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Oregon isn’t your average state by any means where poker laws are concerned. Some states have pretty clear cut laws against poker, but Oregon isn’t one of them.
Some aspects are pretty straightforward though, such as the definition of gambling in Oregon, although this does have a few twists as well:
““Gambling” means that a person stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under the control or influence of the person, upon an agreement or understanding that the person or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.
Gambling does not include:
“(a) Bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts for the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or commodities, and agreements to compensate for loss caused by the happening of chance, including but not limited to contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance.
(b) Engaging in contests of chance under the following conditions:
(A) The contest is played for some token other than money
(B) An individual contestant may not purchase more than $100 worth of tokens for use in the contest during any 24-hour period;
(C) The tokens may be exchanged only for property other than money;
(D) Except when the tokens are exchanged for a beverage or merchandise to be consumed on the premises, the tokens are not redeemable on the premises where the contest is conducted or within 50 miles thereof; and
(E) Except for charitable, fraternal or religious organizations, no person who conducts the contest as owner, agent or employee profits in any manner from operation of the contest.
(c) Social games
(d) Bingo, lotto or raffle games or Monte Carlo events operated in compliance with ORS 167.118, by a charitable, fraternal or religious organization licensed pursuant to ORS 167.118, 464.250 to 464.380 and 464.420 to 464.530 to operate such games.” (1)
So can play poker for drinks, or for merchandise not located within 50 miles of the place where the poker playing is occurring, providing that the person conducting the game does not profit. Social games are also permitted, and this is by far the most interesting twist to this law, as you will see:
Social Poker Takes On A Life Of Its Own in Oregon
Let’s look at how social games, as an exemption to state gambling laws, is defined:
“(21) “social game” means
(a) A game, other than a lottery, between players in a private home where no house player, house bank or house odds exist and there is no house income from the operation of the social game; and
(b) If authorized pursuant to ORS 167.121, a game, other than a lottery, between players in a private business, private club or place of public accommodation where no house player, house bank or house odds exist and there is no house income from the operation of the social game.” (2)
Some other states allow social games, but the big difference here is part (b), which allows these games to occur in places of business, explicitly.
So as you might imagine, the stipulation of whether or not the business makes income from these games can be interpreted pretty narrowly, and that’s exactly what has happened in Oregon.
By the way, ORS 167.121 authorizes counties and cities in Oregon to authorize and regulate these social games, and this actually provides the basis for the legalization of poker rooms in Oregon, under the auspices of their allowing social games. (3) These social games are not just ad hoc meetings of patrons though, they are highly organized of course, and the poker rooms simply get around the law by not charging for the poker playing itself, although they do make money of course through other means, like cover charges and the sale of food and beverages.
Other than that, poker playing is illegal in Oregon, since illegal gambling here means not specifically authorized by law, and beyond permitting poker being played as a social game, and at card rooms at Indian casinos, that is the extent of it being permitted.
This requires poker to be defined as a game of chance though, although they do define game of chance the same way several other states do, to put to rest any doubts as to whether poker is included in gambling, as it makes clear that games of chance depend on a material element of chance regardless of whether there is also an element of skill involved. (3)
Playing Poker In Oregon
Oregon has a total of 20 live card rooms, with some located in tribal casinos and a fair number or non tribal card rooms as well, operating as establishments where social gaming is permitted. (4) Other than the fact that there is no rake or time charges, these so called social card rooms operate just like any other card room. At the Indian Casinos, they of course offer more standard fare as far as their poker format goes, as well as other games of chance.
You can also play in private games that the players aren’t charged for their play, which is typical of home games anyway.
While online poker is not mentioned specifically in Oregon law, other than it being illegal to operate an online poker room in the state, the fact that it is gambling and not authorized by law means that it is illegal gambling. However no one is being charged for playing poker online, and this is quite unlikely to change, as it would be very difficult to enforce.
Even to the north in Washington State, which has the toughest online poker laws around, where it is a felony to play online poker for money, no one is being charged there either, and laws against online poker, where they exist, exist really on paper only.
Also, unlike some states where online poker rooms stay away from, no online poker site that welcomes Americans in general has any qualms about players from Oregon. So you can play wherever you like. Our favorite would probably be Ignition Poker, which offers anonymous tables, fishy cash tables, HUGE guaranteed tournament schedules and crazy huge bonuses when you play for real money.
The Best Poker Site for Oregon Residents? Ignition Poker.