If you are based in the USA, and you’ve given thought to playing poker online, then you’ll have been met with a brick wall. Unless you happen to reside in a handful of US states, it’s likely that you will have been told that playing poker online the USA is a no-go.
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That’s not entirely true, though. There may be a brick wall blocking your path, but that doesn’t mean that this is the only way to get to your destination.
In fact, many hundreds of thousands of Americans find a way to play poker online each year.
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The Big Question: Can I Play Online Poker in the USA?
- US Poker Laws, Rules and Regulations
Online poker wasn’t always taboo in the USA. In fact, it wasn’t until the passing of the UIGEA in 2006 put paid to the US online gambling industry that poker was effectively illegal. Sure, the Federal Wire Act prohibited bank transfers for gambling enterprises, but by and large, all forms of gambling in the country weren’t declared off-limits until 2006.
Even with those gambling laws, players in the USA continued to gamble at online poker sites. In 2011, though, with the Black Friday Scandal linked to PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and other leading poker rooms (which were found guilty of money laundering, amongst other charges) places to play online poker in the USA have been somewhat limited.
It is a tricky spot to be in, but where does that put your average US online poker today?
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Fortunately, the US Government decided to dial down the heat on online betting a notch a couple of years ago. They effectively gave each US state the right to decide its own online gambling laws (within reason) and this something that several US states have jumped on.
For instance, players based in New Jersey, and Nevada should have relatively few issues playing poker online, as it is legal in those states – under certain circumstances.
These poker sites have far less traffic than your major international poker domains because there is a smaller pool of players playing there. However, these are fully regulated and legal US poker sites, so, if you’re based in
New Jersey or Nevada (or another state where gambling online is considered legal) this is the ideal way to go.
Of course, not every state has legalised gambling online (most haven’t) so bona fide regulated online poker rooms aren’t going to happen for most Americans. You could always decide to play at an offshore poker room, though.
An offshore poker room ideal for American online poker players can best be described as:
- A poker room which is based outside of the USA
- One which openly accepts US players
- Offers the US dollar currency and the English language
- Will also offer US support and customer service (often toll-free)
- Provides American players with payment methods ideal for them
Offshore poker rooms may not be 100% legal in the USA, but in many cases, they are considered regulated and legal sites outside of the country. You are still going to want to do your background checking on an offshore poker room, though, and the first thing you’re going to want to do is to make sure that it is licensed.
Obviously, when compared to UK poker laws, and those in operation in most EU countries, the US poker laws are unduly harsh on players. UK players are, by and large, allowed to play at virtually any poker site (including offshore rooms) with an ample number of UK licensed poker sites out there, too, since online poker is legal in the country.
US Poker Licence Authorities
Firstly, there is no such thing as a “poker license”. What you actually have are gambling licenses. In theory, any major gambling jurisdiction outside of the USA which issues licenses is effectively an offshore casino. Some of the larger offshore licensing jurisdictions include the UK Gambling Commission, Malta and Gibraltar. However, the problem with these licensing jurisdictions is that they know that US players are prohibited, so they seldom offer them to offshore sites focusing on players from the USA.
The licensing jurisdictions of Costa Rica, Panama and Curacao are far less picky. For that reason, many of the poker sites which accept US players tend to be licensed out of these jurisdictions. Make no mistake about it, they are not as well regulated as the European ones, but they are still (by and large) safe and secure places to play poker online.
Not all poker licenses are delivered via offshore licensing jurisdictions. In fact, Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware and other US states which have decided to permit online gambling in some way, shape or form have also decided to issue their own gambling licenses. To that end, it is not uncommon to find poker rooms in those states licensed by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission or Nevada Gaming Control Board. These, as you can imagine, are totally regulated and represent the safest places to play poker online for US players.
US Tax Policy
Generally, US states have imposed taxes for any gambling games, even though they vary from one state to the other. Keeping records of all transactions should help you immensely.
Popular Poker Games in the USA
Even though the rules regarding US online poker gaming are much harsher than elsewhere in the world, those US players who do decide to gamble online won’t be any worse off in terms of games.
The licensing and regulated US poker rooms out of New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have the usual array of games, such as:
- Texas Hold ‘em
- Stud and Draw Poker
If you venture out to offshore poker rooms, you will find an even larger selection of poker variants, although these may be unfamiliar to many US poker players.
The online poker rooms in Nevada do tend to offer tournaments which act as satellites to the WSOP (World Series of Poker) competition. Similarly, a handful of Nevada and Delaware poker sites may also be able to provide you with access to these competitions if you win satellites. However, offshore poker rooms seldom offer this. There are plenty of other Sit & Go tournaments, for you to play, though.
