Ever since the last-minute addition of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) to the SAFE Port Act in 2006, online poker sites have been in the DOJ’s crosshairs. Over the past several years, the feds have created minor spectacles by flexing their legislative muscles and taking legal action against the industry. But it wasn’t until Black Friday – April 15, 2011 – that things finally came to a boiling point. On that day, the confusion surrounding legal online poker sites intensified.
The morning began with an indictment from the U.S. DOJ against three of the largest poker sites in the industry: Pokerstars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker. That was merely the beginning. The DOJ was just getting started. Black Friday ultimately caused a lot of people to wonder, “is it legal to play poker online?”
We created this page to address two main issues.
- First, we’ll briefly explain why you have nothing to fear with regard to current laws about playing online poker. If you’ve found yourself asking, “is online poker legal or am I breaking the law by playing?” what we have to say below should give you comfort.
- The second issue we’ll address is where to find legal poker sites online. With the DOJ – and to a limited extent, the FBI – mucking about, it has become more difficult than ever for poker fans to find reputable sites. We’ll share the ones we enjoy below.
Is It Legal To Play Poker Online?
To begin, a quick note of clarification: we’re not lawyers. That should preface any discussion regarding legal issues. Having said that, we can point to a few facts that demonstrate why U.S. poker players have little to fear from current laws about legal online poker.
- First, a lot of people seem to believe that legislation has made playing poker on the internet a crime. Some fear they may be fined, prosecuted, and worse, if caught. In reality, there is nothing in current federal legislation that criminalizes the act of playing online poker. Moreover, to our knowledge, there has never been a federal case brought against a U.S. player for doing so.
- Second, there has been a lot of attention drawn to online poker ever since the UIGEA was passed. But it’s worth pointing out that the bill doesn’t mention poker at all. It talks about “games subject to chance.” That definition could be stretched to include every game found in a casino.
- Third, the issue of legal online poker focuses mainly on the financial institutions that interact with poker sites. This includes the payment processors used by the sites to process their members’ deposits. Specifically, current legislation essentially makes it illegal for U.S. financial institutions (banks, credit card issuers, etc.) to process transactions that send funds to the poker sites.
Current legislation in the U.S. does not directly target the actions of U.S. citizens. It doesn’t make the act of playing online poker legal or illegal. It doesn’t address residents at all. With that in mind, the challenge becomes where to find legal poker sites online.
Where To Play Legal Online Poker
When the DOJ seized the domains of Stars, Full Tilt, and Absolute on Black Friday, it created a vacuum in the industry. These three sites commanded a huge following. Thousands of poker players suddenly had to find new places to play, even as the field of legal poker sites contracted.
Several companies saw an opportunity to step into the void. Some of them are relatively new to online gambling. Others, like Bovada (a reincarnation of Bodog) and BetOnline, have had a significant footprint in the industry for years. These sites have opened their doors to U.S. poker players, giving us a new list of legal online poker rooms to review.
Recommended List Of Legal Poker Sites Online
Every poker site on our Recommended List has its strengths and weaknesses, the latter of which we’re hopeful will improve with time. The features you enjoy most – tournaments, game variety, promotions, etc. – will play a major role in your experience at each site. The bottom line: all three offer high-quality real money online poker, and accept USA players.
- BetOnline Poker – BetOnline has had a casino, sportsbook, and racebook for years. They launched their online poker room largely to meet the needs of U.S. players. There are a lot of things to like about it. For example, they currently attract a lot of unskilled players, many of whom probably migrate from the sportsbook and casino. They also host $150K guaranteed tournaments, freerolls, and other promos. Visit BetOnline today, and receive 200 Promo Bucks (to be used in the guaranteed tournaments) for each $50 you deposit.
- Bovada Poker – As we mentioned earlier, Bovada is a rebrand of Bodog for U.S. players. If you played poker at Bodog, you’ll know what to expect. The software is intuitive and reliable; the customer support is top-notch; and you’ll receive a 100% matching bonus (up to $1,000) on your first deposit. You’ll also see guaranteed tournaments, monthly freerolls, and the King of the Felt event. Visit Bovada Poker today to grab your 100% match bonus.
To the original question, “is it legal to play poker online,” yes. There is nothing to fear with regarding the law when doing so. With that out of the way, we highly recommend taking a close look at the list of legal online poker rooms above to get started.