Online poker is not legal in the United States. However, the game is played in many different countries across the globe and many players participate in tournaments that take place online as well as at land-based casinos and events. Players who wish to play poker online are required to provide identification information and agree to abide by the rules of their chosen site. This information is used to verify the player’s age and to prevent underage gambling.
The first online poker rooms started out as small, privately run operations. The industry grew rapidly in the years that followed, and it was not long before the big brands began to emerge. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which made it illegal for payment processing companies to support the financial transactions that powered online gambling. This drove many of the biggest operators from the market, although a number of smaller sites continued to operate in spite of UIGEA.
In the wake of Black Friday, many lawmakers saw an opportunity to fill the void and legalize online poker in their respective states. Nevada became the first state to permit poker, followed by New Jersey and Michigan. The latter two joined the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association in 2021, which opens up a large pool of potential customers for regulated sites. The addition of Pennsylvania next year will further expand the population base and make the market even more attractive.
Rhode Island became the latest state to pass legislation to legalize online poker, with Governor Daniel McKee signing bills this month that will allow for igaming at Twin River Lincoln and Tiverton Casino Resorts. The new laws give control of igaming to Bally’s Corporation, the owner of both casinos, and will go into effect March 1, 2024.
Ohio remains one of the only states to ban all forms of online gambling. The only legal way to play poker in the state is through tribal-run and operated casinos and nonprofit “charitable gaming” facilities. Despite this, there was some movement in 2021 to legalize online poker in the state, but these efforts were ultimately unsuccessful.
California is a state with a huge population and plenty of poker players. Yet, despite the fact that lawmakers regularly introduce bills to allow for intrastate online poker, they have been unable to secure enough support to move them forward.
Pennsylvania is another state that has not yet gotten around to legalizing online poker, but there is hope for the future as Gov. Joe Shapiro has promised to consider the issue once he takes office this January. A recent reversal by the Department of Justice on the Wire Act may be a sign that it is time for the state to join the ranks of those that offer regulated online poker. In the meantime, residents of the state can still enjoy the game at some of the many offshore sites that accept players from all over the country.