Legal US Online Poker Guide
Most American poker players want to be able to enjoy a friendly online poker game from the comfort of their own home without having to worry about any legal ramifications for doing so. The legalities surrounding online poker for United States residents is nothing short of confusing. And the fact that the legal landscape continues to change all the time doesn't make it any easier for players to make heads or tails out of the current laws that affect the gambling climate.
The good news is this is the exact reason why we've created Legal Betting Online. We understand the challenges players face and have worked very hard to come up with an easy-to-follow and useful guide that can help players understand the current situation for legal online poker in the US.
While we are not lawyers and strongly recommend each player to seek out the advice of a professional attorney for specific questions regarding gambling laws, we can offer some insight as to what is currently going on with legal online poker in America and how it affects USA players.
To sum it up, there are no gambling laws on the books that make playing online poker for real money illegal in the United States. The only exception to this is Washington state, which explicitly makes online gambling of any kind unlawful (albeit WA gambling laws seem totally unenforced and unenforceable).
Current Legal Status Of Playing Online Poker In The United States
The current legal status for playing real money online poker in the United States continues to evolve every year. So far, Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, and Pennsylvania have launched state-regulated online poker gambling options to their residents and visitors. And we expect more states to come on board in the coming years (including Michigan and Connecticut, both of which have online poker pending launch). The only problem is that you need to be physically present in these states in order to play at any of their state-regulated poker sites.
So what about all the other states who haven't yet legalized online poker? The good news is that if you live in a region where state-run poker has not been legalized, (which includes the vast majority of Americans), you still have viable options by playing at a legitimate online poker room that is operating legally offshore. There are no federal gambling laws prohibiting Americans from playing poker online through a legitimate poker site based outside of the United States.
Best Online Poker Room For USA Players
#1 Rated Legal Online Poker Site For Americans
Bovada Poker has long been the gold standard for online poker players in the United States. With multiple deposit options, withdrawal methods, and bonus options it is not hard to see why they have become one of the most trusted sites among American players.
Bovada's poker room can be played online from any type of electronic device connected to the internet. The downloadable poker suite makes signing in and playing faster for frequent players but you are not limited to the downloadable application. One account will also give you access to Bovada's online casino, sportsbook, and racebook.
Most All USA players accepted
Legitimately owned and operated in an int'l gambling jurisdiction (Costa Rica)
Best mobile-friendly online poker room for US players
Generous 100% bonus for up to $500 in free chips
Only US and Mexico players accepted
Excluded States: DE, MD, NJ, NV, NY
Top Legal USA Online Poker Rooms
We have listed the most reputable online poker rooms which support US players and international gamblers on this page, and only those sites operating legally within their respective jurisdictions are included here. The following online poker sites are each authorized to offer legitimate online real-money poker and offer other legal online gambling options such as online casino games, sports betting, horse racing and more.
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Where Can I Legally Play Online Poker In The US?
As for state-licensed online poker, legal options are available in the following states:
- New Jersey
- West Virginia (pending launch)
- Michigan (pending launch)
- Connecticut (pending launch)
However, you have to be physically present within one of those states to participate. Legal offshore poker rooms (such as the ones you see on this page) are available to players in any US state. Keep in mind that Washington state does have laws in place to curtail online gambling, though it has yet to enforce these laws in any way.
How Do I Know If Playing Poker Is Legal In My State?
Poker gambling laws vary from state to state. Some states offer state-regulated online and/or offline poker. Multiple other gambling states offer licensed and regulated brick-and-mortar poker rooms but have not established a state-based online poker platform yet.
Currently, several states are having discussions about the legalization of online poker on a state level. It is up to you to verify whether or not the state in which you live regulates any type of poker gambling opportunities.
If you don't have access to state-regulated poker games, no worries – You can legally access one of the reputable offshore poker sites that accept US players recommended on this page. The only state that make it "iffy" to engage in offshore poker gambling is Washington, which prohibits all forms of online gambling regardless of the specific market.
