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Poker Laws USA: A Comprehensive Overview of US Poker Legislation

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One of the things that define America is poker’s popularity, which Americans consider the number one card game in the world. If you think about it, most major tournaments and cash games occur in the States, and most world-leading poker players, such as Phil Hellmuth and Phil Ivey, are Americans. 

However, poker laws in the USA have been evolving, especially the laws related to online poker, which has been very popular in the last two decades. This guide will cover how online poker is regulated on the federal level and what individual states have to say about that. Read on.

United States of America: Poker Laws

History of Online Poker Laws in the US

To explain the current state of affairs regarding online poker in the US, we need to examine the history of poker legislation in the country.

Early Attempts of Poker Legalization

The first attempt to make online poker legal happened in 2005 in North Dakota, when the House of Representatives passed a bill to legalize the popular card game and regulate online poker card rooms. The bill required all online poker operations to reside within the borders of North Dakota, and some offshore operators pledged to move their businesses to the state in the case of poker legalization. One of them was Nigel Payne, CEO of Sportingbet and Paradise Poker owner.

This was short-lived, as the State Senate defeated the measure only a month after passing the bill. US DoJ even warned the ND attorney general Wayne Stenehjem that online gambling is illegal and that the legislators will violate the infamous federal Wire Act, which banned online gambling activities in the US. Because of this, many online poker sites actually changed their business models, marketing themselves as poker schools and not gambling websites.

UIGEA Act of 2006 and Its Consequences

In 2006, President George Bush signed the SAFE Port Act into law, one part of it being the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, also known among online gamblers as the UIGEA. In short, it prohibited internet gambling, making it illegal on the federal level. To be more precise, it made placing bets or wagers on the internet unlawful under any law.

At that moment, several huge poker sites were active, including partyPoker, bwin and PacificPoker, and all had to close down their operations, focusing on the US market. In a way, UIGEA completely obliterated the stock value of these companies. Still, some poker platforms, including PokerStars, Absolute Poker and Full Tilt Poker, paid no mind to the UIGEA and continued operating in the country.

However, it turns out that the three online poker sites were the primary target of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which shut down all of them temporarily and seized some of their bank accounts. This all happened during the so-called Black Friday, which left many online poker players with funds locked as a consequence. A total of 11 defendants were charged, including some founders, and their charges were the violation of gambling laws, money laundering, and bank fraud. Of course, some politicians were against such treatment of online poker platforms, claiming that online poker isn’t gambling.

Federal Approval of Online Poker

A year after Black Friday, a federal judge ruled that poker isn’t considered gambling under federal law. This decision came after a man was convicted for leading an underground poker club. The judge decided based on the careful analyses provided by defense experts, who explained how internet poker games work in detail. The federal judge simply decided that poker is a game of skill rather than a game of chance, completely reshaping the public opinion about the popular game and its presence on the web.

States Start to Regulate Online Poker

Nevada was the first state to officially allow its residents who are 21 or older to access online poker gaming options. The main requirement was that they had to be located within the borders of the Silver State. A couple of months later, Delaware launched an online gambling market, and a couple of other states followed this example.

Legislation of Poker by State

Now that you know the history of poker legislation in the US, it’s time to provide a short overview of online poker legislation for all 50 states.


AlabamaThere aren’t any legal statements about online poker in Alabama, meaning it’s not legalized and regulated. However, Alabama residents are still free to explore online poker options, as there are no laws against it in the state.


AlaskaIn Alaska, online poker is still considered a game of chance rather than a game of skill. This means you can legally host poker as a social, in-home game but not as an online poker game. However, playing it is not defined as a crime, meaning Alaskans are still free to consider offshore options. 


ArizonaArizona has yet to legalize online poker but has no restrictions for players who want to engage in online poker activities. Therefore, you are free to seek online poker options in offshore online poker rooms.


ArkansasThings aren’t clear when it comes to online poker in Arkansas. Even though there aren’t any official restrictions against partaking in online poker, the law of this state has an inclusive definition of gambling which could theoretically affect unlucky individuals. Still, nobody has been prosecuted so far for playing poker games online in offshore casinos.


