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What States Might Go, 'All-In,' on Online Poker
Unlike many other forms of Gambling, a fair number of states in the U.S. that have strict laws against gambling (either live or Online) have lesser restrictions against Poker. For example, many states in which it is illegal to have any house-banked game in which the House has an edge (even if played in your own home) are fine with Poker as a form of, 'Social Gambling,' provided that an individual hosting the game not take a rake of the pot. To wit, these states largely consider the game to be one in which the skill factor outweighs the luck factor to such an extent that it is essentially a fair game provided the host does not take a percentage of the pot.
There are many examples of this on a different page that I wrote for this site:
Therefore, if you want to see what each states' stance is on Online Gambling, in general, that would be a good page for you to peruse and I intend to repeat myself as little as possible on this page as this page is meant specifically to detail laws relating to Online Poker.
However, to emphasize my point from the first paragraph, we will take a look at Alaska, which is the first State alphabetically in which I mention that, 'Social Gambling,' is expressly legal. What is interesting in the State of Alaska is that an individual could theoretically operate an Online Poker site, but in order for that site to be expressly legal to fall under the purview of, 'Social Gambling,' one could assume that the site would have to offer on a not-for-profit basis and, quite possibly, would not be allowed to take any rakes. Furthermore, one could expand upon that to theorize that two players within the State of Alaska could theoretically play on a non-betting Poker site or App (such as Zynga) and decide that the results actually count, if they wanted to.
Let's jump back to the beginning of the alphabet and take a look at Alabama:
As we see from the previous Article, no individual or company may legally profit from operating Online Gambling within the State of Alabama, so obviously, the same would apply to poker.
Arizona is another state in which Social Gambling is expressly legal, which tends to lend me to wondering about the same theories that I had with respect to Alaska, to wit, could one theoretically operate a not-for-profit site that doesn't take a rake? It would seem that the players involved (including whoever ran the site) would be playing for amusement, which is perfectly legal under Arizona law.
Don't misunderstand me, I still think it would be a pretty big step to actually operate a Poker site in the state, even if you didn't take a rake, because there is a crime called, "Benefiting from Gambling," in Arizona statute. If you operated a site and were a skilled player playing on your own site profitably, then perhaps the state could argue that you were guilty of this misdemeanor.
Any form of gambling in which money or property may be won is illegal in this state.
California knows how to party, but they don't know how to legalize Online Gambling. California is a very strange state with respect to Online Gambling (including Poker) because, while there is no state law that makes Online Gambling expressly illegal, lower levels of Government, municipalities or counties for instance, could independently make the mere act of gambling online illegal if they choose. Obviously, that precludes any idea of actually operating an Internet poker site in the State.
With all of that said, California is one of the few States that is actually making a modicum of effort in the realm of attempting to legalize Online Gambling, but their many efforts have failed thus far. For example, there were four different bills in 2015 that would have legalized Online Gambling in one way or another, but they all died a procedural death.
California AB 2863 and AB 167 represent this year's efforts to legalize Online Poker or Online Gambling in general. This Bill is actually one of the most specific bills presented in a State in which Online Gambling has not been legalized in any form. For example, this Bill clearly States that the only form of Online Gambling that would be legal is player-vs.-player Online Poker, so there is no room for House Banked games such as other table card games. Among other things, this Bill also spells out that the first sixty million in tax revenue would go to the horse racing industry...I guess that's supposed to be a worthy cause.
This would not represent the first time for a piece of gambling legislation to get passed in order to prop up the widely ailing racing industry. In fact, the only reason West Virginia was allowed to have any casinos in the first place was essentially to support their greyhound and horse racing industries, but mostly it was about the dogs. Of course, even with that support, the greyhound industry has gone to the dogs, so to speak, and the State seems to be slowly working on efforts to eventually allow the casinos to phase out the greyhound industry which would otherwise have absolutely no prayer of financially supporting itself.
If you would be interested in reading the full California bill, it can be found here:
After the Bill unanimously passed the committee, Assemblyman Adam Gray had this to say, ""We know unequivocally that Californians are playing these games online every single day on websites that provide zero consumer protections. After countless revisions and meetings with stakeholders and consumer advocates, there remained two key issues raised by opponents: horse racing and suitability. Today we put forward language that settles the horse racing component, and negotiations over suitability continue."
That represents some of the plainest common sense language that I have heard come from anyone in such a position in years. To put it as simply as possible, he's saying, "There is a market for this, people will play anyway, so all we are doing by not expressly legalizing and regulating it is losing tax revenues."
Passing the committee is but a small step, though, and even in a state as liberal as California, it will take a giant leap to get this thing ultimately legalized throughout the State.
