US Online Poker: Legal Poker Guide March

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Where is Online Poker Legal?

Online Poker is currently under state jurisdiction. There is no federally legal online poker, and in fact, the federal government has often taken steps to make sure that poker sites are not operating in the general United States unless legal in specific states.

New Jersey

njflagsmallNew Jersey was the third state to legalize online poker, but between the several operators in the state and the massive betting scene, it has quickly risen to the biggest online poker market in the United States.

New Jersey has been at the forefront of the iGaming and online sports betting scene as it was one of the big reasons that PASPA was overturned to allow sports gambling to expand in the United States. Currently, you can play with six different operators online, WSOP, BetMGM, PokerStars, 888 Poker, PartyPoker, and Borgata Poker.

New Jersey is part of the Multi-State Gaming Compact, which allows poker players to play against poker players from other states.

Michigan

michigans state flag 160X89Michigan is the latest state to allow online poker. Michigan online betting, including sports betting, casino games, and poker, launched in late January of 2021. It was a long process to get to the launch as there were many delays between legalization, licensing, and actually getting the betting online.

Michigan is on pace to have three operators of WSOP, PokerStars, and BetMGM Poker. This would give poker players a great trio of options from three of the best operators. Currently, PokerStars is affiliated with Fox Bet, and BetMGM has its own sportsbook and casino to partner with. However, WSOP still needs to find an operator or casino to join forces with to offer its product.

At this time, Michigan is not a part of the Multi-State Gaming Compact; however, this will surely come up in future discussions.

Nevada

Nevada Small FlagNevada is the casino king of the United States, and it was the first to allow online poker legally. Currently, WSOP Nevada is the only place to legally play online poker. The World Series of Poker is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, names in the world when it comes to playing poker. The famous WSOP bracelets are now also available online and not just in-person at WSOP physical tournaments.

Nevada is a state within the Multi-State Gaming Compact, meaning that poker players can play against those in New Jersey, the other state within the compact that also has a WSOP site.

Pennsylvania

paflagsmallPennsylvania has had a slow burn of an opening when it comes to poker, sports betting, and casinos. The licensing has not been easy for those looking to provide online poker. Currently, only PokerStars, with the help of its Fox Bet affiliate, has been able to offer real money online poker to the Keystone State.

BetMGM has recently entered the state with a casino and online sportsbook. It is highly likely that BetMGM pursues online poker within the state in the future. However, something that may give BetMGM pause is the lack of multi-state gaming.

Pennsylvania has still yet to join in on the Multi-State Gaming Compact, so poker players cannot play with poker players residing in other parts of the country.

Delaware

Delaware Flag SmallDelaware was one of the first to legalize online poker, coming in second only to Nevada. However, there are no national poker providers available in the state. This means that only tribal and local casinos and card rooms are offering poker at this moment.

However, Delaware is a part of the Multi-State Gaming Compact, which is vital to the success of online poker in such a small state. This allows the player pool to be big enough for online poker to thrive.

West Virginia

West Virginia Small FlagAnother state that has also recently joined the online poker scene is West Virginia. The Mountain State legalized online sports betting, casinos, and online poker soon after. At this moment, no operators are quite yet live in the state.

Both BetMGM, who is already live with a sportsbook and casino, and PokerStars have plans to go live in the state. This would be huge for the poker scene in West Virginia as it would make it one of the bigger destinations for online poker enthusiasts.

One thing that could drastically increase West Virginia’s online poker appeal is joining the Multi-State Gaming Compact. The player pool is not massive in West Virginia, and being able to play against New Jersey poker players would be a huge plus.

The Best Online Poker Sites

Here are our favorite Online Poker operators that are currently licensed throughout different states in America.

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BetMGM

Overview

BetMGM is currently live in New Jersey and will likely be entering Michigan by the end of 2021. On top of this, both West Virginia and Pennsylvania seem like likely expansion states for the massive iGaming entity and its online poker platform.

