USA Online Poker Laws & Statues

This article is a guide to the various online poker and gambling laws that exist in the United States. If you want to learn all about existing poker laws and gambling regulations in America, read on. Each law has its own page that discusses the legal situation related to online poker in better detail. Before you decide to start playing at online poker rooms accepting USA players, it is important to understand the laws of the country as they relate to online gambling and US-facing poker sites.

Is It Legal To Play Online Poker In The U.S.?

In most of the United States, it is completely legal to play online poker. That's because no federal law exists that makes online poker play illegal, and in forty-one of the fifty US states, no laws against online gambling exist in the penal code. To find out if it is legal to play online poker in the state you're from, contact a legal professional familiar with your state's gambling regulations.

Will I Go To Jail For Playing Online Poker?

Even if you live in one of the nine US states with laws against online gambling, it is very unlikely that you'll go to jail for playing online poker. There is no legal precedent; no one has ever gone to jail for playing online poker in American history. Still, you should check with a lawyer or other legal professional to make sure your online poker play is safe and within the boundaries of both state and federal laws.

Where Can I Legally Play Poker Online?

The two sites you see below accept American players almost without regard to the specific interpretations of the above US gambling laws. The one exception is that Bovada doesn't allow customers from a few states to play for real money. You can trust these two sites with your poker deposits because they are designed to work with US gambling laws and not against them.

- Takes Players From 47 States - No New York, Maryland, Washington

Bovada Poker Room - New Depositors Get 100% To $1K Welcome Bonus

Built for USA players, Bovada poker is generally wide open to bets from Americans. Citizens of a few states aren't allowed at Bovada, so contact their friendly customer service staff to make sure you're allowed to play poker at their site. Bovada Poker has a full lineup of deposit bonuses, reload bonuses, and other promotions that make playing at their site potentially more profitable and a lot more fun. Built with the US poker player in mind, our writers trust Bovada Poker with their own money, playing in ring games and tournaments at Bovada on a daily basis.

- 25% Poker Bonus On The First Deposit Players Make

BetOnline Poker Room - 25% Bonuses Up To $900 + Reload Bonuses

BetOnline, unlike Bovada, accepts any and all American customers' bets. BetOnline has a few methods for payouts and withdrawals open to American gamblers, though the site isn't focused specifically on the American poker market. Thanks to BetOnline's worldwide presence, and the casino gaming and sports betting options available, poker play at BetOnline is often soft, thanks to spillover action from blackjack players and sports bettors. We trust BetOnline with our own money; the site works with American law to make sure that US player accounts are legal and safe.

Wire Act of 1961

The Federal Wire Act of 1961 was an attempt by the US government to impact the influence of organized crime on professional sports. This law makes it illegal to wager on sports "by wire," which is often interpreted as being language loose enough to prosecute online bettors using broadband, dialup, or any other kind of Internet connection.

Online poker players need not fear the '61 Wire Act - it applies to sports bettors only, and in reality, the federal government is only interested in taking down illegal Internet gambling hosts. As long as you are not running an illegal poker room on US soil, you should have no fears about the Wire Act being used to put you in jail or fine you.

UIGEA of 2006

In 2006, near the end of the George W. Bush presidency, anti-terror bills were all the rage. All a lawmaker had to do to get a fifteen point jump in the opinion polls was sponsor some form of anti-terror legislation. Part of that anti-terror fervor led to the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, a measured attempt to stop all USA gambling online by limiting the ways Americans could legally send cash to gambling websites. The Safe Ports Act, which had nothing at all to do with gambling, was amended to include the UIGEA restrictions.

The most obvious effect of this law on American online poker was the departure of many online casinos and poker rooms from the US market. Those casinos and poker sites that still accept American business were forced to work around the legislation to find ways for their USA gamblers to make legal deposits. That means it is more difficult to find a legal poker room and more difficult to deposit money to your account there.

State Laws

There are fifty-one governments to deal with when it comes to American online poker law - the federal government and each of the governments of the fifty states. State laws vary around the country, with a handful of states including language in their law books that outright bans all online gambling. Other states have realized the potential tax income from regulating online poker play and are moving to make it expressly legal.

States that Ban Online Poker

Here is the list of US states that ban online gambling and poker in all forms, as of this writing:

Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin

That may seem like a lot of state laws to work around, but think of it this way - there are forty-one US states without laws that state that Internet poker is illegal. And the truth is, poker sites exist that accept American customers, even those from parts of these states. Shop around when hunting for an Internet poker site, even if you live in Oregon or Louisiana. You can probably find a poker room to take your bets and you're not going to have to worry about anyone coming and bothering you if you do it in discreetly.

Online Poker Law FAQ

1. What will happen if my player account is frozen?

The worst-case scenario for an American online poker player is the freezing of his or her player account due to legal action against the poker room. There's good news: even if your player account is frozen, in all likelihood you'll get your money back. It just may take a little time for the legal paperwork to move through the system.

2. How can I be sure that my chosen poker room is safe for US players?

If the site accepts US customers, displays proper licensing and regulation info, and has a history of good customer service, you can bet that your poker home is safe for American bets.

3. What is the future of American online poker law?

Many states are using the DoJ's recent clarification of the Wire Act to enact their own legislation allowing for the in-state regulation and taxation of online poker rooms and other casino games. It's likely that within the next couple of years, most states will have some means of providing online poker and other games of chance and skill to their citizens.

4. What impact did the Department of Justice December 2011 interpretation of the Wire Act have?

When the DoJ clarified the Wire Act in December of 2011, it was widely interpreted to mean that games of chance and games of skill, like poker, are not covered under the law. Further, the government all but came out and said it was not interested in building a case against individual bettors.

5. Has an Internet poker player ever been arrested under the '61 Wire Act?

No USA web-based poker player has ever been charged with any crime under the provisions of the Wire Act. That means you are safe from federal prosecution under this old law while you play Internet poker games.

6. How can I be sure my online poker play is legal?

Contact a lawyer or legal professional familiar with your state's laws in regards to online poker. Though no one has ever been arrested or fined for such behavior, some states have laws expressly forbidding Internet betting of all kinds.

7. Does the UIGEA make it impossible to deposit to Internet poker accounts?

No - Americans can still make deposits to online poker room cashier accounts. They just have to be a little more creative. eWallets and other third-party funds transfer services exist that allow American poker players to deposit to their favorite US-facing rooms.

8. Has the UIGEA ever been used to prosecute an online poker player?

No - the UIGEA has been used as part of the federal government's case against illegal poker providers and hosts. No American has ever been arrested or fined for playing online poker.

9. Will the UIGEA be federal law forever?

It is unlikely that the UIGEA will still be standing in the next ten years, as state laws are written to allow for in-state regulation and taxation of Internet gaming sites.

Bovada Is Legal For All U.S. Players