s Wire Act decision, but Governor Chris Christie vetoed it. His concerns were addressed in a new bill that passed overwhelmingly by the legislature in February 2013, and Christie signed it. The industry was authorized to operate for a 10-year period, at which point it will be examined for a possible (and likely) extension.

The online gaming sites launched in November 2013, and a brief testing period led to open sites for all people within the borders of New Jersey. Ultimate Gaming and Betfair were two of the original sites that failed to prosper enough to continue doing business, but 888poker and WSOP merged their sites to compete with Borgata/PartyPoker. PokerStars eventually earned a license and launched its site in September 2015, and Pala Poker followed in 2017. All online sites are partnered with land-based casinos in Atlantic City, as required by the law.

For all online poker and casino games, gross gaming revenue has steadily increased each year since the industry began in New Jersey. The first full-year results for 2014 showed $122.9 million in revenue, which increased 21% to $148.9 million in 2015 and another 32% to $196.7 million in 2016. The final numbers for 2017 are expected to show well over $200 million in revenue and an approximate 25% increase over the previous year.

Pennsylvania

After several years of states unable to pass online gaming legislation despite significant efforts, Pennsylvania accomplished the feat in late 2017. The legislature passed a comprehensive gambling expansion package in October that included the legalization of online poker and casino games, and Governor Tom Wolf signed it into law in the first week of November. The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board will devise all regulations and open the licensing process, most likely at the start of 2018, and the first online gaming sites are expected to launch for real-money play by the summer months of 2018.

Interstate Online Poker Sharing

The first interstate online poker agreement was signed by the governors of Nevada and Delaware in February 2014, but it took until March 2015 to launch the combined 888/WSOP online poker sites due to the technical complications of linking only poker games and restricting Delaware’s online casino games to Delaware residents only. This allowed more liquidity across the two different time zones three hours apart, and for a larger overall player pool that can offer larger tournament guarantees and more cash game options.

New Jersey finally got in on the interstate liquidity in October 2017 when Governors Chris Christie of New Jersey, Brian Sandoval of Nevada, and John Carney of Delaware signed an agreement. Online poker players will be able to share games across all three state lines, and online casinos will be able to share slot jackpots on progressive games. At the point of the announcement, the only site operating in all three states was 888/WSOP, but more USA online poker operators may investigate possibilities in Nevada in order to compete via the interstate network. The three-state liquidity will likely launch sometime in 2018.

Pennsylvania’s online gaming bill authorized interstate agreements, but the state has yet to participate in active discussions with the others. This is likely to take place in 2018 to broaden revenue possibilities.

Which States Are Most Likely to Legalize Online Poker?

Several states have considered US poker sites and/or broader internet gaming in past years and are likely to continue discussions among legislators, casino operators, and special interest groups in their respective states.

Michigan, New York, and Illinois are most certainly going to consider legal US poker in 2018, as all three came closer to agreements in 2017 than ever before. California was thought to have been a solid possibility for online poker legalization, but ten years without consensus between the tribes, cardrooms, and special interests leave a question mark for that state’s future in the industry.

Other states that have expressed more than a passing interest in United States poker online and casino games include West Virginia, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Washington, and Maryland. Some industry analysts have also pegged Connecticut, Rhode Island, Mississippi, Ohio, Florida, and Indiana as more remote possibilities due to various factors like a need for revenue or to compete with neighboring states with gambling advantages.

What Are The Laws Regulating Live Poker in the US?

The poker industry in live settings, such as cardrooms and brick-and-mortar casinos, is thriving in the United States and legal in many of them. Commercial gambling is legal in 23 states as of the end of 2017, tribal gaming in 29 states, and charitable gambling in all but four states (Utah, Hawaii, South Dakota, and Tennessee).

Many states struggle with various issues related to online poker sites, however, such as whether it is a game of skill or chance and if collecting rake is subsequent to illegal gambling. But the ever-growing popularity of poker and the increasing awareness of its skill factors have led some states to consider legislation to legalize poker. States like Washington and Texas are among those struggling with those issues and if established cardrooms are legal or should be legal.

This site is dedicated primarily to USA online poker, but some live poker issues can impact the online scene. In those cases, we do cover news relating to this topic and we also provide reviews of various card rooms where poker is legal..

International Online Poker Laws

Online poker is debated, regulated, and legislated in countries around the world. Since the 2000s when some markets began to nationalize online poker and require licenses to offer those services to players in their own countries, operators have been forced to offer games on a country-by-country basis in most cases. This has an impact on internet poker operators, the industry as a whole, and even on the US poker market. Thus, when topics become important in this way, we cover them in our news section.

Antigua and Barbuda

The international online gaming matter that most affects the United States is that stemming from a dispute between the US and Antigua and Barbuda. It began when the US used the Wire Act and UIGEA to force many international online gaming operators to close or relocate due to their inability to service US-based customers, one of their largest markets. Since Antigua and Barbuda licensed and provided server bases for many of those companies, the downturn in the industry hurt the nation’s employment and economic bottom lines with the loss of several billion dollars per year. Antigua and Barbuda claimed that the US violated a trade agreement, and when the US refused to respond to the complaint and demand for lost revenue compensation, the World Trade Organization (WTO) stepped in and ruled that the US’ actions did violate the agreement and owed $21 million in damages in 2004. The US continued to avoid payment, leading the WTO to issue further warnings. Antigua and Barbuda has been vocal about the issue in the past several years in the hopes that public pressure would lead to a settlement, and the WTO has agreed that the money owed now exceeds $200 million. The dispute remains unsettled.