Bonus

The bonus for BetMGM online poker is tied to the online casino bonus of a $1,000 deposit match at a 100% deposit match rate. This means that your first deposit is doubled up to a $1,000 deposit! You also get a $25 free bet with no deposit required to try out BetMGM Casino and Poker.

Partners

BetMGM is partnered with Borgata in New Jersey, which allows it to run online poker. In Michigan, BetMGM is a partner with its own casino, MGM Grand Detroit. In Pennsylvania and West Virginia, BetMGM is partnered with Hollywood Casino and Greenbrier, respectively.

App Options

BetMGM offers both an iOS and Android application. You can find the iOS app on the Apple store and the Android download link on BetMGM’s website. On top of this, there is also a desktop application available for download for Windows computers.

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WSOP

Overview

The World Series of Poker is one of the biggest brands in all of poker, not just the online scene. In fact, many think of the World Series of Poker for its in-person tournaments instead of its online poker. However, WSOP.com does indeed offer online poker, and it offers one of the very best platforms for those looking to participate in large-scale tournaments.

WSOP is available in both New Jersey and Nevada, which both take advantage of the Multi-State Compact, and you can play in tournaments with players from either state when in New Jersey or Nevada.

Bonus

The bonus that WSOP.com offers new users is, first off, $10 free without any kind of deposit. However, following that, you can go ahead and get a $1,000 deposit bonus that matches your first deposit dollar for dollar. That is right; you get a 100% deposit match up to $1,000 on WSOP.com.

Partners

The WSOP.com entity is owned and operated mainly by 888 Holdings. It is partnered with 888 Poker in New Jersey and Nevada. In Pennsylvania, WSOP has held talks with Harrah’s Philadelphia Casino and Racetrack to enter a partnership to offer its online poker to the Keystone State.

App Options

WSOP.com offers a platform on almost all major operating systems. You can play WSOP on your computer with either a Windows or Mac computer as there are both Windows and OSX versions of the desktop program. Then, on mobile, there is both an iOS and Android app available to wager on!

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PokerStars

Overview

PokerStars has been a massive name for online poker in the United States for a very long time. However, PokerStars has run into many issues in its past as the United States cracked down on online poker that was not fully regulated and licensed. Now PokerStars operates a fully legal and licensed operation in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan!

Bonus

PokerStars has two offers to choose from for its new users. You can either get $30 free on a $20 deposit, or you can get a 100% deposit match up to $600. It is clear that the second offer can be a much larger sum of bonus money, but if you are just trying out the poker site, the first might be tempting.

Partners

PokerStars has partnered with Fox Bet Sportsbook. This means that the sportsbook side of betting is provided by Fox Bet while the casino and poker are provided by PokerStars in each state that it operates in. In Michigan, PokerStars and Fox Bet are partnered with the Odawa Casino Resort, and in Pennsylvania, the duo is partnered with Mount Airy Casino.

App Options

PokerStars has a desktop application available for download that supports both Windows and OSX machines. PokerStars can also be played on mobile devices run by iOS and Android. The download links can all be found on PokerStars’ website, except for iOS, which will be on the Apple App Store.

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Future Outlook

online pokerThe future for online poker in the U.S. looks brighter and brighter by the day. Nevada and Delaware were followed by New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and West Virginia in legalizing online poker. The states’ casinos are now joined in partnership with the poker operators in offering the product, which combines the resources of the regulated land-based casinos with the expertise of the online poker operators. The increase in legal online poker venues has removed some of the uncertainty for players and promises increased revenues in the industry. Players are now able to deposit and play with confidence, knowing that their accounts cannot be seized and that the venue cannot be closed.

The key to the expansion of the online poker market is the Multi-State Gaming Compact. This allows players in signatory states to compete against each other as opposed to players in one state only being allowed to compete against fellow residents. New Jersey has signed on to the agreement, adding a large population base. The impending addition of Pennsylvania will expand the total population pool of signatory states beyond 25 million. The growing common market will increase revenues within member states as online poker becomes more attractive in comparison with offshore entities.

