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US Poker Laws – State by State Reviews

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US Poker Laws – State by State Reviews
Last Updated November 17, 2018

It’s natural for online poker players in America to have questions about the legal considerations that go along with playing real money poker online. Not only do players have to be familiar with federal law as it relates to online poker and other forms of online gambling but also with the gambling law of each individual state in the US.

It’s important to note that no website – no matter how well-researched or informed – can be a substitute for advice from a licensed legal professional. Our sole purpose is to give you, as a poker player, a stronger understanding of the fundamentals of gambling laws in your state.

Below, we’ve assembled a list of all 50 states. Click on any to be taken to an in-depth look at that state’s history, including its attitude toward and laws relevant to the game of poker.

We also have a section relating to current legislation and poker bills on both the state and federal level.

Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Alabama: It’s certainly not a sweet home for gamblers, who face pretty stiff penalties on both the business and player side of the illegal gambling equation. Few regulated options, and likelihood of regulated online poker in near term is essentially nil.  

Alaska: State gambling law does not directly handle gambling conducted online. General attitude toward gambling is restrictive, chances of expansion seem quite low. Poker occupies something of a grey area in Alaska law.

Arizona: A litany of regulated options for playing real-money poker coexists with an aggressive stance toward unregulated gambling in Arizona. Internet gambling is directly addressed in state law. Poker handled directly by statute.

Arkansas: Aggressive approach toward prosecuting illegal gambling is aimed primarily at the individuals or groups who are backing, running or otherwise entangled in the business end of the activity. Opportunities for regulated online gambling seem dim.

California: Confusion reigns regarding online poker. For more than 10 years, lawmakers have discussed and dissected proposals to regulate online poker, but most momentum disappeared after a frustrating 2016 legislative session. All parties were ultimately unable to agree on the details of a bad actor clause relating to PokerStars, and a stalemate ensued that remains through 2018.

Colorado: Law is clear regarding poker but less so when it comes to the online version of the game. Could be candidate for regulated online poker but lack of obvious support undermines potential. Very tough on unregulated gambling in general.

Connecticut: Little question what the state thinks of poker (it’s one of the games directly named in the state’s definition of what it means to gamble), but Connecticut law has less to say on the issue of gambling online. Various regulated or permitted ways to play poker exist.

Delaware: One of only a few states in America to legalize and regulate online gambling, including online poker. The sites launched in 2014. The three horse racing tracks offer online poker, which is connected via a multi-state online poker network with Nevada and New Jersey.

Florida: State frequently mentioned as a possible place where regulated online poker could both come to pass and thrive. Current law does not directly intersect with the issue of gambling that happens online. Regulated choices abound for land-based poker players.

Georgia: A very strict approach to any form of gambling underpins the state law of Georgia. Expansion of gambling on any level – live or online – is unlikely under the current law and political climate.

Hawaii: While once mentioned as a potential online poker pioneer, Hawaii’s broader approach toward gambling is extremely prohibitionist in nature. No regulated gambling exists, and state law can carry harsh consequences for all involved..

Idaho: Gambling isn’t small potatoes in Idaho, where the law takes an expansive approach to defining illegal gambling. While poker may be a question in some states, Idaho law singles it out as a prohibited form of gambling. Online gambling less clear.

Illinois: State has embraced some forms of regulated online gambling, but has yet to expand their approach to include poker. Lawmakers seriously considered legislation in early 2018 to legalize online poker, other online casino games, and sports betting, and that gambling expansion bill could pass in late 2018 or early 2019.

Indiana: The Hoosier State offers an above-average amount of regulated gambling – and as a result, has very strict laws on the books to deal with illegal gambling. Law does specifically address online casinos.

Iowa: A state that has been considering regulated online poker for several years, Iowa takes a middling stance on gambling that takes place in unregulated environments. Penalties for operators can be quite harsh, less so for poker players.