This state provides for a Petty Offense (and possible fine) for any players other than those engaged in Social Gambling or Gambling that is expressly legalized. Once again, it remains interesting to inquire whether or not one could use Social Gambling as a defense if one were to set up a non-profit site for Online Poker to be played while a person is within the State.
Colorado is generally a fairly socially liberal state, so it is a surprise that there is not currently any pending legislation with respect to Online Gambling or Online Poker. However, there has been such Legislation in past years and all such efforts have failed. Still, I would not be at all surprised to see Colorado be one of the first ten or so states to legalize Online Poker, if not all forms of Online Gambling.
While this applies to more States than just Colorado, I also wonder if there are some pragmatic considerations that result in a state with the population of Colorado's (not in the Top 20) to decide that the process of establishing a regulatory framework simply isn't worth the hassle. Perhaps they wonder what sort of tax revenues would be garnered from the Online Poker sites and essentially ask themselves, "Will this at least pay for itself?"
Remember, as the good assemblyman from California pointed out, players are playing at sites that states are not Regulating anyway, so as a result, perhaps some of these players would stick with those sites even if the law makes it illegal for them to do so provided there are State-Regulated sites out there.
The laws of Connecticut unambiguously make gambling a crime. Social Gambling is legal, but the tone of State Representatives with respect to Online Poker is such that they believe it is already illegal pursuant to the laws that they have in place. Accordingly, it comes as no surprise that there is no pending legislation with respect to legalizing online poker within the state.
Online Poker is expressly legal in the State of Delaware at licensed and regulated sites. That makes Delaware one of three States (Nevada, New Jersey) in which Online Poker is expressly legal AND regulated by the State.
One thing that is difficult to know is whether or not it is illegal to play Online Poker at a non-regulated site, and I would consult an attorney if one wants to know for sure, but I did not see anything upon my perusal of the statute authorizing certain regulated sites that would expressly indicate that playing at non-regulated sites is illegal.
In the State of Florida, aside from Social Gambling, it is illegal to engage in any form of unregulated gambling, so Online Poker is definitely out in purely legal terms.
There was a certain HB 77 (House Bill) that would have regulated Online Poker in the State of Florida and created sites devoted to same, but that bill died a Legislative death in both 2011 and 2012. The most outspoken opponent to the bill was the Seminole Tribe as that would compete directly with their properties in the State. Since that time, there has been little to no action taken with respect to Online Poker in the State of Florida and it is highly unlikely they will be on the short list of States to be among the first to regulate it.
The law in the State of Georgia defines illegal gambling so broadly that it is almost impossible that playing Online Poker would not be legal in the State. However, as we know, most states save their ire for operators rather than individual players, so the likelihood of a conviction is slim to none and slim just took a walk.
That said, bills that have called for Casino Gambling in the State, in recent years, have failed to even make it as far as the House floor. As a result, expect this to be one of the last States to regulate Online Poker, if it ever does. By and large, Georgia still maintains some of the most Puritanical laws of the fifty, so for Georgia to lead the Online Gambling charge would be quite the shocker.
In the State of Hawaii, only Social Gambling is legal which, at least to me, raises the earlier theoretical question about operating a non-for-profit Social Poker website, just one in which real money is played for. Again, someone would have to really love Poker to risk losing money (unless he beat the other players) as a result of operating such a site, but I think that it remains an interesting question.
Hawaii is one of the staunchest anti-gambling States of the fifty with perhaps only Utah giving it a run for its (lack of tax) money. If you look up any information on any form of gambling to be legalized in Hawaii (even Powerball participation or a State Lottery) you will find that such matters are met with apathy or contempt for the perceived societal ills that would (to the lawmakers) come as a result of the Legislation. Any such measures that are introduced typically fail to even make it to a floor vote, and there are many, as of the time of this writing, in Hawaii Legislation that are adamantly opposed.
Even gambling designed to target only tourists, specifically, slot machines that only people flying OUT of the country could play has somewhat stalled in the State of Hawaii, so I would not look for this state to be on the forefront of any Online Poker Legislation. If anything, Hawaii is more likely to be one of the last on board if, indeed, they ever come around to the idea.
Of course, as with other States, Hawaii has budget shortfalls and a number of areas in which both Legislators and the populace admit that there is room for improvement. But, why have a new source of tax revenues, right?
Idaho is another one of those states in which all forms of gambling, except those expressly legalized by the state, are considered illegal. As a result, Online Poker is expressly illegal.