Are There Any US Federal Laws That I Need To Worry About When Seeking Internet Poker Gambling Opportunities?
It is always best to be aware of any federal statutes that govern poker gambling in the US. One example would be the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act). This law regulates how online gambling transactions can be processed. It caused a few problems initially, but the dust has now settled, and most reputable online poker rooms have learned to work within the confines of this law while still providing real-money online poker to US players.
The UIGEA does not prohibit US poker players from enjoying legally authorized online poker that is based outside of the United States. The law is directed at payment processors and does not affect players directly.
The Federal Wire Act prohibits state-regulated gambling businesses from accepting bets across state lines and does not prohibit players from playing real-money poker games at online poker sites operating offshore.
Those are the primary federal gambling laws in the USA. The RAWA (Restoration of America’s Wire Act) may attempt to expand the reach of the Federal Wire Act to include casino and poker gambling in the future, but for now, only sports betting is specifically prohibited by that law.
Common Misconception About The UIGEA Law And How It Affects Playing Online Poker In The US
Despite popular belief, this law does not make it illegal for US residents to engage in online poker. In fact, it doesn't target or address players at all. This law is designed to provide regulatory oversight regarding how online gambling transactions can be processed and is directed only to gambling site operators and payment processors.
While the UIGEA did cause quite a stir initially upon enactment, it did end up resulting in a safer and more legitimate online banking environment for the online gambling industry. The UIGEA also prompted the best online gambling sites to start supporting cryptocurrencies. Ultimately, you do not have to worry about violating this law unless you are the owner of an online gambling business or you are a gambling-related payment processor.
We do encourage extreme due diligence in selecting your preferred payment and withdrawal methods when gambling online. The online poker site you choose should also employ the highest-quality security profile in line with the most stringent industry standards.
When Will Online Poker Be Legal On The Federal Level In The US?
Several different states are currently exploring the possibility of legalizing online poker for their residents, but it's impossible to say how quickly or slowly additional regions in the US are going to allow state-licensed online poker. However, in the meantime, the sites listed on this page are US-friendly and legally sanctioned to provide their services to American poker players.
How Do I Know If A Poker Site Is Legitimate And Reputable?
That’s where we come in. We have carefully reviewed and vetted each poker site you see listed on this page, which includes verifying that they are legitimately operating within the industry and subject to genuine oversight by a respected governing jurisdiction. We can assure you that any site you see featured on this page is indeed legally sanctioned.
We cannot say the same for sites not listed on this page, however. While we wish all gambling websites were completely transparent, gaining access to vendors' certification compliance information can sometimes be tricky. The key to keeping your poker activities lawful is to restrict your participation to only those destinations that are guaranteed to be operating legally within the industry. All of the brands we recommend fall into this category.
What Types Of Games Will I Find At These Online Poker Rooms?
The sites recommended in this guide all offer a nice menu of games to choose from. While the specific lineup varies by site, you will find games such as Texas Hold 'Em, Omaha, and Omaha Hi-Lo at every reputable poker site. Some also offer specialty games such as Razz, HORSE, Caribbean poker, and more, though these are video poker games and are found in the sites' "Casino" sections.
In addition, online poker tournaments are offered around the clock, and cash multi-table and multi-hand options are available, too. Regardless of how you play, you can get through a hand of poker much faster online than you can in a brick-and-mortar environment.
How Do Poker Bonuses Work?
In most cases, your online poker bonus money is earned based on your deposit and is then incrementally released as you play poker hands. The more you play, the more free bonus money is released into your account. Online poker sites handle bonus offers this way to keep players engaged and playing frequently.
Mobile Poker Apps
Mobile poker apps are becoming the new norm for online poker players looking to lay down some cash on their game skills. Online poker has several perks over domestic poker tables, and when you add the convenience and multi-tabling options offered by online poker sites, there's no question who has the advantage – you!
Mobile poker options often include downloadable web apps that make it easier for players to sign in and get to the tables. Online players can choose between several different poker games, as well as associated wagering minimums and event durations.