Nov 11, 2021
Casino Blog

What Are the Online Poker Regulations Throughout the US?

Without a doubt, poker is the most established card game on the planet. Though its origins are muddy, history tells us that it rose to prominence during the 19th century in the US and slowly became a worldwide phenomenon in the 1970s after organized tournaments became a thing and the World Series of Poker came into existence.

Currently, poker is experiencing a renaissance of sorts, as its user numbers and search volume are at a five-year high. Land-based venues that offer card action may have reduced foot traffic now, but the internet sector is booming. Note that gambling operators require a different license for allowing online poker than table games like blackjack and roulette. That is so because poker gets played against other players and not the house.

Online Poker’s Rise & Fall in the US

The digital money iteration of this game sprung up in 1998 with Planet Poker. Naturally, the boom period of online poker came following amateur player Christopher Moneymaker’s 2003 WSOP main event win. From that point, poker action over the internet became a hugely popular pastime in North America, spreading like wildfire until 2011. On April 15, 2011, the US Department of Justice issued an indictment against Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars. That stemmed from the USA passing the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006, which made virtually all forms of internet betting illegal, effectively leading to the demise of poker sites in the US.

Following this event, American card enthusiasts migrated over to offshore platforms until the US government, in 2012, dismissed all complaints towards the previously mentioned companies. At that time, foreign operators began entering the US market. It is vital to note that, currently, there is no federal law that outright bans anyone from playing poker over the World Wide Web. States are free to pass laws regulating this activity as they see fit and state their own safety and responsible gambling policies. Since this game also requires skill, not only chance, stances concerning its legalization differ dramatically from those surrounding casino-style gambling. The irony here is that even though most people agree that, logically, laws should be laxer towards poker than casino games, the opposite is true in reality. 

States That Allow Online Poker in the US

In the US, North Dakota was the first state to pass a bill to regulate online poker rooms in 2005. However, that measure got defeated in March 2005 by the State Senate after the DOJ notified them that this law could contradict the federal Wire Act of 1961.  Following the DOJ seizing the domains of the most massive online poker entities in the country in 2011, a New York federal judge ruled that playing poker does not constitute gambling under federal law. His decision got guided by experts' advice that convinced him that skill is the main factor in poker results.

In 2013, Nevada became the first state to allow online poker. Delaware followed suit a few months later. New Jersey was the next state to allow Texas Hold ‘Em and Omaha over the internet available for its residents. In the past two years, Pennsylvania and then Michigan joined this group.

Online Poker’s Nationwide Legislative Potential

Poker’s online roll-out in other US states will undoubtedly be slow. West Virginia recently legalized online casinos and poker. Expectations are that they push this dream to fruition sometime during 2022. However, the thing that can kick start a card gambling revolution in the US is the repeal of the outdated federal Wire Act. Unfortunately, the prognosis is not favorable regarding that move occurring any time soon.

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