Legal Poker in Florida
Last Updated November 6, 2019
There are quite a few limitations on gambling in Florida, but it is still known for its ability to generate some of the best poker players in the world.
Whether players honed their skills in the live poker rooms across the state or at the online poker tables from the late 1990s through today, Florida is the birthplace of many of the game’s greatest.
Floridians continue to seek online poker options in addition to the live poker tables. There are options for those players, online poker sites that welcome players from the US.
The complex Florida gambling laws mean that fully legalized and regulated online poker is a long ways off but there are some positive signs. Much of the issues stem from the restrictive compacts that have been made with the Seminole tribes. There are essentially two ways that issue might be resolved in the future: 1. Getting approval from the Seminole. 2. Going around the tribe.
The move toward online poker and casino games will likely have to originate with tribal leaders and make their way into the next compact. However, negotiations for the updated compact in 2019 went off the rails in the middle of the year when tribal leaders and state lawmakers ended talks. The standoff has led to some legislators mulling gambling proposals without consideration for the Seminoles.
Either way, it will likely be a very long road to state-regulated online poker. Thus, our options for Floridians remain the best in the business.
Most Recent Online Poker Happenings in Florida
The Seminoles broached the subject of internet gaming and sports betting during negotiations in April and May 2019. There were many ideas on the table, such as 24-hour cardroom availability, a reduction on slot machine taxes by 10%, and the ability to add craps and roulette to the table games in their casinos.
And there was online poker, along with internet casino games. The Seminoles wanted the exclusive right to partner with an online gaming provider and offer the games for all players in Florida.
Governor DeSantis specifically opposed internet gaming. Even if talks hadn’t broken down over other issues, it is likely that online poker and casino games would’ve been eliminated from the new compact anyway.
Gambling in Florida
From the time Europeans first settled onto Florida land, gambling has been a part of the culture. Gambling was legalized in the 1900s, but debates raged over the past century and continue today in regards to how gambling laws should work in Florida.
Lawmakers have successfully respected the wishes of many Floridians by not allowing for new land-based casinos around the state. Restricting them to Seminole lands and tribal management has kept the number of casinos limited and maintains a status quo against which few want to push.
There was a strong push in 1958 to authorize commercial casino gambling, but then-Governor LeRoy Collins intervened to stop it. There have been smaller movements since then, but the people have yet to express widespread support for more casinos. Regardless, the Seminole compact does not allow it.
The laws of Florida do include a definition of gambling and skill games for the record.
Poker is legal at racinos (racetracks with casino games) and Seminole-run land-based casinos throughout the state. Pari-mutuel betting on horse and dog racing and jai alai is allowed, as are small social games, charitable gambling, and the state-regulated lottery.
|State Code Section(s)||XLVI.849; XXXIII.550-551|
|Definition of Gambling||Gambling: Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty.|
|Definition of Game of Skill||Game of skill: A game in which the player does not control the outcome of the game through skill or a game where the outcome is determined by factors not visible, known, or predictable to the player.|
|Online Poker/Gambling||There is no regulated online poker or gaming in Florida. The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States tried to push legislation for online poker in 2012 and beyond, but lawmakers were uninterested in stretching gambling beyond the land-based racinos and Indian casinos.|
|Live Poker||Live poker is allowed at the racinos and the casinos on Indian lands, complete with cash games and tournaments.|
|Casinos||Two federally-recognized tribes operate a number of fully-functional casinos throughout the state per IGRA. Many race tracks also operate casino games like poker and slot machines, making them racinos.|
|Sports Betting||Florida has not yet considered a sports betting bill.|
|DFS||Several bills were introduced in 2018 to legalize and regulate daily fantasy sports, but none passed.|
|Other Forms of Gambling||Lottery, pari-mutuel wagering for horse and dog racing, jai alai, penny-ante games with winnings not exceeding $10 (including poker), bingo, charitable gaming.|
Playing Online Poker in Florida
There is no state-sanctioned online poker or online gambling that is regulated within the state of Florida.
There have been attempts – few and far between – to legalize online poker in Florida. The most notable was in 2012 when the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States encouraged it. The efforts were short-lived, however, as lawmakers couldn’t even agree to legalize lottery ticket sales online.
The issue of internet gaming only came up again in 2019 when the Seminole Tribe of Florida was negotiating its latest compact. Everything from sports betting to online poker was on the table, but the Seminoles wanted exclusive rights to the games. Negotiations with Governor Ron DeSantis fell apart, however, and nothing was left on the table.
The question remains: Can you play online poker while in Florida?
The answer is yes.
Players have access to several online poker sites regulated in the Caribbean, and Central and South America. The operators are very reputable and have been in the online poker business for many years, many of them nearing two decades in operation.
The recommended sites not only accept most US-based players but specifically note that Florida is a safe state. There will be no problems signing up for a new online account and making a deposit to play real-money online poker.
Important: Nothing on this page is to be considered legal advice. Please consult with a gambling attorney with serious and specific concerns about online poker.
Famous Florida Poker Players
Live poker rooms at racetracks and Seminole casinos have been the launching pad for players like Jason Mercier (nearly $20 million in winnings), Michael Mizrachi (more than $17 million in winnings), and high-stakes live players like Sean Winter ($13.6 million) and Sam Soverel ($11.5 million).
