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Virginia Poker Laws

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20100115152653!Virginia_new_signIn order to understand gambling law in Virginia, we must first look to how they define illegal gambling, which is as follows:

“Illegal gambling” means the making, placing or receipt of any bet or wager in the Commonwealth of money or other thing of value, made in exchange for a chance to win a prize, stake or other consideration or thing of value, dependent upon the result of any game, contest or any other event the outcome of which is uncertain or a matter of chance, whether such game, contest or event occurs or is to occur inside or outside the limits of the Commonwealth.” (1)

So this is a very encompassing definition, as all gambling involves betting on outcomes that are uncertain, including poker. They also mention that being dependent on a matter of chance, but this isn’t even needed, we may wonder what matter of chance means here but we need not wonder what the outcome being uncertain means, this is an all-inclusive definition which would make any form of gambling illegal.

They even go as far as to state that it is of no consequence where the game or event is hosted, meaning that it may be hosted in another country as online poker is, but if the betting itself occurred in Virginia, and that requirement can merely be assumed since they don’t have jurisdiction if the entire process occurred outside the state, then such betting is illegal regardless.

So with that in place, the penalty for illegal gambling is set at a Class 3 misdemeanor, other than certain forms of unauthorized horse race betting which is a Class 1 misdemeanor. (2).


Home Games And Internet Poker

There are exceptions set out though where certain types of gambling is excluded from the definition of illegal gambling, which includes getting paid variable amounts depending on your finish in sporting events, charitable bingo or raffles, playing the state lottery, authorized pari-mutuel wagering, and most notably to poker, gambling in private residences:

“Nothing in this article shall be construed to make it illegal to participate in a game of chance conducted in a private residence, provided such private residence is not commonly used for such games of chance and there is no operator as defined in subsection 4 of S. 28-2-325.” (3)

“Operator” here is defined as “any person, firm or association of persons, who conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs or owns all or part of an illegal gambling enterprise, activity or operation. (4)

So home games which aren’t being run for a profit would be legal, but w hat about playing poker on the internet in a private residence? First of all, like all forms of gambling, this is going to be included in the general definition of illegal gambling, as would home games for that matter if not for the exception provided above.

Playing online poker generally takes place in a private setting, in a private residence, so that part matches. It isn’t clear on what is meant by “commonly used,” and while it may be that playing poker online would probably involve it being more commonly used for gambling than the occasional social game, the intention here is probably to not exclude residences which are themselves used as gambling venues by operators.

However, the last part would indeed seem to exclude online poker, as there clearly is an operator involved as set out in the definition, and that would be the online poker operator, and remember that it doesn’t matter that the location of the game may be seen as outside the state, as it would be in this case.

So when we take all of this into account, it would at least not seem to be legal to play online poker in Virginia, although it is true that this is less cut and dry as it is in other states, where we can usually say that it is or isn’t with a pretty high degree of certainty. It appears to be illegal here but we can’t be certain since we don’t know if the courts will interpret the spirit of this exception as intending not to prosecute private individuals gambling in their own home and therefore finding that this is close enough to the exception stated to permit it.


Playing Poker In Virginia

Aside from home games, there is nowhere else in Virginia that you can play poker legally, as they have no card games or casinos, not even tribal casinos or offshore cruise ships sailing from their ports that you can gamble on.

So people in Virginia who wish to gamble at gambling establishments either have to travel to a casino or card room located in another state, or gamble online. Whether or not it is illegal to play online poker in Virginia, no one seems to care and no one is being charged with any crimes for doing so, and as is always the case, due to the nature of this gambling occurring purely in private, it would be extraordinarily difficult to prosecute, which is the main reason why this has never happened in the entire country, even in states where it is explicitly illegal beyond question.

Online Poker for Virginia Citizens

So people in Virginia continue to play online poker in spite of the fact that most online poker sites have chosen to no longer accept Americans. There are still a few that do, and a few that still accept players from Virginia as well. So here’s our top recommendations for online poker in Virginia:

Ignition Poker and CasinoIgnition Poker heads our list of Virginia-friendly online poker rooms, and have been a long time favorite of Americans in general. This is mainly because the site is formerly Bovada Poker, whose software was acquired and re-branded by Ignition Poker. There are several states that Ignition Poker has chosen to no longer serve, and they are probably the most conservative of the online poker sites out there still offering play to U.S. residents, but they have no problem at all with Virginia residents.

Ignition Poker and Casino offers new players a FREE $5 casino chip and a 100% bonus up to $1,000 should you decide to play for real money. I love that they still have anonymous poker tables, Zone Poker and the best cash games in the industry today despite being relatively new to the industry. Get your account today!

Our “honorable mention” goes to America’s Cardroom is another excellent choice for people from Virginia looking to get back into online poker or to check it out for the first time. Both of these online poker rooms are of high quality and both offer generous welcome bonuses to first time depositors.



(1) Code of Virginia, 18-2-325, Definitions

(2) Code of Virginia, 18-2-326, Penalty for illegal gambling

(3) Code of Virginia, 18-2-334, Exception to article: private residences

(4) Code of Virginia, 18-2-325, Definitions


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.