US Poker Laws – State by State Reviews
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 online gambling, but also with the gambling law of each individual state in the U.S..
It’s important to note that no website – no matter how well-researched or informed – can be a substitute for advice from a legal professional. Our sole purpose is to give you as a poker player a stronger understanding of the fundamentals of gambling law in your state.
Below we’ve assembled a list of all 50 states. Click on any and you’ll be taken to an in-depth look at that state’s history with, attitude toward and laws relevant to the game of poker.
We also have a section relating to legislation and poker bills on both the state and federal level.
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; state law dodges direct interaction with the issue and it’s unclear where online poker players stand under California law. A legislative push for regulated online poker has gained momentum over the last several years, but that momentum has yet to translate into sufficient political support for passage.
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 move forward with the regulation of online gambling, including online poker. Regulation could bring substantial changes in attitudes toward unregulated online activity. Poker available via a variety of regulated formats in Delaware.
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. While some form of regulated online poker may be on the horizon in Illinois, current law disallows unregulated sites. Law regarding players at such sites is less specific.
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. No mention of gambling over the Internet.
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 becomes less so on the issue of unregulated gambling. Despite this approach, online gambling has yet to be directly tackled by legislators. Punishments on the books are some of the most severe in any U.S. state. Unclear how much of a priority poker players are for law enforcement.
Michigan: A broad selection of regulated gambling – including commercial casinos – means that unregulated gambling is dealt with rather forcefully in Michigan. Poker is clearly identified as a form of gambling per state law.
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. Despite massive influence of regulated gambling industry, players face comparatively minor risks for involving themselves in illegal gambling activity, including unregulated online poker.
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 acts as one of the pioneers of regulated online poker in the United States. Very rigid anti-gambling laws complicate participation in activity considered to be illegal gambling by the state.
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. Gambling laws are very vague and may or may not include poker depending on which interpretation you favor.
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: Online gambling regulation seeming more and more likely in the Keystone state, where regulated gambling expansion has proceeded at near-breakneck speed over the last decade. Majority of charges in state gambling law are for the individuals who profit from operation – not for those just participating as bettors.
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 forms of modern poker has little interest in or respect for the game, at least in the legal sense. Poker not mentioned directly, but included nonetheless logically in state definition of gambling. Online gambling remains something of an open issue.
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.