The State expressly legalizes only certain forms of pari-mutuel betting, a State Lottery, and certain forms of charitable Bingo and Raffle games. Idaho is also an interesting State in that the language of the statutes would seem to be enough to expressly illegalize Online Poker, furthermore, certain officials within the state are actually required, by law, to inform and prosecute people who are guilty of what the law defines as illegal gambling with failure to do so rising to the level of a misdemeanor.
While Boise officials have admitted it is rare, there has been at least two cases in which mere gamblers received citations for illegal gambling, though the gambling was not conducted online:
For those of you who do not wish to read that news story, essentially, the illegal gambling was taking place inside of a business and it was a neighboring business that complained about it which essentially gave the police no alternative but to investigate the complaint. Representatives as much as directly said that they usually do not care and most such incidences, even if found, would result in nothing more than a warning.
For those of you who may be worried about playing poker online in the State of Idaho, I have exhaustively searched and have found no instances of anyone being arrested or cited for such conduct in the state...Just make sure not to tell anyone about it who might report you as, apparently, officials would then be required to investigate.
Illinois is another State that has made it clear that any form of gambling other than those specifically authorized by the state, which Online Poker is not, are expressly illegal.
The best chance that Illinois has had of passing a bill legalizing Online Poker, or Online Gambling (other than its lottery) in general was in 2013 when measures for Regulated Online Gambling were tacked onto a casino expansion bill, however, the Online Gambling provisions were later removed from the bill. Other Bills that would have allowed for regulated Online Gambling have died session deaths.
Even with that, it would not necessarily come as a surprise for Illinois to eventually be one of the first ten (or less) States to pass a Bill allowing for Internet Poker or Internet Gambling, in general, as previous bills do not see overly concerned with separating the two. Given that Illinois already has casinos, and therefore a regulatory framework already established, they would not necessarily be building an Online Regulatory framework, 'From the ground up.' Another interesting point is the Internet lottery, so apparently, the State is not completely opposed to all forms of Internet Gambling as that would certainly constitute gambling. With the right combination of lawmakers, Online Poker remains a possibility in the State of Illinois within the next few years, but by no means a guarantee or expectation.
As mentioned on the other page, Iowa has some of the most apparently unambiguous laws with respect to Online Gambling which would extend to Online Poker as the mere act of, 'Making a bet,' is illegal with exception to expressly authorized forms of gambling. Furthermore, the law goes as far as to provide for seizure of any winnings accrued as a result of unlawful gambling.
Iowa has previously given at least a modicum of consideration to the legalization and regulation of Online Poker, but not any other casino games. The bill that had the greatest chance of passing was one that would only allow Iowans and residents from other States in which Online Poker is legalized and regulated to play, but it died a Senate death.
The openness of some of the state's Legislators to consider such a bill tends to point to the possibility that Iowa could eventually become one of the first handful of States to eventually expressly legalize and regulate Online Poker, but there is no current Legislation at the time of this writing to such an effect.
Unless in a manner of gambling specifically authorized by the state, it is illegal to make, 'A bet,' so that would obviously apply equally to Online Poker.
One of the most recent pieces of Legislation in the State of Kansas, which ultimately failed, was actually designed to more expressly illegalize all forms of Online Gambling by proscribing a penalty of a fine up to $1,000 and six months in jail for mere players. The reason for this aspect of 2013's HB 2055 was to appear more friendly to brick-and-mortar casinos as other provisions of the bill, such as reducing the minimum investment required in order to obtain a casino license, were also key parts of the bill.
Given the ultimate goal of that bill, which was to attract more potential brick-and-mortar operators, it is difficult to say whether or not the State of Kansas is all that legitimately concerned with Online Gambling in and of itself as they clearly had other (pro-gambling) motives. With that being said, it is highly doubtful that Kansas is on the shortlist of States that will legalize Online Poker at any point in the near future.
While there is no Regulated Online Poker in the State of Kentucky, there does not appear to be anything in the law that makes the mere act of playing Online Poker illegal.
With that said, Kentucky has taken a number of measures that would seem to be anti Online Gambling on their face. For example, Kentucky attempted to illegalize Internet Cafes that had been used for Online Gambling back in the 2015 Senate Session and they actually closed a few such cafes (on other grounds) in advance of the assumed passing of the bill. With that out of the way, however, the Bill provided nothing that would make the act of Online Gambling, in and of itself, a crime, so it can be assumed safe to do from your own home.
There have been other actions taken by Kentucky that have been patently unfavorable to Online Gambling sites including, but not limited to, the attempted seizure of various domain names of Online Poker sites and the ridiculous ruling that finds Amaya liable for 870 MILLION dollars in damages (not even close to the actual loss) to Kentucky citizens as a result of PokerStars operation in the State even though Amaya did not own PokerStars at the time in question.
