Legal Poker in Florida - Florida Gambling Laws

Florida Gambling Laws
Is Gambling & Online Poker Legal in Florida?

Online poker has been an absolutely massive hit in the state of Florida.  At the peak of the poker boom, you couldn't look at the roster of a major online poker site and not find a player with ties to the state.  While we're a bit past that point, online poker still remains a topic of great interest for a new generation of Florida poker players.  With them in mind, here's a big-picture look at online poker in Florida that covers the law, the history and the future for real money poker played online from the state.

Playing Online Poker in Florida

Just like everyone, poker players from Florida want to play at online poker sites that they know are safe and reliable.  That's why all of the sites we've selected as the top real-money poker rooms for Florida hold legally issued licenses from their respective jurisdictions.  We further narrow our list by bonus size, game toughness and software quality, resulting in these top picks for Florida online poker:

Are Florida Players Welcome at Online Poker Sites?

Playing online poker for real money from Florida is a snap.  All of the major online poker rooms that accept US players take sign ups from Florida, so you're not going to run into any problems trying to create an online poker account and then finding you're not actually allowed to sign up.  To be absolutely certain you select a room that takes players from Florida, choose one of the top Florida real-money poker sites chosen by our staff above.

Online Poker - Is It Legal in Florida?

Florida law has a lot to say about gambling in general, but their law is a bit mute on the specific issue of online poker and the larger issue of online gambling.  Precisely how Florida law transfers to online activity is a matter for a legal professional.  Our goal with this section is to extract some key parts of Florida gambling law, providing you with a basic foundation for researching the issue.

Let's discuss the parts of gambling law in Florida that could intersect with playing poker online for real money. 

  • It is a second degree misdemeanor to engage in unregulated gambling in Florida (Section 849.08).  The charge of "gambling" also provides the statutory definition for gambling in Florida law, which is pretty broad: "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."
  • The inclusion of "cards" in the above definition suggests poker is covered by the definition.  Another aspect of Florida law extends the definition by criminalizing wagering on games of skill as well as games of chance (Section 849.14). 
  • Florida law allows poker play conducted at cardrooms, and requires any cardroom to be licensed and to follow a variety of regulations (Section 849.086).
  • Small-stakes poker games conducted in the home are legal in Florida, given that certain conditions are met.  It does not appear that this exception can be applied to online poker games under current Florida law (Section 849.085).

As you can see, a number of aspects of Florida law could apply to playing poker for real money online.  As no one has ever been charged with breaking the law for playing online poker in Florida, we do not have a completely clear sense of precisely how the current law would apply to online poker.  You can review Florida statutes for yourself here [1].

Florida & Online Poker Regulation

Florida is an interesting state on the matter of online poker regulation.  As mentioned earlier, poker is quite popular in the state.  Partially as a result of that popularity, there have been some previous attempts from state lawmakers to introduce online poker games regulated by the government.  However, those attempts have yet to bear fruit.

A likely scenario is that Florida will revive their push for online poker regulation if the federal government passes an online poker bill.  Another is that Florida will follow along with another large state such as California to create a substantial player pool for an online poker room.  What both scenarios have in common is that each relies on some other agent to act first; Florida appears to be a state that will be a follower and not a leader on Internet poker.

Florida Poker & Gambling Facts

Background on Florida Gambling

Florida has reportedly been offering gambling since right around the time the first tourists arrived in the state.   Resorts catering to gamblers have existed since the nineteenth century.  In the 1900s, Florida saw a steady push and pull on the issue, with proponents managing to advance gambling at a rate slightly faster than opponents could shut it down.  In the current day, Florida continues to fight an internal battle over just how much regulated gambling the state wants to allow.

Regulated Poker & Gambling in Florida

The only major type of regulated gambling not offered in Florida is commercial casino gambling.  Interestingly, the state almost approved such casinos back in 1958, but intervention from then-Governor LeRoy Collins shuttered the move.  Casinos may one day come to Florida, but as of now you'll have to settle for a lottery, pari-mutuel bets, charitable gambling (bingo, raffles) and an array of tribal gambling choices.

Does Florida Offer any Regulated Online Gambling?

As of now, the state of Florida does not back, license or regulate any online forms of gambling.  While there has been a bit of talk about potential legislation, it seems as if poker players will have to continue to choose sites regulated by other countries for the time being.

Florida Gambling News

Gambling continues to be a hot topic in the Florida news media.  Most of the news in 2012 had to do with the battle over casino expansion in the state, a battle that continues [2] despite the fact that the expansion bill is dead for now.  There's also new talk about introducing online gambling regulation [3], but specifics seem to be lacking as of now.

Florida Gambling Resources

If you'd like to continue your research into Florida law, online poker and the general gambling environment in the state, here are some helpful resources for extending your search.

Florida Gaming Watch [4].  An excellent aggregator of news related to gambling in Florida, with a focus on gambling legislation and related headlines.  Great way to survey months of news with just a few clicks.
Florida Gambling Timeline [5].  Nice feature that will prove useful to anyone wanting a more comprehensive look at how regulated gambling expanded over the years in Florida.
Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling [6].  Problem gambling is a serious issue, and anyone involved in online poker should familiarize themselves with the core resources for understanding and dealing with responsible gambling.

Florida's Connection to Poker

When you imagine the state that produces the best poker players, you might think of Nevada or Texas.  They may well be at the top of the list, but Florida is a state that must be included in any serious conversation on the subject. 

Here's one stat that helps illustrate why that's the case: From 2007 through 2011, at least one poker player from Florida made the final table of the World Series of Poker Main Event.  A number of very recognizable poker pros have Floridian roots, including well-regarded tournament pro and PokerStars-sponsored player Jason Mercier and multiple WSOP bracelet winner Michael Mizrachi.  If the trend of the last decade persists, we should expect to see much of the next generation of high-profile poker champs originating from the Sunshine State.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Florida Online Poker