Is Online Poker Legal in the US?

A few years ago, online poker got a black eye when the federal government shut down a handful of sites including PokerStars, Full Tilt and the Cereus Network (UltimateBet and Absolute Poker). It was a day that would come to be known as Black Friday. The government’s actions were meant to protect players and prevent the sites from laundering money.

The fallout of that day led to the creation of a number of regulated online poker sites in the US. In the years following, several more states legalized online poker, with New Jersey and Delaware first to get in on the action. Pennsylvania and West Virginia soon followed suit, though neither state launched a regulated online poker site until 2021.

New Hampshire is still waiting for its first regulated online poker site to launch, but the state made significant progress on this front in 2019 when it became the first state to legalize sports betting. That could open the door to online poker in the future if lawmakers decide to pass a bill that will make it possible.

Despite being one of the most gambling-averse states, there is a bit of optimism when it comes to online poker in Nebraska. The state’s two land-based casinos – the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway and Oxford Casino – are owned by the tribes and both have been considering launching online operations. There are also a few companies that operate social poker sites and offer tournaments with real money prizes.

It’s too early to tell if Nebraska will ever make online poker legal, but the state is moving in the right direction as far as the industry goes. Several other states are making serious efforts to legalize and regulate the game, so it’s just a matter of time before things in Nebraska begin to change.

Illinois is another state that’s been slow to embrace the internet gambling scene. The Chicago-area is home to a lot of popular live poker rooms, but the state’s legislators haven’t shown any interest in introducing an online poker bill.

In 2021, Colorado passed a law to allow for the development of regulated online poker. That bill stalled but it is encouraging to see lawmakers at least consider such legislation. The closest state to Colorado that offers regulated online poker is Nevada which is a 10-hour drive from Denver.

New York is another state that isn’t yet offering regulated online poker, but it has the potential to be a major market if the state ever decides to take the plunge. The Empire State has a population of nearly 20 million people, which is bigger than the populations of Pennsylvania and Michigan, which both have legalized online poker. The state should be able to easily join the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA), which already includes Nevada, Michigan, and Delaware. That will provide New Yorkers with a large pool of opponents to compete against. This will help bolster the poker economy and encourage more players to sign up.