Once momentum is established in the signatory states, it is likely that other states will want to legalize online poker. Several large states have had efforts to permit online poker that made some measure of progress before the bills ultimately failed. However, as online poker continues to grow in popularity, the revenue source for these states may become too big to forego. The key to further expansion of online poker is whether or not various stakeholders can cooperate in figuring out an equitable distribution of revenues and the participants in the marketplace. In several states, tribal casinos have blocked gaming expansion since it may threaten their hegemony over gambling in their respective states.

Beyond legalization, various new technological advances have made online poker more popular. A video platform named Twitch has facilitated connections and allowed top poker players to share tips and advice with players. Fans are able to watch live poker streams on Twitch. In addition, innovative content has made poker more accessible and understandable by average players.

Possible Future Expansion States

Here are some massive states when it comes to poker and their current and forward-looking outlooks in regards to online poker.

Maryland

Maryland Small FlagMaryland just legalized sports betting. It is very likely that this will include online sports betting and, hopefully, online casino gaming as well as online poker. Maryland already has a pretty decently sized casino scene, all things considered. This gives hope that online casino gaming and online poker can be coming for all of Maryland. This very well could be the next state that allows online real money poker and is a state to watch out for in 2021 and 2022.

New York

New York Flag SmallNew York would be a massive online poker scene. Currently, there are bills in place to legalize mobile sports betting in the state. There is no reason that this could not also be expanded to online casinos and poker. If this were to happen, New York would quickly jump to one of the biggest poker scenes in the world, let alone one of the biggest in America. At this time, iGaming is trending upward in the Empire State.

California

California Flag SmallCalifornia has the biggest card room scene in the United States, and that revenue is not even counting the tribal casino card rooms that are also massive in California. Before the Federal Government cracked down on online poker, California was the clear leader in online poker. 2022 or 2024 would be the earliest for online poker legalization as it would take a constitutional amendment to the State for anything to change, which includes voter approval in California.

Florida

Florida flag smallFlorida is another state in which there is already a large poker and card room scene that can be expanded online if iGaming is introduced to the state. Currently, the tribal casinos run much of the gambling market in the state. However, the residents of Florida actually have the final say on any gaming expansions that are done in the state. This means that at the end of the day, Florida residents can decide whether or not any bill passed or agreed to is good enough for the state.

Market Size

The largest market for poker in the U.S. is California, which currently does not have online poker. Card rooms that feature poker take in north of $1 billion in revenue every year, and that does not even include revenue from tribal casinos.

With regard to the online poker states, New Jersey is clearly the largest market thus far. Online poker recently reached and surpassed $4 million in monthly revenue. Pennsylvania and Michigan both promise to be a sizable market once online poker is fully operational with all the major operators.

At the time of Black Friday, the revenues from the U.S. online poker market approached $1 billion. The present pales in comparison to what the future offers. Total online gaming revenues in the U.S. are expected to surpass $4 billion by the end of 2021, and a sizable part of that is online poker. There have been some estimates that a fully regulated online poker industry in the U.S. could yield revenues above $3 billion annually. Even if online poker is only legalized on the state level, the gaming agreement will serve to boost revenues.

History of Online Poker

Online poker dates almost as far back as the internet itself. The game has achieved immense popularity in a short period of time and has helped spur the popularity of poker in this country. Now, two decades after its introduction, online poker is poised to enter into a historic period of expansion in this country as more states legalize and offer the product. Online poker has come a long way since its beginning and the proliferation of mobile devices enables the product to reach far beyond its beginnings.

How Online Poker Works

Online poker allows players to compete against each other using the poker software. Players join games by locating them in the casino lobby. Generally, both cash games and tournaments are offered. The software provides the connectivity that allows the players to see the cards and send commands to play the game. The software provides the information to a user’s computer or mobile device. However, instead of a dealer, online poker relies on a random number generator to assign cards. Now, some new varieties of online casino games actually feature live dealers. Online poker sites make money by charging a rake, which is usually around five percent. Tournaments require an entry fee in addition to the buy-in. The major difference between online poker and the live version of the game is that online poker operates at a much quicker speed.