In other words, all action taken by the State of Kentucky appears geared more to facilitators and operators as opposed to ordinary citizens playing Poker Online. Furthermore, attorneys and representatives have already as much as openly concluded that there is nothing that expressly makes the act of Gambling Online a crime in the State.
Whether or not it is enforced, 'Gambling by computer,' which one could assume means Poker, is expressly a crime.
The only recent attempt at Legislation even loosely related to Online Gambling was an attempt to legalize Daily Fantasy Sports betting, and that piece of Legislation died in the Senate, though it had passed the House by a large margin. With respect to Online Poker, do not expect Louisiana to be a flag-bearer in terms of Online Poker legalization, but I guess anything can happen.
The act of, 'Unlawful Gambling,' is apparently illegal in the State but does not carry with it any actual penalties. Thus, I would be forced to conclude that an Online Poker player is good to go.
With respect to the express legalization and Regulation by the State of Maine of an Online Poker site(s), it looks somewhat unlikely as the state has not taken much express action, or even attempted much, with respect to Online Gambling either way. If I had to hazard a guess as to what side Maine would lean towards, I would suggest it might be towards legalization as the laws really provide no penalty whatsoever for mere players. Quite frankly, I can not help but arrive at the conclusion that Maine truly does not care about Online Poker either way, but nor are they in any great hurry to regulate and tax it.
Massachusetts has a few different laws that would tend to give one the impression that Online Poker is expressly illegal in the State. For one thing, it is undeniably the case that it is patently illegal to operate an online gambling site of any kind. Secondly, the law does proscribe a penalty for anyone associated with public gambling and anyone winning five or more dollars; in the latter case, they could be fined double the amount won.
What is perhaps the most interesting given that the relevant existing laws seem to appear to be against Online Gambling is that any and all current Legislation in progress is in favor of Regulating and allowing for existing licensed casino operators in Massachusetts to establish Online Gambling sites within the State. Little action has been taken on this pending Legislation thus far, but action remains possible. There have been previous bills to the current one that have died session deaths, including at least one that would have only allowed for Online Poker.
The Lottery Commission in the state has also batted around the idea of state-operated DFS and Lottery expansion sites, so it would hardly be a surprise to see Massachusetts eventually be one of the first handful of states to expressly legalize Online Poker, if not as well as other games.
It is illegal to win more than $50 through any means that the State considers, 'Illegal Gambling,' and the current law does not expressly say anything about Online Gambling either way. If the amount won is less than $50, then apparently that is still illegal, but there does not seem to be a penalty for it.
While that law would seem to point to a state-wide tendency to be averse to Online Poker, or gambling in general, the most recent bill to hit the Senate, Senate Bill 889, actually moves to legalize and Regulate Online Gambling. Furthermore, Michigan is one of only four states to offer State Lottery games over the Internet, so Internet Gambling, in general terms, would not be a patently new endeavor for the State and a skeletal framework for the Regulation already exists. This bill was referred to committee on April 14, 2016, but no further action has been taken on this bill as of the time of this writing.
The bill itself cites the fact that Internet Gambling is a primary form of entertainment for millions of individuals around the world and is already regulated and taxed in many countries as well as a few states. This act would also serve to allow sites to be operated either by casinos already licensed by the State of Michigan or by any tribal casinos operating within the state. The full text of the proposed bill can be found here:
According to State laws, an individual who, 'Makes a bet,' has committed a misdemeanor, but said misdemeanor does not seem to carry with it any penalties for a mere player. The State of Minnesota, at one time, also operated an Online Lottery, but has since pulled back on that operation because the State Legislature did not explicitly approve the sale of E-Ticket which the State Lottery had decided to enact on its own. The Bill to prevent the Lottery from continuing the sale of E-Tickets was neither signed nor vetoed by Governor Mark Dayton because, while he was not necessarily in favor of the bill, the Houses had substantial enough votes that his veto could have been overridden anyway.
With respect to any form of Legislation that would result in the legalization and regulation of Online Poker, the Minnesota Legislature has not taken any recent action one way or another. Therefore, it is very difficult to tell where Minnesota might stand on an Online Poker bill because the main problem with the E-Tickets (in the eyes of the Legislature) was not that they were morally opposed to them, but that the State Lottery acted on its own in implementing them and such implementation had not been specifically authorized by the State Legislature.
To put it simply: The State Lottery really hurt the Legislature's feelings.
Mississippi is pretty unambiguous in stating that a person engaging in any form of gambling other than those specifically authorized by the State (online poker is not) faces a fine of up to $500 and could also be fined any winnings.