CaliforniaCalifornia is famous for its numerous brick-and-mortar card rooms, which found a way around the current gambling bans. It follows that online poker is not really legal in California, but players aren’t likely to be prosecuted for participating in poker games on offshore poker sites.


ColoradoEven though online sports betting debuted in 2020 in Colorado, there are no signs of the possible legalization of online poker and casinos. Still, Colorado has had favorable views on gambling in the recent past and will likely introduce online poker soon. For now, Colorado residents are free to join offshore sites, as there are no laws against it.


ConnecticutConnecticut is one of the few states to have fully regulated and legalized online poker after Gov. Ned Lamont signed the bill HB 6451 into law on May 27, 2021. When writing this, Connecticut is the seventh state to regulate online poker. Its market is still tiny but will likely grow in the future.


DelawareDelaware was one of the first states to legalize and regulate online poker, along with Nevada and New Jersey. Right now, the online poker market is quite rich, with all major online poker platforms offering their services to anyone within the borders of the First State.


FloridaDelaware was one of the first states to legalize and regulate online poker, along with Nevada and New Jersey. Right now, the online poker market is quite rich, with all major online poker platforms offering their services to anyone within the borders of the First State.


GeorgiaAt the moment, Georgia is completely closed to the idea of online gambling, meaning there aren’t any options for online poker players looking for state-regulated platforms. Unfortunately, Georgia has been one of the most hostile states towards gambling, meaning you need to leave the state to play legally. Of course, there are no official sanctions against playing in offshore states, but you still might want to check with a lawyer if you intend to play poker.


HawaiiNext to Utah, Hawaii is the only state that prohibits all gambling operations in the state. It means no online or land-based gambling options of any kind can operate, including online poker. That said, Hawaii has no laws prohibiting poker players from engaging in online poker games on offshore sites.


IdahoEven though Idaho features land-based casinos, you won’t find any poker options in them, as poker is illegal in the state. This also means there aren’t any state-licensed online poker platforms either. Just like in many other states, you’re still free to engage in offshore poker games without being prosecuted.


IllinoisIllinois has legal brick-and-mortar casinos, many of which feature poker rooms. However, when it comes to online poker, no legislation exists at the moment that allows it, meaning this type of gambling is still not available in IL. Luckily, Illinois has had a favorable view on gambling in the past, meaning online poker might become legal shortly. For now, offshore poker sites are the only option.


IndianaOnly operators handle the issue of online gambling in Indiana, but they are not allowed to run any type of online casino, poker room, or sportsbook in this state. However, no laws forbid players from playing on offshore sites.


IowaSome forms of online gambling, such as online sports betting, are legal in Iowa, but online poker isn’t. Of course, the residents can join offshore online poker sites, as no laws prohibit them from doing so. There’s a slight chance that Iowa will continue on the path of online gambling legalization and allow online poker in the future.


KansasOnline poker isn’t legal and regulated in Kansas. Kansas has not yet delved into the uncharted waters of regulating online gambling, like many states nationwide. Kansas residents will not likely play poker on Kansas-regulated online poker sites anytime soon, despite the state government’s ability to change that quickly if pressure is strong enough. Offshore and international poker sites are still an option, though.


KentuckyKentucky hasn’t taken any action regarding the legalization and regulation of online poker.

The only legal type of online gambling in the state right now is wagering on horse races. Since no laws exist regarding online poker, players can consider joining offshore poker sites.


LouisianaLike many other states, Louisiana prohibits any kind of online gambling, but this only concerns those who want to operate online gambling platforms.

Players aren’t mentioned anywhere, meaning they will not commit a crime if they decide to join an offshore online poker site, which is also the case in many other states.


MaineMaine does not regulate any gambling options at the moment. Those interested in online poker can join offshore poker platforms and play cash games and tournaments for real money.

There’s little to no information on what the Maine officials have in mind regarding the future of online poker legislation.


