Global Online Poker Regulations
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 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 sites varies from country to country around the world.
United States Poker Regulations
The American market was open, and online 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.
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.