It is more challenging for US players to be able to play live dealer and mobile games than their European counterparts. Most US poker rooms are offshore sites, and thus these seldom offer live dealer software, or mobile gameplay.
However, those poker which are licensed in US states should be able to offer you both live dealer and mobile games without too much hassle.
Have a look at Online Poker America’s US section where you can find listing of poker rooms that you might not find it here.
Online Poker US Promos and Bonuses
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There should be no issues in terms of collecting bonuses and promotions when playing at US poker sites. The legal ones tend to offer their own bonuses and promos, and admittedly, these are worth far less in value than at offshore poker sites, but there are still welcome bonuses, rake backs, deposit deals and tournaments for you to enjoy. Keep in mind that if you claim a bonus from an offshore poker room when playing poker in the USA, the bonuses are likely to be vast in size, have considerable wagering requirements, and require a promotional bonus code for you to claim them.
Depositing/Withdrawing Options Available To US Players
Players in the US will experience difficulty deposit and withdrawing at US poker sites. That is unavoidable. Whilst the Federal Wire Act issue no longer ties the hands of banks and payment methods to permit players to deposit at US poker rooms, few major banking providers are prepared to dive into a market which is still, by and large, illegal in most US states.
US players can deposit using credit cards, and a handful of wire transfer options, but e-wallets aren’t really on the cards right now. Withdrawals can be a bit of nightmare, too. Many US poker sites charge hefty fees for withdrawals, and the wire transfer/cheque options just aren’t good enough for speedy withdrawals. However, this is again a problem that players at New Jersey, Nevada or Delaware licensed poker rooms aren’t going to have, There are also some sites offering bitcoins, a popular cryptocurrency which also helps players get round depoist/withdrawal issues.
The Future of Online Poker in the USA
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When the walls regarding online gambling came down at a federal level, there was light at the end of the tunnel. To date, Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have fully legalised online poker rooms which are licensed out of their states, and a handful of other states (particularly on the Eastern seaboard) are considering similar laws.
One of the main reasons they might do this is the tax. There is a significant amount of revenue to be raised from gambling at poker rooms. Operators must be license fees to the state’s gambling commission, the poker rooms and operators must also pay tax on revenue, and then there is the issue of taxable player winnings. This is a considerable cash cow, and many states are not going to want to miss out on a slice of the pie.
The US has tried (and failed) to blockade offshore poker rooms but to no avail. VPNs, proxies and other means of accessing offshore poker sites have proven popular. In a losing battle, if you can’t beat them, joining them seems to be the next logical step. Of course, we’re a long way from seeing online poker legalised in most US states, and there is unlikely to ever be a federal law which permits gambling at online poker rooms. Gradually, though, the wheels of change are turning.
My Final Thoughts
Yes, playing online poker in the US is a challenge, but it is not an impossible one. Provided they are either living in one of the 3 states to offer licensed poker rooms, or they venture out to an offshore poker room, US players shouldn’t have too much difficult finding games and playing poker online. There are countries who have it better, but there are many which make it far more difficult for their nationals to play poker online.
FAQs On US Online Poker You May Like To Know
The UIGEA was a bill passed way back in 2006 that is called the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. This was a questionable bill passed by President Bush and it leaves the law to be interpreted by online poker players. It’s amazing that it took five years for the government to shut down the major United States poker sites after passing this bill. Online poker in the United States has been crushed since Black Friday, but when it rebounds it will do so in a big way.
Absolutely. Whilst online poker as a gambling game is technically illegal in 47 out of the 50 states (this number may be changing), playing for free online is totally legal, and it doesn’t constitute gambling. There are numerous sites which can help you out in this department, too.
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There are 9 states in total which are drafting bills or have voted on them. These are Mississippi, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Hawaii, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and New Hampshire.
Nothing will happen. The US does hunt down operators who offer their services to US players (and does only a so-so job at that) but there are no punishments in store for players betting illegally at poker sites. You may have a spot of trouble when it comes to your winnings, though. If you win a lot and don’t declare it as taxable income, that can cause you problems.
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In theory, yes. There are somethings worth mentioning here, though. If you make a flying visit to a casino resort in Nevada, you can play poker online, but only at the casino resort’s webpage, and only whilst on the premises. Once you leave, this becomes impossible. If you are going to be visiting Las Vegas, though, why play poker online when there are perfectly good poker tables downstairs for you to enjoy?
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You can’t sign up to a standard Nevada or New Jersey poker room just by flying over the border for a night. You need to be able to prove that you reside in the state long-term. So, this is a bit of a yes and no answer, really.