Kansas: Online gambling is not covered directly by state gambling law. While Kansas is home to a wide array of regulated ways to gamble, online gambling does not seem likely to appear on that menu at any point in the near future.

Kentucky: While some might expect a more aggressive stance against online poker players thanks to steps taken by the state to block online poker sites, the penalties for illegal gambling are comparatively mild in the Bluegrass State. Online gambling not addressed specifically in the statutes.

Louisiana: State law complicated tremendously by flawed and incomplete definition of gambling. Without clear definition, all other parts of the law are subject to interpretation. Lawmakers indicated a willingness to consider legalizing online poker in 2018, may look at new bill in 2019.

Maine: Nothing in state law provides precise guidance on the matter of playing poker online. Other types of poker legal under specific circumstances, but players do not appear to risk arrest regardless of legal status of the game they take part in.

Maryland: One of the more complex webs of state gambling law thanks to additional level of county law with regards to gambling. State has pursued multiple online gambling operators aggressively. Position on players less clear.

Massachusetts: Gambling-friendly state started seriously considering online poker and casino games in 2017, and a 2018 bill went to the study phase to determine fiscal benefits. State saw its first land-based casino open in 2018 and could expand gambling further in 2019.

Michigan: Quite a bit of gambling is legal in Michigan, prompting lawmakers to consider expanding to include online poker and other internet casino games.

Minnesota: Many ways to play poker legally in the state, but also many questions about how the law applies to gambling that takes place online. Law unclear both on the issue of Internet gambling in general and Internet poker specifically.

Mississippi: Law is quite clear on the matter of poker as a form of gambling; poker is included in the statutory definition of the term in Mississippi law. Some past rumblings regarding the regulation of online poker have – to date – amounted to nothing in the way of tangible action.

Missouri: Very severe punishments for all parties involved in illegal gambling. No part of the law mentions online gambling by name, nor have legislators shown interest in clarifying the law regarding online poker or other forms of online betting.

Montana: Big Sky Country is also home to some pretty big penalties for engaging in actions that the state considers to be illegal gambling. Online gambling is directly handled by Montana gambling law. Few poker options.

Nebraska: Arguably the least poker-friendly state in the U.S., at least by the letter of the law. Players should not expect any change in the status quo, as regulated online poker looks uniquely unlikely to advance in Nebraska.

Nevada: No surprise that the nation’s gambling capital would also be the first to introduce regulated online poker. No non-poker online gaming is permitted. The use of unregulated sites is prohibited but not enforced, as only one poker site is available for players as of 2017 and 2018.

New Hampshire: Poker relegated to legal limbo thanks to vague definition of gambling on New Hampshire’s books. Online gambling exists in similar state by a literal reading of the law, which doesn’t meet the issue directly at any point. Regulation of online possible, but not uniquely likely.

New Jersey: Along with Nevada, New Jersey was one of the pioneers of regulated online poker in the new United States market. Very rigid anti-gambling laws in place try to discourage non-regulated sites from operating in New Jersey. Some sites comply. Many legal options available for poker, other online casino games, and sports betting as of 2018.

New Mexico: State does allow some regulated forms of real-money poker, but all unregulated forms are potentially subject to New Mexico’s anti-gambling laws. Online poker players will find no specific mention of their game on the books, but other laws may still apply regardless.

New York: State occupies strange place in poker’s evolution, serving both as a hotbed for talent and the nexus of legal action against online poker sites like Full Tilt Poker. Lawmakers worked for several years to legalize online poker but with no luck through 2018, despite much Senate support. Future remains in flux.

North Carolina: Like its twin to the south, North Carolina takes a dim view of nearly all forms of gambling. Unlike South Carolina, the law in North Carolina offers little risk to players in illegal gambling games. Poker likely, although not definitively, included in statutory definition of gambling.

North Dakota: Online gambling regulation could advance in the state in the short term, but is far from a sure thing. Current gambling laws are quite harsh in theory, and list of permitted gambling outside of directly regulated activities is narrow.