Online poker has always been quite popular in the Sunshine State, too. When people live in a state that spans 65,757 square miles, it’s not always easy to find a live poker room. Online poker was the game of choice for tens of thousands of players in Florida, and it remains so today.
For Mercier’s live poker winnings mentioned above, he also had millions in online winnings, and he was a sponsored poker pro for PokerStars for almost 10 years. Mizrachi similarly had a great deal of online poker success to go with his live scores, and he represented numerous poker sites through the years.
But one of the most popular online poker players in the world was Daniel Cates, otherwise known as Jungleman. His presence at the high-stakes online games on sites like Full Tilt Poker drew railbirds from around the world. He even won $7 million online just from mid-2009 to mid-2011. He was one of the biggest online poker winners of all time, which pairs well with his $7.3 million in live earnings.
As of August 2019, these were the top-ranked live poker players, according to the Hendon Mob database:
1. Jason Mercier ($19.6 million)
2. Michael Mizrachi ($17.1 million)
3. Sean Winter ($13.6 million)
4. Sam Soverel ($11.5 million)
5. John Racener ($10 million)
6. Robert Mizrachi ($7.5 million)
7. Daniel Cates ($7.3 million)
8. Jonathan Little ($7 million)
9. Barry Hutter ($5.8 million)
10. Noah Schwartz ($5.8 million)
What was Amendment 3?
The poker community was dragged into the fight over Amendment 3 in Florida during the November 2018 election. As the election approached, the then-functional Poker Alliance took a stand against the proposal and asked big names in poker like Daniel Negreanu, Phil Hellmuth, Maria Ho, and Mike Matusow to do the same.
Amendment 3 was set up to give voters the exclusive right to approve or deny all decisions related to casino gambling, “any of the types of games typically found in casinos and that are within the definition of Class III gaming in the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).” It then specified blackjack, roulette, craps, keno, slot machines, electronic and simulated games, video lottery machines, internet sweepstakes, and “any other form of electronic or electromechanical facsimiles of any game of chance, slot machine, or casino-style game.”
Online poker – all internet gaming, actually – is included in Amendment 3.
The Poker Alliance asserted that the bill would “virtually eliminate” the expansion of live poker, make it impossible for poker rooms to add new games or update their rules, and make online poker and sports betting legislation a “huge longshot.”
However, the voters of Florida passed Amendment 3 by a wide margin, as more than 71% of them voted in its support.
The motivation for the elaborate opposition to Amendment 3 by Poker Alliance was unclear, as it was the only community-driven campaign it waged after PokerCentral purchased the former nonprofit lobbying organization. And not long after that failed campaign in Florida, Poker Alliance stopped doing anything for the poker community altogether.
Most Recent Developments in 2019
The unresolved issues between the Seminoles and the state over its gambling compact is a wild card.
One of the most recent developments that increased tension between the two factions was when a federal judge found that the card games offered by Florida pari-mutuels violated the exclusivity agreement between Florida and the Seminoles. Since the Seminoles have been paying $350 million per year for that exclusive right that they feel is no longer exclusive, the Seminoles to withhold the 2019 and future payments.
Meanwhile, lawmakers believe that the lack of payments by the Seminoles voids all exclusivity agreements regarding gaming. As of October 2019, several of them want to take advantage of that by increasing betting limits on table games at racetracks and authorizing them to offer sports betting and fantasy sports (DFS) contests.
This could be a positive sign for online gaming, including online poker, if sports betting is able to move ahead without interference from the Seminoles.
Online Poker Status in Florida
- Do poker players have online options from the state of Florida? Yes.
- Do sports bettors have online options from the state of Florida? Yes.
- Will Florida legalize and regulate online poker within its borders in 2019? No.
- Is there a chance of new legislation in 2020? Yes, about 50%, as there are many variables.
All Poker and Gambling Laws by State
- November 7th, 2018
Just weeks ago, the Poker Alliance took its first stand on a major issue regarding online poker and gaming since its rebranding earlier this year. The organization threw its weight behind opposing Amendment 3 in Florida, an amendment giving the voters of the state the exclusive right to vote onRead Full
- October 25th, 2018
When the mid-term elections take place on November 6, 2018, many will be watching Florida and several key races there. Most notably, Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is challenging former US Representative Ron DeSantis for the governor’s seat, but the Senate race is also important as current Governor Rick Scott isRead Full
- October 6th, 2018
Every few months, the poker community hears a whisper of the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, more commonly known as RAWA. Its financier, casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, regularly tries to push an anti-online gambling agenda through the politicians to whom he regularly donates campaign funds. He also uses his lobbyingRead Full
- July 20th, 2018
Live poker is already prevalent in Florida. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has a compact with the state, and several of its casinos offer sizeable poker rooms that have become hubs for cash game and tournament players over the past decade. Many racetracks in the state also offer poker rooms,Read Full
Sources & Citations For This Article on Florida Online Poker
- Official State Website for Florida
- Details on Pari-Mutuel Wagering
- Copy of 2010 Seminole Gaming Compact
- Statutes & Constitution: View Statutes: Online Sunshine
- Florida Statutes and Constitutions: Sec 849.08
- Florida Statutes and Constitutions: Sec 849.14
- Florida Statutes and Consitutions: Sec 849.085
- Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling
- National Council on Problem Gambling (Florida)
- Official State Website
- Laws/Code of Florida
- Florida Legal Guide
- Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (Wagering)