Legal Poker in Florida
There is no law stating the specific legality or illegality of online poker in Florida. Quite a bit of gambling has been going on in Florida for nearly a century. Pari-mutuel wagering at racetracks was legalized in 1931, followed by jail alai wagering.
The lottery was approved in 1986, and per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, Florida was one of the first states to finalize contracts with some of its Native American tribes. The Miccosukee Tribal Indians of Florida negotiated for a casino/resort, but it was the primary Seminole Tribe of Florida that was authorized for numerous casinos on its various reservations. The casinos now offer table games and slots, a full range of casino options for players.
Poker was even legalized to be offered at pari-mutuels in 1996, and the stakes were raised at those locations in 2003 to accommodate a wider range of players. Racetracks also obtained permission to bring in slot machines, making them racinos that compete with the Indian-run casinos.
Bingo, gambling for charitable fundraisers, and penny-ante games are also legal in Florida, the latter limited to winnings not to exceed $10 if held in a dwelling.
Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Florida
At one time, legislators from various states were interested in developing a framework for regulated online poker and casino games that could be adopted by any state wishing to legalize said games. The National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS) is a non-profit organization of state lawmakers that meet regularly to discuss all types of gaming issues, and the group overall favors states’ rights in these cases. They also have committees dedicated to various types of gambling. In 2012 and 2013, the group was particularly active and included Florida Representative Jim Waldman, who also served as NCLGS President, though the current president is Florida Senator Bill Galvano.
Under Waldman’s leadership, the group made a more concerted effort to develop the above-mentioned framework but failed to do so. He also used Florida as an example in his promotion of the idea, as the state is fairly liberal when it came to gambling but had troubles coming to any legislative agreement on the idea of internet gambling.
In 2014, there was a bill proposed to reform the gambling framework in Florida, and several lawmakers wanted online poker included in the proposal. Ultimately, however, the Florida Senate Gaming Committee omitted all online gambling from the bill. In fact, the bill specifically outlawed online wagering, but it never passed in its complete form, so that language never made it into the state code.
Since then, there have been no concerted efforts to legalize online poker in Florida.
Florida Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
The Florida Code includes gambling in its “Crimes” section, which is Title XLVI. Section 849 is gambling, which is situated between obscenity and drunkenness in the code. The gambling statutes are extensive, though, and cover everything from renting a house for gambling purposes to the exemption of bowling tournaments.
Gambling is defined as follows:
“Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree.”
The statute about keeping gambling houses seems to be written to prevent home games that exceed the penny-ante limit. It maintains that anyone who “has, keeps, exercises or maintains a gaming table or room, or gaming implements or apparatus, or house, booth, tent, shelter or other place for the purpose of gaming or gambling” and permits or allows anyone to play for money or anything valuable “shall be guilty of a felony of the third degree.”
The penny-ante exemption refers to poker, pinochle, bridge, rummy, canasta, hearts, dominoes, or mah-jongg “in which the winnings of any player in a single round, hand, or game do not exceed $10 in value.” This is truly meant for small home games played with coins in someone’s home. It further states that there can be no charge for admission, no advertising for the game, and everyone must be over the age of 18.
Cardrooms are specifically authorized in a different section for poker and dominoes played in a “nonbanking manner.” And a cardroom is defined as a
“facility where authorized games are played for money or anything of value and to which the public is invited to participate in such games and charged a fee for participation by the operator of such a facility.”
It also states, “Authorized games and cardrooms do not constitute casino gaming operations.” Licenses are required to operate said facilities. Prohibited activities in cardrooms are rather specific:
- No banking games or games other than poker or dominoes.
- No person under 18 can participate in any way.
- No electronic devices allowed in games except mechanical card shufflers.
- No cards used in games unless provided by cardroom operator.
With all of that said, there is no wording in the state law regarding online poker or internet poker.
Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Do players in Florida have many online poker choices?
Answer: Yes. There are several sites like Bovada and Intertops that cater specifically to players in the US, including Florida. Players are able to deposit and withdraw funds from at least five sites as of the start of 2018.
Question: Can Florida players be prosecuted for using online sites?
Answer: There is little likelihood that law enforcement officials would ever prosecute players. Without a specific law banning online poker, there is little attention paid to the operators that do offer it. And even if operators were pursued, players would likely not be targeted in any way.
Question: Could Indian casinos benefit from online poker?
Answer: The casinos, cardrooms, and racinos could all likely benefit from a regulated online poker and casino games market, but most lawmakers do not seem ready to discuss or debate it, much less legalized the internet games.
Florida Gaming Resources