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USA Legal Online Poker Sites Is online poker legal? That is a loaded question. The legality of online poker sites can depend upon the country, state, or province. It can also vary depending upon the definition of online poker, whether governments consider it a game of skill or chance, and where the company’s server is based.

At one time, poker online was popular around the world and rarely questioned by a government as to its legality. Players could open a laptop in virtually any country in the world and play on a wide variety of poker sites and find millions of other people doing the same thing. But the proliferation of the game over the internet and the lack of government control prompted a crackdown, one that spanned from Europe to Asia and throughout most of the Americas.

Today, online poker is legal in some places, illegal in others, still under scrutiny in some areas but left alone in others. It varies greatly, which is why our site breaks down the various laws and regulations that players should know. Especially in the United States, which was once the largest online poker market in the world, it can be confusing to figure out where online poker is legal. Every state has its own laws, and we break it down on the individual state pages.

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Global Online Poker Regulations - Is Online Poker Legal in My Country?

Online poker websites around the world are typically registered with one of two major regulators: Malta Gaming Authority (MGA) or Alderney Gambling Control Commission (AGCC). Those groups provide licenses and ensure that the poker sites meet basic gambling standards, such as randomization of cards and slot games. A few other regulators do the same, such as the Gambling Supervision Commission in the Isle of Man, the Kahnawake Gaming Commission in Canada, and the Curacao Internet Gambling Association in the Caribbean.

To offer poker online to residents of the UK, operators are required to obtain a license from the UK Gambling Commission. The operators can still use their global dot-com sites for play but must be regulated in the UK.

Other countries required that operators not only be licensed by their own governments but also set up poker sites that are exclusively for players in those countries. Italy was one of the first to establish this type of regulated system under the direction of the Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato (AAMS). Sites are required to obtain a specific license and offer poker through a specific site with a dot-IT suffix. France, Spain, and Portugal followed suit and required the same of the sites through their own regulators: Autorite de Regulation des Jeux en Ligne (ARJEL) in France, Comision Nacional del Juego (DGOJ) in Spain, and Serviço de Regulação e Inspeção de Jogos (SRIJ) in Portugal).

As for Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal, those four regulators signed an agreement in 2017 to pool their poker players for online shared liquidity, meaning players will be able to share cash game tables and tournaments from all four countries. This process of sharing liquidity is being considered by numerous regulated areas, but the European countries will be the first to do it when they launch the joint sites sometime in 2018.

Australia only recently outlawed international online poker sites from offering games to its citizens. Other countries never legalized it but didn’t crack down on it, either, like Brazil, which is now considering legislation to legalize all types of internet gambling.

Essentially, the legality of poker online varies from country to country around the world.

United States Poker Regulations - Is Online Poker Legal in the US?

The American market was open, and US poker sites flourished from 2000 through 2006, but the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 initiated a new era. While the law was somewhat ambiguous and left the status of online poker in a grey area, sites like PartyPoker did leave the United States market after that bill became law.

The US Department of Justice, however, began building a case against the major sites that chose to remain in the US market: PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, UltimateBet, and Absolute Poker. And on April 15, 2011, those sites were seized and indictments handed down for their top executives. Black Friday, as it became known, changed the global poker market.

That same US DOJ, however, issued a decision in November of that same year that allowed a change in the US market. The ruling clarified that the Federal Wire Act of 1961, which prohibited wagering via wire communication, did not apply to states as they chose to legalize gambling and lotteries over the internet. This opened the doors for individual states to choose to legalize and regulate online poker and casino games as they so chose.

Nevada became the first to legalize poker only via the internet in 2013, and Delaware soon followed but added casino games to the mix. New Jersey was the third state to open its virtual doors to poker, as well as casino games, and it set the standard for safety, security, geolocation technology, customer identification, and partnering with casinos to grow revenue. Pennsylvania became the fourth state by passing its own law in 2017. The first three states have entered into an interstate online poker liquidity sharing agreement, which will likely launch in 2018, and Pennsylvania may join as well.

While some legislators in Congress continue trying to reverse the 2011 Wire Act decision and pass legislation to outlaw all online gambling per the wishes of casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, their efforts have not yet been successful. Other states like New York and Michigan continue examining their own online poker bills, and any federal movement to override the states is deemed fairly unlikely to succeed.

Ever-Changing Environment

The world of online poker is constantly changing. Laws and regulations are likely to change somewhere in the world every month, if not more often.

This means it is always wise to check with each jurisdiction regarding the specifics of poker online, its licensing and regulatory requirements and overall legal status.

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