Pennsylvania Online Poker / Gambling Laws

Pennsylvania Online Poker Laws
Legal Poker / Gambling in Pennsylvania

Poker is practically a national sport on America's East Coast, and Pennsylvania provides a home for an ever-increasing number of professional poker players - along with those who aspire to such a status. 

As live poker has grown in Pennsylvania, online poker has grown right alongside it.  The games played in casinos and online are the same, but the path to each is quite unique.  To help you navigate that path, we've collected answers regarding the history, the law and the likely future of Internet poker in our Guide to Pennsylvania Online Poker.

Pennsylvania: Playing Poker Online

Pennsylvania's Highest-Rated Online Poker Rooms

Everyone and their mother has lists of the "best" online poker rooms for Pennsylvania, but no one wants to tell you what their lists are based on.  We don't have any problem telling you how we generated our list of Pennsylvania's top poker sites online - it's a combination of the site's reputation (including holding a legal license), the value a site offers to players (through things like deposit bonuses and VIP programs) and the game variety at the room (number of games in terms of both volume and type).

After all, isn't that what poker players are looking for?  We think so, and that's why we used the model to construct our top-ranked online poker rooms for Pennsylvania players:

Can Poker Players From Pennsylvania Play Online Poker?

Can Rocky run up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum?  If you've never seen the movie, the answer is yes.  Same for aspiring online poker players from PA - you can charge right on up those stairs.  In fact, it would probably take you less time (depending on what kind of shape you're in) to get your online poker account set up, funded and to sit in at your first game of poker online than it would to struggle your way up the multiple flights Rocky made famous.

Real Money Online Poker and Pennsylvania Law

Let's be clear: This is not one of those sites that's going to mislead you and say that playing online poker is completely copasetic in all US states.  The fact is that gambling law is a complex topic best left to people who actually know what they're talking about.

That means a legal professional, not a poker website.  But if you're simply looking for a leg up on a basic understanding of Pennsylvania gambling and poker law, we can be of some assistance.  Below we've excerpted the very basics of Pennsylvania gambling law, and under that list you'll find links to additional resources for research.

  • What constitutes unlawful gambling in Pennsylvania? Unfortunately, Pennsylvania really only defines the "unlawful" part and not the "gambling part.
  • Section 5512 offers this clarification: "As used in this section the term "unlawful" means not specifically authorized by law." So, gambling must be specifically made lawful to be legal in Pennsylvania, but that still leaves the nagging question of what qualifies as gambling and what doesn't.
  • The state's definition of "gambling device" doesn't offer much help either: "any punch board, drawing card, slot machine or any device to be used for gambling purposes, except playing cards" (Section 5513(1)).
  • One place where Pennsylvania law does seem pretty clear: there are no obvious criminal penalties for people who are involved in illegal gambling just as players or participants.
  • Social gambling exists in a weird netherworld per Pennsylvania law. It doesn't appear illegal to play in such games, but it does seem illegal to host the game as Section 5513(2) makes it a misdemeanor if anyone "allows persons to collect and assemble for the purpose of unlawful gambling at any place under his control."
  • Neither online gambling or online poker are mentioned in Pennsylvania gambling law.

To continue reading on this topic, refer to the online version of the Pennsylvania state statutes [2].. 

Will Pennsylvania Look to Regulate Online Poker?

There's a reasonable chance that Pennsylvania will move to offer some form of regulated gambling in the near-term, with lottery being the most likely product.  The state will also be facing pressure from New Jersey and Delaware that could accelerate the development of a regulated model for online poker.  That combination of forces could bring regulated online poker to Pennsylvania in the space of the next few years, especially if a neighboring state starts aggressively courting partners for a network.

Update - Representative Tina Davis introduced House Bill 1235 to the House of Representatives on April 22nd. The bill would regulate and legalize all forms of online gambling with some provisions.

Pennsylvania Gambling Facts

Current Regulated Gambling Options in Pennsylvania

Your regulated gambling options in Pennsylvania include commercial casinos, racetracks (including many that offer a variety of casino-style games), pari-mutuel wagering at off-track facilities and charitable gambling.  Topping it all off is a state lottery that participates in several national jackpots.

Current Regulated Online Gambling in Pennsylvania

In a word: none.  State-regulated online poker would certainly be attractive to a number of poker players in Pennsylvania, but to date the state has yet to become involved in the business of licensing online gambling sites of any type.

Pennsylvania Gambling Industry Headlines

Gambling expansion is likely to continue through 2013 in Pennsylvania, but the story which is captivating the local media isn't the opening of another new casino. Rather, the focus is on a highly controversial initiative to privatize the state lottery [3]., an issue that is getting extra attention due to the complex web of financial interests involved [1].. 

Pennsylvania Gambling Research: Additional Resources

AGA State Guide: Pennsylvania [4]. Get all of the basics on Pennsylvania's regulated gambling industry in this resource from the leading national trade group for commercial casinos.

PA Council on Compulsive Gambling [5]. Resources (in multiple languages) for helping problem gamblers, along with links to additional sites and information regarding gambling in the Keystone State.

Sands Bethlehem [6]. One of the more unique intersections of gambling and Pennsylvania history, the Sands Bethlehem (the only remaining casino in the US to bear the Sands name) sits on the site of former industrial powerhouse Bethlehem Steel.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Pennsylvania Online Poker