Every House Session from 2012-2015 Representative Bobby Moak presented a bill that would legalize Online Gambling in the State of Mississippi, and every year from 2012-2015, the bill died. Representative Moak, while seeing the potential for increased tax revenues and planning to limit regulation and operation to current brick and mortar operators within the State seems to be the only Legislator in the state pushing hard for Online Gambling legalization. He finds himself opposed largely by staunch conservatives as well as religious groups.
Honestly, Mississippi, while home to some brick and mortar operators, is one of the last states that I would expect to eventually regulate some form of Online Poker, but stranger things have happened.
Other than specifically legalized forms of gambling in this state, which has more than its fair share of brick & mortar casinos housing poker games, gambling is a misdemeanor.
Unfortunately, recent Legislation in Missouri has nothing to do with Online Poker, but rather, current Legislation is aimed a removing the prohibition of, and regulating, Daily Fantasy Sports. Personally, I would consider this a positive first step in the outlook for Missouri to eventually have fully legal and regulated Online Poker because it shows a willingness to at least consider allowing forms of Internet Gambling.
Montana made all forms of Internet Gambling expressly illegal, and proscribed penalties for such, just last year. As a result, I would consider it highly unlikely that the State of Montana will find itself fully reversing course at any time in the near future. If nothing else, expect this to be one of the very last states to ever adopt Online Poker, if it ever does.
Nebraska has a combination of statutes that would make it expressly clear that Online Poker is illegal throughout the State. First of all, other than State-Regulated games that have been expressly authorized, betting, 'Something of value,' is a misdemeanor that can carry penalties for both players and operators with the penalties for operators being more strict. The law also directly states that it is not considered a defense to argue that the gambling occurred in a jurisdiction in which the gambling would be legal, which is highly relevant, because that is a provision (it would seem) that could only apply to forms of Online Gambling, including poker.
The most recent bill even relating to Poker in the State of Nebraska was introduced by State Senator Tyson Larson and may have been the most one-sided Bill in history! The bill recognized Poker as primarily a game of skill and would authorize liquor-license owners to operate Live Poker within their establishments enabling them to take a rake of up to 5% on cash games and entry fees of up to 10% on tournaments. However, the rake and entry fees would be transmitted directly to the State of Nebraska with the owners/operators of the establishments getting exactly nothing of the proceeds for their endeavors.
Surprisingly, in January of this year, even though the Bill amounted to a revenue tax of 100% on the operators, the bill failed to get through the Legislature. The reason for the failure of the bill was largely one of perceived social concerns, so it is doubtful that Nebraska would ever legalize Online Poker, since a game with a 100% effective tax is unsatisfactory.
Online Poker is legal in the State of Nevada at Regulated Online Poker sites.
It is expressly illegal to gamble in the State of New Hampshire unless such mode of gambling has been specifically authorized by the State.
The future for Online Poker in New Hampshire is not promising as a Bill to expand to casino gambling by allowing holders of liquor licenses to operate machines or Poker Games in separate areas of their establishments was destroyed in the Senate earlier this year. In fact, any bills to expand gambling in New Hampshire beyond lottery, pari-mutuel and charitable have been destroyed by fairly wide margins. While the sample size is small, when it comes to regulation of Online Poker and other forms of gambling, we usually see such Legislation succeed in States that already have casino gambling, so for casino gambling bills to continuously fail is not a positive sign for the prospects of legalized and regulated Online Poker in this State.
New Jersey has legalized and Regulated Online Gambling, including Poker. Further, participation at a non-regulated site seems to only carry penalties for operators rather than players.
The law in New Mexico holds that any forms of gambling not authorized by the state, which would include Online Poker, are expressly illegal.
In terms of recent activity, in 2015, it was not the State that made a move to expressly prohibit Online Poker, but rather the Navajo Indian Tribe. While negotiating their new compact with the State, the Navajo were inclined to include a provision that would enable them to withhold slot machine revenue payments to the State if the State were to legalize Online Gambling in any form, which would include Poker.
The most likely case that would see New Mexico with a Regulated form of Online Poker is if same were operated by the tribe(s) and the State of New Mexico decided to include that in a future compact, or compacts. In the meantime, it is perfectly understandable that the Navajo would not want the State of New Mexico competing with them when there already exists a revenue-sharing agreement with the State as relates casino gambling. Essentially, the State could theoretically get a piece of the tribal action while getting its own action in a way that takes away from the tribes.
With respect to the current law as relates Online Poker, New York laws apply only to operators as opposed to players, so the mere act of playing Online Poker is not illegal in this state.