Australia

In 2017, the Australian government decided to enact a set of strict laws requiring online gaming companies to be licensed in Australia in order to offer services to their citizens. In the absence of a licensing regime and regulatory system to issue licenses, all international online poker and casino game operators were forced to leave the Australian market in September to avoid penalties. The situation was similar to the Black Friday events in the US.

European Online Poker Liquidity

The US was not alone in ousting online gaming operators, as a number of European countries did the same. Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal were the four primary countries that enacted strict laws that walled off their individual markets to the dot-com online poker and gaming industries in favor of licensed operations. Companies that obtained licenses did begin offering services to those markets, but profits have not been as substantial as anticipated. Therefore, the four countries have banded together to sign a liquidity agreement that will allow the sharing of USA online poker players, with implementation of the new system expected in 2018. Other countries may be allowed to join as well, which may have an impact on American states as well as the US as a whole should laws change to mimic those in the European Union.

What Does The Future Hold For US Online Poker Sites

The best US poker sites may never again see the level of popularity it did during the poker boom in the early 2000s. The combination of a global online poker market, the effect of Chris Moneymaker winning the World Series of Poker Main Event from a discounted online satellite tournament, and a game that was exploring its potential created the perfect storm. The growth of the top online poker rooms from 2003 to 2008 was unprecedented.

From the moment the UIGEA passed in the United States in 2006, the future of the game became uncertain. PartyPoker immediately left the US market, and 888poker left soon after. The years that followed saw other operators grow warier of the risks involved. The major operators that did not leave – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker, and UltimateBet – were the focus of the Black Friday indictments in 2011.

At the same time, countries around the world segregated their markets, ousting international operators in favor of the few that paid licensing fees and taxes to operate legally in those countries. France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal were the largest countries to regulate legal online poker and gaming in this manner, while other countries like Germany and Slovenia continue to struggle with the intricacies and complications of instituting licensing regimes. The United Kingdom regulated its market but allowed licensees to maintain dot-com business at the same time. Countries in South America, Asia, Europe, and the Americas are in various stages of a similar process.

As for the US market, its future is unclear as many factors may influence its direction. The federal government is unlikely to legalize and regulate online poker, though that would be the most favorable scenario for American players. But if attempts to pass RAWA are successful in banning online poker and other internet gambling, it would not only take rights away from the states to make their own decisions but would result in states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania taking their cases to court to keep their online gambling rights intact. The ensuring court battle could take years to settle and leave states that are considering the legalization of the games without any motivation to do so.

The state of US politics is somewhat convoluted in 2017 and is on track to remain somewhat chaotic throughout 2018. This means the likelihood of Congress or the Department of Justice taking any action on a topic like online gambling is unlikely in the foreseeable future. Sheldon Adelson will undoubtedly continue to wield his influence in the form of campaign contributions and political donations to members of Congress in the hopes of one of them sneaking an online gambling ban into a piece of must-pass legislation, similar to the way the UIGEA was passed in 2006. However, the scrutiny on governmental actions by the American media is likely to detect any such efforts, and groups that support states’ rights and internet freedom will create a loud alarm in an attempt to stop those actions.

If the US government refrains from enacting laws in favor of or opposed to online gaming and leaves the Wire Act interpretation as it currently stands, more states will likely join the four that have legalized online poker and/or casino games. In this case, it is highly likely that a minimum of one or two states will join Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania in 2018. As the interstate network takes shape, this will also become a motivating factor for legislators to support the industry, which will create jobs for their states in addition to an additional revenue stream.

Poker Players Alliance

The primary lobbying group for the game of poker in the US is the Poker Players Alliance (PPA). The non-profit organization was formed in 2005 in response to threats to ban online poker in the US, and it quickly grew to a membership or more than one million poker fans, players, and supporters. While the nuances of the PPA’s efforts have shifted slightly over the years to accommodate the needs of the industry, its core mission has remained the same as it currently stands:

“The PPA’s mission is to establish favorable laws that provide American poker players with a secure, safe and regulated place to play one of America’s oldest past times. Through education and awareness efforts aimed at policymakers, the media and the public, the PPA will keep this game of skill free from egregious government intervention and misguided laws.

As the most prominent voice of the poker player community, the PPA is empowering thousands of enthusiasts across the country to deliver positive messages about the game and why it should be protected to federal, state, and local elected representatives. On behalf of our broad membership of American poker players, the PPA will defend the right of poker players through advocacy work in Washington, D.C., and throughout the nation.”

The primary goal of the PPA is to legalize online poker where it’s not legal and protect it from prohibition-type bans and laws elsewhere. The group has also helped in some states and legal matters in which live poker was in jeopardy, and it has recently begun to advocate for online gaming, as it includes online poker and often requires the addition of online casino games to make it viable and profitable for casinos, lawmakers, and other interested parties.

iDevelopment and Economic Association

The iDevelopment and Economic Association, better known as iDEA, is a recent addition to the online gaming landscape. It is dedicated to expanding online interactive entertainment, along with the accompanying job growth and business development, through advocacy and education. The organization is based in and focused on the US market.

Some of the members of iDEA include Stars Group (PokerStars), Golden Nugget, Paddy Power Betfair, GVC Holdings (PartyPoker), Pala Interactive, Paysafe Group, and Ifrah Law. In its first few months, the collective released an economic impact report based on New Jersey internet gaming, and it regularly lobbies federal legislators and power brokers in the world of gaming.