““Gambling” means risking any money, credit, deposit, or any other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance or the operation of a gambling device, including the playing of a casino gambling game such as blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, or a slot machine, but does not include:
Legal contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance in which awards are made only to entrants or owners of entries; legal business transactions which are valid under the law of contracts; activity legal under the provisions of sections 7-169 to 7-186, inclusive; any lottery or contest conducted by or under the authority of any state of the United States, Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, or any possession or territory of the United States, and other acts or transactions expressly authorized by law on or after October 1, 1973.” (1)
So you will notice that it not only includes risking money on games of chance where chance plays a role in whole or in part, and poker does rely on chance in part anyway, it also specifically mentions poker as being included in the definition, so that makes it absolutely clear that playing poker for money or anything of value constitutes gambling.
So what does the law in Connecticut say about gambling?
“Any person who engages in gambling, or solicits or induces another to engage in gambling, or is present when another person or persons are engaged in gambling, shall be guilty of a class B misdemeanor; provided natural persons shall be exempt from prosecution and punishment under this subsection for any game, wager, or transaction which is incidental to a bona fide social relationship, is participated in by natural persons only in which no person is participating, directly or indirectly, in professional gambling.” (2)
How This Applies To Playing Poker In Connecticut
So from this we do know that playing poker for money constitutes gambling and is in violation of Connecticut law, and merely being present when such gambling is included, even though you aren’t involved in the gambling yourself.
The provision surrounding being exempt for gambling that is “incidental to a bona fide social relationship” is intended to not have this section apply to social gambling, which in spite of the vagueness of this provision, is an interpretation which is reinforced by commentary by state officials. (3)
Bona fide social relationships when it comes to gambling is generally understood to be relationships which exist apart from the actual gambling, which would generally be the case with private games, although not private games which are open to the public at large, in spite of their being held in a private setting.
There is also one more section of note included in the law, which addresses the transmission and receiving of gambling information:
“Any person who knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore or other means, or knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of gambling information, shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.” (4)
Often these provisions limit the means of transmission or receipt to technologies that existed prior to the internet, but this provision does include “any other means,” which would include the use of the internet as well, or any other future technologies, so this in itself would make gambling by way of the internet illegal, or perhaps even visiting an online gambling site even though you didn’t participate, as this may involve receiving gambling information.
In any case, there does not seem to be any reason to believe that gambling online would not constitute gambling, as it is playing poker for money which is included in the definition of gambling, and it is done with players which online gamblers would not tend to have a bona fide social relationship with. Even so, the law against receiving gambling information electronically would be violated by internet gambling, on top of it falling within the purview of illegal gambling in general, so two separate laws would be broken here.
Playing Poker In Connecticut
So social poker playing for money is permitted, online poker playing for money is prohibited, and playing poker for money in non social settings is prohibited unless the play occurs at one of the two tribal casinos regulated by the state.
These tribal casinos include the Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket (147 tables) and the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville (42 tables). (5) They are both very large venues, and the Foxwoods contains the second largest poker room in the world, in addition to being the largest casino in the world with over 300,000 square feet of gaming space.
So there’s lots of poker action within an easy drive for Connecticut residents. However many people from Connecticut prefer not to travel at all to play poker, and take advantage of the opportunities for online play at the various sites that accept Connecticut residents.
As in the case of many other states, there does not appear a will for Connecticut to go after online poker in any way and therefore players from this state feel pretty comfortable doing so in spite of what the law may say. When something isn’t being prosecuted it is for all practical purposes tolerated under the law and this is the case here.
Online poker is in fact illegal in most states in the United States but no one has ever been prosecuted for merely playing online poker, so this is the main reason why players tend to disregard such laws. They may also feel that such laws are an affront to their personal liberties, especially when the play occurs in the privacy of their own homes, as internet poker does.
Should you live in Connecticut and wish to play online poker, which is your decision, we do have a couple of recommendations for you – mainly Ignition Poker. It is basically a born-again version of Bovada, whose software they acquired in 2016 and re-branded it as Ignition. You can read our updated review on Ignition Poker here.
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