Efforts to legalize and Regulate Online Poker have repeatedly failed in New York, and by all measures, appear poised to continue to do so. With that said, they are getting closer. In prior years, any Legislation geared towards legalizing and regulating online Poker would be lucky to make it out of committee, but during the most recent session, iPoker was tied to the State's budget until eventually being dropped as a provision. As a result, Online Poker would either have to be tacked onto some other bill or be voted on independently of any other Bill and it is unlikely that the Senate considers the matter enough of a priority for that to happen.
Interestingly, this was not even the first attempt to tie iPoker to the State's Budget as such an attempt was also made in 2013 before it was dropped. In 2013, though, that was much less likely to remain as no standalone bill had even passed committee that year, or any year prior to this one, for that matter. Three of the four newly licensed New York casinos have said that they would be willing to operate Online Poker sites, so New York can rest assured that they will have licensed operators in the event that they ever do decide to Regulate Online Poker.
Given the fact that Legislation seems to get closer and closer to success every year, I would be surprised if New York does not legalize Online Poker in the very near future, in fact, I would actually be a little surprised if it doesn't happen within the next two years. It is certainly not as unpopular an idea as it is in many other States, and those lawmakers who are not terribly interested in it seem more concerned with feasibility than they are with any perceived negative social consequences.
North Carolina law stipulates that illegal gambling is any non-authorized form of betting in a, 'Game of chance,' and constitutes a Class II Misdemeanor. According to the law, any illegal winnings may be seized by the State.
Of course, some might find it ambiguous whether or not Poker is a, 'Game of chance,' or would more aptly be considered, 'A game of skill,' personally, I consider it a skill game with an element of chance. However, in 2007, a North Carolina Court of Appeals determined that Poker would fall under their definition of a, 'Game of Chance,' so that can be presumed to also apply to Online Poker:
The end result of this decision is that Poker is illegal in North Carolina, ergo, Internet Poker is illegal in North Carolina. In terms of any Legislation specifically related to Online Poker, there really hasn't been much of any in the State.
North Dakota is a strange place with respect to gambling law. Gambling is illegal other than State-Authorized forms, but only sometimes, it actually depends on how much one is betting in a particular, 'Event.'
However, according to the website of the Attorney General:
https://www.ag.nd.gov/About/FAQ.htm (link no longer works)
Online Gambling is illegal, regardless of the amount. I have no idea how he reaches that conclusion after I have read the statutes with respect to gambling in North Dakota, but he's the AG and I'm not, so there is that.
In the meantime, North Dakota has not attempted to roll out any laws to legalize Online Poker in recent years, and possibly not ever.
Ohio laws are strange in this regard because, while they do not specifically prohibit Online Poker, they prohibit, 'Gambling as a substantial source of income,' unless it is gambling conducted in a manner specifically authorized by the state. The only way I can read that is that it is fine to play Online Poker in Ohio, just as long as you don't make too much doing it, of course, the amount that takes one into, 'Substantial source of income,' territory does not seem to be defined.
With that said, Ohio is one of the more recent States to enter the gambling fray, in general, and a maxim that seems to be somewhat true is, 'As does Pennsylvania, so does Ohio,' at least when it comes to gambling. As we will soon see, Pennsylvania is going to legalize Online Gambling, including Poker, likely very soon, so Ohio coming on board at some time shortly thereafter is probably a pretty good bet.
Pennsylvania and Ohio also share a few parent companies as gambling operators, so theoretically, both States legalizing it would actually streamline the process for those casinos who could theoretically give players from either State access to the same sites provided that the revenues are tracked separately for taxation purposes. I'm not suggesting that will necessarily happen, even if both states move to legalize Online gambling, I'm merely suggesting that it would make sense to do it that way.
Any form of gambling not specifically authorized by the State, which would include Online Poker, is illegal.
However, that may not be true if one is playing at the website of one of the Tribal Casinos here in the near future as the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma announced late last year that they would be launching a website that would be fully compliant with their compact with the State of Oklahoma:
Essentially, while the State of Oklahoma is not expressly running or regulating the site, it should be presumed just as legal for players to play there as it would be to venture to any of the casinos of any Oklahoma tribe.
Oregon proscribes that any form of gambling not specifically authorized is illegal and is a Class A Misdemeanor, this would include Online Poker.
Oregon is one State in which the law makes it abundantly clear that accepting money on an Internet site for the purpose of gambling is illegal and constitutes a Class C Felony, there are MUCH lesser penalties for players, however, if a player is found to be, 'Promoting Gambling,' then the player is just as guilty as an operator in the eyes of the State, Beyond that, there has not been much in the way of Legislative attempts to legalize Online Poker in this state.
Any form of gambling that is not expressly permitted by the State is illegal, including Online Poker, but there seem to only be penalties proscribed for operators rather than mere players. With that said, Online Gambling by licensed operators appears to have a very real chance of being enacted this year, despite the fact that similar measures have stalled out in previous years.
