Online poker is one of the most popular forms of real money gambling on the Internet. Players can wager and win real cash prizes from the comfort of their own homes, using a wide range of devices including desktops and mobile phones. As the popularity of online poker has grown, so have questions about its legality. This article will take a look at whether or not it is legal for American citizens to play online poker, both in states where it is regulated and those where it is not.
The first online poker sites began appearing in the late 1990s, and the market grew even more after Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker in 2003. This fueled what is known as the poker boom, and many sites saw huge profits. However, setbacks were bound to happen. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or Black Friday, which forced many of these sites to close down and left those still operating at a loss. Fortunately, a handful of states made it legal for their residents to play online poker, and most major sites have since joined a multi-state agreement, the Multi-State Internet Gaming Association, to share player pools.
A number of states have not made it legal to play online poker, and this is likely due to state laws that prohibit gambling or the use of a credit card to fund an account. This is why most US players choose to play at offshore online poker sites, which offer a safe and secure environment. Despite this, there are several states that are currently considering legislation to bring regulated online poker to their borders.
New Jersey legalized online poker in 2013 following Black Friday, joining Nevada and Delaware as a regulated US market. However, it was not until 2021 that the sixth regulated online poker state opened its doors, when Connecticut passed a law allowing its two tribal casinos to launch online poker sites and land-based sportsbooks.
It seems unlikely that any other state will legalize regulated online poker in the near future, but there are some encouraging signs. Illinois is not a traditionally anti-gambling state and they have recently legalized live poker at their land-based casinos. Sports betting was also legalized in the Land of Lincoln in 2019, which could lead to an eventual change in the state’s online poker laws.
The only other state that has not legalized online poker is South Carolina, which has some of the strictest anti-gambling laws in the country. This means that virtual hands will not be dealt in the Palmetto State any time soon. With a growing demand from players for regulated online poker, it is very possible that more states will eventually make it legal to play the game in the years to come. However, this will almost certainly be a slow process. Unless there is some sort of dramatic shift in federal gambling legislation, online poker will continue to be a gray area for the foreseeable future.