MarylandOnline poker platforms (or any kind of online gambling) are not legalized or regulated in Maryland, meaning there are no state-licensed options for online poker players. They are still free to explore other options on offshore platforms.


MassachusettsLive and charity poker are legal, but their online counterpart isn’t. MA doesn’t want to regulate online poker, even though there have been numerous attempts, as there’s a huge poker market in Massachusetts. However, there aren’t any indications of whether such a thing will happen in the future. Playing on offshore sites is not illegal.


MichiganAfter the Lawful Internet Gaming Act was passed in MI in 2019, it became one of the seven states to have legalized online casinos and online poker. The MI market was officially launched in 2021, and PokerStars was the first platform to start offering its services to Michigan players. In short, online poker is fully legal and regulated in the Great Lake State.


MinnesotaOnline poker is not legalized in Minnesota, as it’s one of the states that haven’t addressed the legal aspect of the popular card game. Therefore, it’s safe to say that running online poker operations in the state is prohibited, but players are still free to explore offshore options.


MississippiMississippi’s relation to gambling can be described as love-hate. Even though gambling is mostly illegal, there are more than two dozen land-based casinos with granted exceptions. Online gambling is illegal, and legislators have little appetite to make a move and change something. Still, offshore poker sites are an option, similar to most other states.


MissouriMissouri hasn’t introduced any laws or prohibitions regarding online poker. Therefore, it’s one of the states where poker on the web is in the gray legal area, and players can access international poker platforms if they want to play the popular card game online.


MontanaMontana hasn’t licensed or regulated any online poker operations, including online poker. Like Missouri, and many other states, the only online poker option to consider at the moment is joining offshore casinos.


NebraskaThe only current online form legal in Nebraska is a daily fantasy, with some progress made for online sportsbooks. However, there are no indications that the state will legalize online casinos or online poker anytime soon. So, we have to put it in the same basket as most states — no legal state-licensed poker options exist on the web. The only option is playing poker on offshore platforms.


NevadaNevada was the first state to legalize online poker after it was recognized as a game of chance on the federal level. Nevada remains the largest online poker hub, as the largest live and online poker cash games and tournaments take place in the Silver State. After all, Nevada is home to hundreds of land-based casinos, carrying the title of the leading gambling state in the US.

New Hampshire

New HampshireNo legal framework exists that would approve online poker in New Hampshire, even though the state has established the online gambling industry with online sports betting, DFS, and online lottery. Still, New Hampshire residents are free to explore offshore online poker platforms and join them to play online poker cash games and tournaments.

New Jersey

New JerseyNext to Nevada, New Jersey is considered the second largest gambling state, and it was the first to legalize online casino gambling and the second to do so with online poker. Many state-licensed platforms offer their services to online poker players, where they can find a wide range of cash games and tournaments.

New Mexico

New MexicoNew Mexico doesn’t have any laws that prohibit players from engaging in poker on offshore poker sites, meaning online poker is not regulated but not prohibited either. Online casino games and sports betting also remain illegal in New Mexico, and there isn’t much initiative to change that.

New York

New YorkDespite being where the federal judge recognized online poker as a game of chance, New York hasn’t legalized online poker. The only way to legally play poker in the state is in land-based casinos, which have great poker rooms. Of course, the alternative is to join offshore poker sites. NY is a vibrant place with new bills passed all the time, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see online poker regulated in the near future.

North Carolina

North CarolinaNorth Carolina only has laws prohibiting all forms of online gambling, meaning you won’t find any state-licensed online poker rooms, online casinos, or even online sports betting options. Running illegal poker games could be considered a Class 2 misdemeanor, but no offshore players have been prosecuted so far.

North Dakota

North DakotaNorth Dakota was the first state to attempt to legalize online poker in 2005. In fact, there were several such attempts, but none of them was approved. In the end, North Dakota remained a state without legal poker, but residents could join offshore online poker sites.


OhioOnline poker isn’t regulated or legalized in Ohio at the moment. However, the Ohio Casino Control Commission announced that Buckeye State will start its online gambling market starting January 1, 2023. In other words, it seems that Ohio is just a few steps away from legalizing online poker operations. Until then, offshore platforms are the next best thing.