This bill does not just legalize Online Poker, however, but is also a full-out expansion of the State's current gambling allowances to include limited licensing for private businesses in a manner that would be very similar to the, 'Parlors,' that have been legal in West Virginia for many years. While I would be in support of all measures, personally, the fact that Online Gambling is tied to other gambling expansions could prove to be the downfall of this bill as many Representatives are hesitant to expand physical gambling beyond the casinos proper that are already legal in the State. Even with that being the case, though, the potential for a future bill that would relate exclusively to Online Poker exists, and the Pennsylvania State Legislature would likely be more amenable to such a bill.
This Bill was on the table in the House, but was removed in late March and no action has been taken since that time. Even with that, though, the Bill is actually still technically alive in its current form.
Rhode Island laws are pretty harsh with respect to unauthorized gambling on their face with the strictest of penalties going to operators, however, even participants in Social Games, such as poker, can find themselves in some legal hot water. With that said, nothing appears to be illegal with respect to Online Poker.
Rhode Island has shown little to no interest in legalizing and Regulating Online Gambling thus far and that is no surprise given their minuscule population. Unless Rhode Island were to somehow enter into an agreement with one or more states in which Online Gambling already is, or becomes, legalized and regulated, I simply do not see any way that Online Poker could become a profitable venture given such a limited market. Besides that, who would operate it?
Generally speaking, South Carolina is one of the more staunch anti-gambling States out there for which the law proscribes serious penalties for operators even of Social Games as well as more minor penalties for mere players. The laws, however, do not specifically mention Online Poker or any other form of Online Gambling, so it's hard to say on that.
If nothing else, South Carolina has been going backwards on gambling, in general. For one thing, there was a time when Video Poker machines were legal throughout the State, but then those were outlawed in 1999. While there have been various bills to expand gambling in South Carolina in recent years, all of them have failed.
Online poker has not been specifically legalized by the State Legislature, thus, it constitutes a Class II Misdemeanor. Searching for information related to any attempt to legalize Online Poker resulted in nothing of use, thus, I do not believe that any bills to do such have so much as been introduced in the State.
Tennessee law prohibits any form of gambling not expressly authorized by the state. Tennessee is generally pretty strict on gambling, but recently, has shown a surprising side with becoming the third state to legalize and regulate Daily Fantasy Sports. The Attorney General initially declared DFS illegal, but the Legislature passed a bill legalizing and regulating it and the governor signed it into law. If the state respects DFS as essentially a game of skill, then one would think they should do the same for poker, but I cannot find any evidence of an Online Poker bill ever receiving a serious push in the state.
Texas law is pretty clear that it is illegal to participate in any game, other than those sanctioned by the State, in which all or part of the outcome is reliant upon chance.
Interestingly enough, a U.S. Representative from Texas has introduced and then re-introduced a bill that would legalize Online Poker at the Federal level, but no meaningful action has ever been taken in that regard. With respect to the State, they have indicated that they would be open to legalizing Online Poker within the State provided it were first legalized nationally.
Not a chance in Hell.
Other than State approved gambling, any form of gambling is theoretically punishable by a fine of $10-$200.
The State is pretty open to the prospect of expanding gambling, however, other than a bill to regulate DFS, nothing has even so much as made it through the Senate yet, In fact, there is currently a bill introduced to create a Gaming Commission separate from the Lottery Commission, so presumably, that would have to occur before the possibility of Online Gambling could even be addressed in a meaningful way.
Unless specifically authorized and regulated by the State, placing a wager of any kind on anything with an element of chance is illegal, as is possession of a gambling device, which your computer would theoretically become if you play Online Poker in the state.
Interestingly enough, while the State has made no meaningful effort to regulate Online Poker, they became the first state earlier this year to explicitly legalize and regulate DFS, so maybe there is hope for them to do the same with Online Poker.
In the State of Washington, it is a Class C Felony to receive or transmit gambling information by any means, so Online Poker is definitely out. Interestingly, it once appeared as though Washington would be one of the first states onboard with the legalization and regulation of Online Poker as there have been a number of Bills introduced and re-introduced that would purport to do same, but all of them have died session deaths. There is no evidence to suggest that this will not continue to be the case.
West Virginia has almost every form of legalized gambling in almost every possible location that you can think of, but they are only satisfied if the State is getting a cut as even home games are expressly illegal.
