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US Poker Laws – State by State Reviews

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US Poker Laws – State by State Reviews
Last Updated September 30, 2019

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: Lawmakers tried to legalize online poker for more than 10 years before quitting after an especially frustrating 2016 legislative session. Many parties made concessions that made online poker appear possible, but a stalemate over a bad actor clause relating to PokerStars ended all talks.

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: Tribal gaming is ruled by the Mohegan and Mashantucket tribes, and they want online poker and table games. Lawmakers have been trying to get it done, but the governor and others are concerned about a now-filed MGM lawsuit over an East Windsor casino. 

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: There is no legal gambling in Hawaii, and the state refuses to consider casinos or any type of online gambling or sports betting. Bills have been proposed and then quickly shut down. 

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: After long embracing riverboat gambling, Illinois recently added video gaming terminals to its offerings and then land-based casinos in 2019. While the gambling expansion law was broad, it still did not include online poker and online casino games.

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: Online gambling sites have been fighting with Kentucky since its former governor and the courts seized more than 140 gambling domains and also sued PokerStars. The hostility toward online gambling all but disappeared with that governor. His son, the state’s attorney general, is now fighting for legal online poker, sports betting, and land-based casinos in Kentucky.

Louisiana: The state law is complicated by a flawed and incomplete definition of gambling. All parts of the law are subject to interpretation. There was an effort to legalize online poker by voter referendums, but nothing has moved on it since 2018.

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: This gambling-friendly state started seriously considering online poker and casino games in 2017, and its first land-based casino opened in 2018. Studies are pending as to economic benefits of internet gaming, and those results will determine the state’s future actions.

Michigan: Quite a bit of gambling is legal in Michigan, but lawmakers have been trying to legalize online gambling to go with it. The legislature approved it in 2018 but the then-governor vetoed it. Efforts to repeat the legislative success in 2019 are being stunted by the new governor, so the future is unclear.

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 was the first to offer regulated online poker. However, only one site is available for players in the state. Online casino games are not permitted.

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: As one of the pioneers of regulated online gaming in the US, New Jersey has seen more than $1B in revenue from those games in the last 5+ years. Success has spurred land-based casinos into profitable territory. Sports betting is now legal in NJ, too.

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: With a growing number of casinos, lawmakers have tried for many years to legalize online poker to go accompany them. Despite Senate support, however, the House has not been amenable. The effort to legalize online gaming diminished significantly in 2019.

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 finally legalizing online poker and casino games in 2017, along with sports betting. Online casinos began launching in the summer of 2019, and online poker is expected to follow. In fact, a few Pennsylvania online card rooms launched recently.

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: After expanding land-based gambling with ease, lawmakers finally saw fit in 2019 to legalize online poker and casino games for regulation. Operators are expected to obtain licenses in 2020 and potentially launch their sites in 2021.

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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