When it comes to legal online poker options, there are fewer options, at least for United States-based players, than you might think. When COVID-19 came, all of the live poker rooms in the country closed. As you might imagine, this led to an explosion in online poker. Offshore poker websites sprang to life, and mobile poker apps got up and running as well. Just because you can reach something through the Internet does not necessarily make it legal – and you also want to make sure that you haven’t signed up for a website that is run by scammers. Let’s take a look at the options you face.
Places to Play
The safest haven for U.S.-based players is National League of Poker, and the poker sites that are legal in Delaware, New Jersey, Nevada and Pennsylvania. There are some issues with the sites for players, just like there are in any poker game. The ratio of pro to hobbyist can be a bit different from what we would like, but you are not likely to run afoul of the law.
If you’re wondering if you are on a safe and legal online poker site, take a look at these characteristics. Does the site accept credit cards? Does it have a mailing address inside the United States? Do you keep hitting geofence checks all the time? Those are a hassle, but they also work at keeping the scammers at bay.
Another legal online poker option in some places is the unranked “home” game that you play online. Of course, each state has its own law about poker, and some of those laws are fairly gray when it comes to this kind of game. But if you are in a state that allows this, so long as no one is asking for a fee to manage the game, and every player is in one of those states, your game should be fine.
What Laws are in Play
You might be wondering what laws are on the books that would make legal online poker limited in the first place. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act has as its focus financial intermediaries – in other words, the banks and other payment services that handle the transfers of money.
That’s the primary federal law, so if you are not an intermediary, then you should avoid most of the prosecution. However, there are some state laws that are quite clear. In Minnesota, even to “make a bet” is illegal, according to Section 609.755 of state law. Virginia state code section 18.2-326 declares it to be a class three misdemeanor to take part in a raked poker game, even if it is online or in your best friend’s cellar. In Utah, state code section 76-10-1102 makes “gambling, including any Internet or online gambling,” a Class B misdemeanor.
Oh, and the feds can come in if you do break a state law. According to Title 18, Section 1955(d) of the United States Code, the feds can seize any money that you make from games that state law declares illegal. So they have you coming and going, if they catch you. But if you live in the right state, enjoy your legal online poker!
Play safe and win big with National League of Poker with fully legal games for prizes!