The West Virginia State Lottery has previous shown interest in expanding to Online ticket sales and would, presumably, be more than eager to expand into all forms of Online Gambling, including Poker, in the event that the Legislature is willing to give them the opportunity to do that. While players in Pennsylvania, in the event that Online Gambling eventually becomes legal in Pennsylvania would be relegated to that State's borders, it would hardly be a surprise for West Virginia to end up following suit.
Furthermore, of the bordering States, West Virginia was the first to have both casinos as well as the first to have Table Games later on. West Virginia also has over one thousand legal, 'Slot parlors,' in the State in which private operators are allowed to have a small number of machines. Again, it is this very concept that could be a problem getting the Online gambling bill passed in Pennsylvania and is the same concept that Ohio has considered. In short, West Virginia is usually ahead of the game when it comes to liberality with respect to its gambling laws, so I would be surprised if they would want to see themselves overtaken in that respect.
Other than State-Approved gambling, any form of unauthorized gambling, which would include Online Poker, is a Class B Misdemeanor. Aside from Daily Fantasy Sports, the Wisconsin Legislature appears to have approached the concept of Online Gambling only minimally.
Any form of gambling not specifically authorized by the state is illegal and subject to a fine of up to $750. It was just in recent years that social games of poker in a live setting were deemed expressly legal, so do not expect this State to be among the first to embrace Online Poker. There is, again, a question of how much of a market for it there would be given the limited population.
While most states (West Virginia is a glaring exception, as almost any form of gambling that results in the State getting money is legal) have a much looser view on Social Poker than they do on other forms of gambling, this is not true of all States, especially those with a Puritanical set of laws such as Utah or states that have somehow convinced themselves that gambling is an inherent social evil, such as Hawaii. However, these allowances for Social Poker, as we have seen, do not necessarily extend themselves into the world of Online Poker, or in the case of states in which they theoretically could at a not-for-profit site (such as Alaska) and perhaps still constitute a Social Game, that theory does not seem to have been attempted anywhere.
Another thing that we have learned is that the moral/social/religious/ethical considerations are not the only ones that may be preventing some of the states from embracing online poker. For example, some of the states may be too small and do not perceive themselves as having enough of a market for the regulation of online poker sites to be a profitable endeavor for either the sites or for themselves. Some States, still, have already expressly outlawed Online Gambling in any form, which includes poker. It is unlikely that states in the latter category will come around, although, some states (such as Virginia) have surprised with their willingness to legalize and regulate Daily Fantasy Sports. With respect to states in the former category, it is possible that they will legalize Online Poker at a later time when they can essentially link up their operations (or those of other sites) with other States and thereby create a more efficient market.
Another likely case is simply that many states simply do not care about Online Poker Regulation very much one way or another, and we see this in States such as New York where Online Poker legalization was tacked onto other Legislative measures. There are other states still in which various pieces of Legislation, whether they concern the legalization of Online Poker or just Online Gambling in general, are introduced, but then die a Senate death before going to a general vote, or perhaps, before they make it out of committee.
Texas is another example of a state that has not legalized and regulated online poker for a much different reason, that reason being simply that they will follow suit of the Federal Government, thus, if the Feds legalize Online Poker, then so will Texas.
There are still other States that can see where Online Poker could potentially be a strong source of revenues, but that lack the current capacity to even consider legalizing or regulating it, consider Vermont who must first decide whether or not they would like to have a Gaming Commission separate from their Lottery Commission, they are not even close to having the regulatory framework in place for an undertaking of that nature, and even if they had, unlike most of the states considering Online Poker who also have land casinos...Vermont really kind of lacks a built-in prospective operator for what would be their site(s).
The two things that are notable are that the legalization of Online Poker is first, not a simple question, and secondly, not a question that most State Legislatures are particularly concerned about.
What makes no sense to me is the states that have a built-in regulatory framework as well as built-in potential operators who have the capacity to operate the sites, provided they are willing, who have not yet passed or enacted the Legislation. The work is essentially already done!
In the meantime, if you are in one of the States in which Online Poker has not been expressly legalized and you cannot visit a State-Regulated operator (or, even if you can, but you can get better promotions at non-State casinos) just be assured that you have virtually nothing to fear (from a legal standpoint) about playing Online Poker at other Internet sites. You definitely want to look through this site as well as LatestCasinoBonuses.com to determine who the most reputable Online Casinos that offer Poker are, but as a practical matter, if you can show me a story of an online gambling conviction for someone merely acting as a player...it will be the first such story I have ever seen! Furthermore, there are also a strong number of States in which, even though it is not expressly legalized and regulated, playing poker online either carries no potential penalty or is not a crime at all.
If you're still not comfortable with that, that's up to you, but if you want to play Poker Online and are not willing to play at non State-Regulated casinos, then you might be in for a bit of a wait.
Written by: Brandon James