If you live in the US or you are traveling to the US and you want to play online poker, you might be a bit intimidated by the legal implications. The legal system in the US is complex and the laws differ from one state to another.
If you don’t know where to begin, this is your survival guide. By the end of this article, you will have learned everything you need to know about where you can and cannot play, how to play on offshore sites, what to expect in the future, and a lot more.
Is Online Poker Legal in the US?
This is the most frequently asked question on the Internet about online poker legality in the US. Unfortunately, due to the complexity of the US legislative system, there is no simple answer to it.
On the federal level, online poker is completely legal, no matter what some other guides out there state. However, the situation is a bit different on the state level. Individual states have the right to decide whether they want to explicitly legalize online poker or prohibit it.
In the majority of states, online poker is still not officially regulated. However, there are some exceptions. For example, Washington, Utah, and Louisiana explicitly prohibit their residents from playing online poker. If you decide to do it, you will be committing a felony.
However, so far, there have been zero online poker arrests. Absolutely no one has been prosecuted for playing poker online. Therefore, it is safe to say that you can play online poker if you live in one of these states without any major issues.
On the other hand, five states so far have legalized online poker:
Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware were the first three states to give their residents full freedom of engaging in online poker games. Thanks to the latest 3-state online poker pooling, players from these three states can now compete against each other online.
Which States May Soon Legalize Online Poker?
As you can see, right now, the majority of the states still haven’t legalized online poker. However, in the near future, things are bound to change for the better.
Right now, four more states are considering making online poker legal: California, New York, Massachusetts, and Michigan.
The state of New York has already introduced legalization to change the categorization of poker from a game of chance to a game of skill. This will basically make the game legal in the state.
Most people are keeping an eye on California, as it’s the biggest state with almost 40 million inhabitants. California has introduced many gambling and poker bills during the last couple of years, but all of them stranded, because of differences between stakeholders as the Indian tribes. As the tribes are not willing to compromise, legalization of online poker in California is not going to happen this year.
How to Check if a Poker Website Is Legal?
If you live in one of the five states where online poker is explicitly legal, you should pay attention to the websites where you choose to play. Unlike in Europe where there are numerous iGaming regulatory bodies that can issue licenses to gambling websites, that’s not the case in the US.
There is usually just one regulatory body per state that is allowed to issue licenses. Therefore, before registering and playing on a website, you should check what the name of that regulatory body is and whether your preferred site is licensed by it.
If you want to expand your choice of online poker websites you can play on, there’s another option — offshore sites.
Can US Players Visit Offshore Online Poker Sites?
In case you live in a state that has still not officially legalized online gambling, you can explore your options of playing online poker on offshore websites.
Many believe that playing poker on websites that operate outside of the US is illegal. However, that’s not the case. This belief is based on the UIGEA act passed in 2006 that prohibits offshore websites from offering their services to US residents.
However, this law does not prohibit US residents from playing on such websites. The legality of playing online as an individual is simply unregulated.
However, there are still some concerns you should be aware of. When playing poker on offshore websites, make sure that you do it on reputable, reliable, and licensed sites. In case you fall victim to fraud, you will not be able to seek protection from your local government.
Also, you should keep in mind that it might be more difficult to find deposit and withdrawal options in such cases. This is because a lot of banks do not allow gambling-related transactions using their credit and debit cards as they could face punishment from the government.
What Are the Most Popular Games Played Online?
Online poker sites in the US have a pretty decent selection of poker games. The most popular one, of course, is No-Limit Texas Hold’em. This is the preferred poker variation of US residents, which is why it is offered by every poker website in the country. Other popular poker variations include Pot-Limit Omaha and No-Limit Omaha. Omaha Hi-Lo and Limit Hold’em are not that popular but can still be found.
However, if you decide to play on offshore websites, you will gain access to an even larger selection of games. All websites will offer the variations listed above, but you can also expect to find Raz, 5-card draw, H.O.R.S.E., 7-Card Stud, and so on.
To sum up, the legality of online poker in the US is not a simple topic. Hopefully, after reading this article, things are much clearer to you. You should now have a clear idea of what is allowed and what’s not.
Generally, you should not have any reservations toward playing online poker on offshore websites, in case your state has still not legalized it. Just make sure to be cautious about your safety when doing so to avoid potential problems.
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