OklahomaEven though Oklahoma is home to an increasing number of land-based casinos, there are still no options for online gambling or, more specifically, online poker. Therefore, the only way to play online poker cash games and tournaments is via offshore poker rooms.


OregonOregon does not have any laws that allow online poker, meaning playing the card game on the web remains largely unregulated in the state. Just like in many other states, you are free to explore available international online poker options, as there are no prohibitions for players joining them.


PennsylvaniaPA legislators expanded the state’s gambling market to online casinos and online poker in 2017, with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board being the official regulatory body for all online gaming platforms, including poker rooms. Therefore, you can legally enjoy online poker in Pennsylvania licensed online poker rooms.

Rhode Island

Rhode IslandThere are no legal online gambling options in Rhode Island at the moment, meaning you won’t find state-licensed poker sites. The only option is to seek offshore platforms, as no laws prohibit players from playing on them.

South Carolina

South CarolinaSouth Carolina as a state doesn’t really support any kind of gambling, land-based or online, so no legal options exist for poker players. Offshore casinos are an option as players are not legally prohibited from playing on them.

South Dakota

South DakotaNeither online poker nor internet gambling has been considered for legalization in South Dakota. Many Native American casinos throughout the state offer cash games and tournament card rooms, and offshore poker sites are also an option to take into account.


TennesseeLegal online poker is not legalized in Tennessee, meaning you cannot access any state-licensed poker platforms. The situation is similar to many other states, as players are not legally prohibited from playing online poker on offshore sites. Still, it’s not legal to run online poker operations within TN borders.


TexasThe Texas situation regarding online poker is similar to most other states. Texan legislators haven’t made any big moves regarding regulating online poker, but players aren’t exactly prohibited from accessing offshore poker platforms.


UtahUtah is famous for its very aggressive stance on gambling in general, meaning no gambling options are available in the state. This is also true for online poker platforms. Even though Utah residents can access offshore poker sites, they should do it with caution, as this can be treated as a Class B misdemeanor.


VermontThere has been little to no interest in legalizing online poker or other online gambling activities. Therefore, Vermont remains mostly unregulated regarding online poker, but the residents are free to play on offshore poker sites.


VirginiaVirginia remains closed to the idea of regulated online poker. Even though there was an attempt to change that in 2017, which aimed to recognize poker as a game of skill, it failed to pass the House. The good news was that the Senate gave it two thumbs up, meaning there are supporters of this idea. Until then, offshore online poker sites are the next best thing.


WashingtonWashington is the only state where online poker is specifically prohibited by law, and it also defines playing online poker as a felony. Therefore, offshore poker sites aren’t a possibility. The only option is to leave the state’s borders.

West Virginia

West VirginiaWest Virginia legalized online poker and casino games in March 2019 and currently has a thriving online poker industry. It all started with the West Virginia Lottery Interactive Wagering Act, which ensured players could legally access state-licensed poker platforms. Some of the best poker sites are available in WV.


WisconsinCurrently, Wisconsin‘s gambling laws do not allow any form of online poker, and it also does not allow home games. However, several poker bar leagues in Wisconsin are available to poker players, who are also free to check offshore poker sites.


WyomingThe authorities of Wyoming declared online poker illegal under the current laws, even though the laws themselves don’t explicitly ban online poker. Still, players can consider checking offshore sites, as nobody was prosecuted for playing poker on them in Wyoming.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the legislative landscape for online poker is quite colorful in the US. Currently, only seven states fully legalized poker sites, but most do not prohibit playing online poker on offshore sites. If you’re from the USA, we suggest learning more about the latest online poker legislation in your area, as laws change all the time and may have already changed compared to what we listed in this guide.

About the Author

Sadonna Price
Author Sadonna is a mom of two and an avid poker player who also enjoys online casino games. She has been part of the online gambling industry for over a decade, working as a news and blog writer. Sadonna still plays Texas hold’em in her free time while her daily job revolves around providing insights into the online gambling world using her creativity and writing skills.