Given the enormity and political structure of the United States of America, each state gets to determine its laws. This includes the regulation and introduction of several new technologies including us poker sites. Some states have come to embrace the pastime, while others are not as keen on the idea.
The Origin of Regulated Online Poker in the US
Planet Poker was the first of the recognized us poker sites when it dealt the first hands of online poker to US internet users back in 1998. Mike Caro, one of the most influential poker players at the time served as an ambassador for the site as its popularity rose. Other sites quickly wanted to sit at the table, so PartyPoker and Paradise Poker added to what would become a huge list of US poker sites. Fairy tale stories soon came to light, that anyone could enter and win big online poker tournaments. The most prevalent being that of the accountant from Nashville, Tennessee, Christopher Moneymaker, as he became the 2003 World Champion, as a result of qualifying from an online event. Call it the Moneymaker effect or the Poker Boom, either moniker describes the spike of interest in online poker around 2003 when Chris won $2.5 million. Americans wanted their own rags-to-riches story and fuelled the craze. Given the overnight growth of online poker, more and more companies began to operate. Some of which were flouting or exercising loopholes in the existing legislation. As a result, the central US government produced the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. This didn’t forbid online poker outright, moreover, just ensured that companies were operating at a standard and needed regulation. In turn, this led to the infamous Online Poker Black Friday, where on April 15th, 2011, the FBI seized multiple gambling domains which they deemed to be operating unlawfully. After this point, the local governing states could choose whether to allow online gambling in their jurisdictional area or not. Leading to some states now allowing us poker sites, as it executes their business in a lawful process.
States which have legalized Online Poker
As of early 2024, seven states have seen the light and allowed Online Poker vendors to operate legally with regulation. These are Connecticut, Delaware, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. If you’re in the US and local to one of these states, then rejoice! You can play online poker! For the most part, you’ll be able to log on to an operator of your choice and start gambling your way to riches or rags. Out of the seven, Delaware might be the most lenient with very relaxed rules on online gambling and was even the first state to permit online poker. However, it is Michigan and New Jersey with potentially the most exciting developments as of 2024. Previously, with the tight regulations players could only play with people within their state. The PokerStars conglomerate has managed to negotiate that merging the player pools of New Jersey and Michigan does not present any danger to the players and enhances the overall experience. Is it any surprise that Nevada, the home to Las Vegas, welcomes online poker?
The place known for bright lights, casinos, and general debauchery extends the olive branch to gamblers so can they enjoy a few hands of online poker before they hit the strip. One of the notable points of the WSOP Nevada branch is that it offers players the chance to win a tangible bracelet, much like the professional players on tour. Pennsylvania is a bit of a hotspot for online gambling. The state has permitted multiple forms of it since 2017 and is known for some of the best promotions to new users throughout the US. Despite this, few operators wish to conduct business in the state as the board of control received zero new applications in its 2024 Q1 licensing phase. This might be influenced by the decision by the state to only allow Pennsylvanian users to exclusively play with other statesmen – and not share the player pool with other states. Conversely, in Connecticut, the legislation only permits two of the existing live gambling operators to conduct online poker. Neither of these has partnered with an online site or launched their own platform as of April 2024. It’s a similar story in West Virginia, where the groundwork is there to let online poker happen however no party is making it a reality just yet.
Where could Online Poker become available in the US
Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and New York are considered the most active states which could see the legalization of online poker relatively soon. New York has the added pressure of its neighbor, New Jersey allowing it – yet reports are inconsistent. However, local press and even poker news sites seem to be gathering momentum in Massachusetts as the state could be the next to allow online poker. There are other states which have discussed the possibility of having online poker introduced, yet it has been put on the back burner. This includes California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Virginia. There are however reports coming out of Rhode Island that it could be back on the agenda very soon.
States where Online Poker is unlikely to be available soon
There are some states that due to a multitude of reasons, are unlikely to commission the legality of online poker. Whether it be religious, cultural, or prior political issues, if you want to play online poker, yet you’re local to one of these places, you might want to consider relocating. These are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Of course, there is some variation in these. Arkansas might be one of the most militantly anti-gambling states in the US with budding gamblers having to visit a ‘racino’ to play very restricted versions of poker. By comparison, Wisconsin might still not have online poker but has a rich variety of casinos within the state boundaries.