Ohio: As regulated gambling advances in the Buckeye State, so have the chances that online poker will join the list of explicitly endorsed gambling options. Many forms of poker already clearly legal in state, but unregulated forms could run afoul of Ohio law.

Oklahoma: Existing laws aimed at cracking down on sports betting may apply to wagering over the Internet, but that is but one of many conclusions you might reach after reviewing the law regarding gambling in Oklahoma. Chances for regulated online poker in near term are exceedingly slight.

Oregon: State takes rigid approach to gambling that includes a law banning financial activity related to online gambling. Unclear whether poker players are included under the scope of the law. Legal poker available in several land-based formats.

Pennsylvania: Years of consideration led to legalization of online poker and other casino games in 2017. Licenses being distributed in 2018, with PA Gaming Control Board finalizing regulatory framework in hopes of launching sites in early 2019. Industry to greatly expand revenue in 2019.

Rhode Island: Another US state with an excessive amount of vague definitions and statutes regarding gambling. Despite the lack of clarity, punishments for players appear fairly minor. Poker may or may not be treated uniquely from other forms of gambling.

South Carolina: Often employed as a poster child of sorts for the outdated – some would say antiquated – approach of state law toward gambling. Laws are written in such a way as to potentially render playing any game of any sort an illegal act, even if no wagering is involved.

South Dakota: It’s explicitly illegal to operate an online betting website or similar business in South Dakota. What’s less clear is how poker players merely engaging in online poker games fare under South Dakota’s gambling law.

Tennessee: Despite a prohibitionist approach to gambling that is outdone only by Utah and a handful of similar states, Tennessee does not have any law on the books that offers a precise legal status for online gambling.

Texas: The state that lent its name to the most popular form of modern poker has little interest in or legalizing the game. Poker remains technically illegal, both online and live, but poker room operators have found loopholes and opened private poker clubs throughout Texas. Lawmakers have yet to address issues currently in courts’ hands.

Utah: The only state to decide to pass a law essentially forbidding any participation in any sort of federal online gambling network. Few – some would argue no – types of gambling can be conducted legally in Utah.

Vermont: State gambling laws reflect the larger attitude of Vermont toward individual freedoms. While some laws on the books forbid particular acts related to gambling, the charges (and interest in enforcement) appear to be far less intense than the typical state.

Virginia: Virginia has yet to commit to a specific legislative approach to online gambling. Existing laws regarding land-based gambling may apply. Poker players left with something of a mixed bag in Virginia.

Washington State: In theory, the absolute worst state for online poker players as participating in a real-money game online appears to merit a felony charge. Future of online gambling in the state constantly in flux. Multiple regulated options for poker exist.

West Virginia: While not always thought of as a springboard for online gambling, West Virginia could easily contribute to a regional partnership with other states like Delaware. State has handled regulated land-based gambling expansion with relative ease, potentially increasing chance for regulated online options like poker. Current law offers few penalties for players in illegal gambling activities.

Wisconsin: Poker players can legally play real-money poker in a variety of ways. State law lacks absolute clarity regarding the online variant. Overall legal approach to gambling is fairly strict, thanks in part to protections built in for the state-approved gambling outlets.

Wyoming: Though last alphabetically, Wyoming is far closer to the middle of the pack on the issue of gambling. Statutes contain minimal penalties if you’re just a participant, but that’s not the same as saying “anything goes.” Few regulated gambling options available.

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About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

  1. james lahoe

    Date: April 26, 2019

    why can the state run a gambling with lotto .+but will not let handycap or disabld vets who can not get out to a casino to have a little fun/. play on line . they must not think very mutch of ther vets who are disabled because they fought for this country

    • Jennifer Newell

      Date: April 26, 2019

      We don’t understand it, either. Have you talked to your lawmakers about it? It sounds like they need to hear your story. (Thank you for your service!)

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