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UIGEA

However, the halcyon days of the industry were about to end. In 2006, Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act. UIGEA went after the money flow that fueled online poker, making it illegal to process payments connected to online gambling. This drove many companies from the marketplace, although several of the top companies remained operational in spite of UIGEA. Eventually, after several enforcement actions undertaken by the Department of Justice, it became more difficult for players to fund accounts and withdraw money.

Black Friday

A series of events in 2011 put an extreme damper on the online poker marketplace. First, several executives from FullTilt Poker were indicted and charged with violations of gambling and money laundering laws. They were also charged with defrauding players out of $300 million. Multiple other indictments were unsealed on the same day that charged company executives and payment processors with various crimes. In specific, the indictments alleged that online poker operators duped banks into processing payments in violation of UIGEA.

The government seized the accounts belonging to the poker operators, which included customer funds. The government also seized the domain names for PokerStars and FullTilt but returned them once the two companies pledged to withdraw from the U.S. market. The indictments caused severe financial issues for the companies, such that they could no longer process withdrawals from customers. Black Friday had a predictably deleterious effect on these companies’ business. The companies that escaped indictment gained market share.

Move Towards Legalization

Black Friday, however, was not the end of online poker in this country. Shortly after Black Friday, states sought to fill the space legally with their own laws permitting online poker. Nevada was the first state to legalize online poker in June 2011 and issued the first licenses a year later. Soon after Nevada permitted online poker, Delaware followed suit, legalizing online poker under the auspices of the state lottery.

At the same time that some states were legalizing online poker, there was a federal effort to permit online poker. This push stalled amid concerns about states’ rights. At the heart of the matter is a tug-of-war between the Federal Government and the states, with each trying to preempt the other from regulating the market. In general, states want to have the ability to choose on their own whether to legalize and regulate gaming within their borders.

At this point, Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and New Jersey have all legalized online poker alongside Delaware and Nevada. Currently, it still is up to each state whether or not to legalize online real money poker, and it seems that this will not change in the foreseeable future.

US Online Poker FAQ

Is online poker legal in the United States?

At this point in time, it is up to states to legalize, regulate, and license legal online poker. There is no federally legal online poker that expands across all 50 states. However, federal law also does not prohibit states from choosing to legalize it themselves.

Can I bet with real money playing online poker in the United States?

Yes, but only in states with licensed online poker. In these states, you can bet real money and win real cash just like a normal card room. You can do so while playing a ton of different forms of poker. There are also cash tournaments with cash buy-ins available.

What states have online poker?

The states that currently have online poker are Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Nevada, Delaware, and West Virginia. At this point in time, these are the only states with legal online poker in the United States. You cannot play licensed online poker anywhere else.

What is the legal age to play online poker?

Just like the legal betting age, in all states where there is legal online poker, you must be 21 years of age or older to play. With all licensed online operators, 21 is also the age at which you can make an account.

Are online poker winnings taxable income?

Yes, all winnings from iGaming, like online poker, are taxable income. This means that you need to report your winnings on your taxes if you had net positive earnings from online poker that year. You can check with your state regarding state tax on those winnings.

What kind of poker is offered on online sites?

The main kind of poker offered is Texas Hold’em, including no-limit, fixed-limit, and pot-limit. However, Omaha, Seven-Card Stud, and Hi/Lo versions of those games are also offered on the major online poker sites. There are both cash games and tournaments offered for these card games.

What are my deposit/withdrawal methods for online poker?

The banking methods on an online poker site will change operator to operator and state to state. However, you can usually expect some form of credit and debit card, like Mastercard and Visa. It is also normal to accept e-check, bank transfer, PayPal, and more, depending on the operator.

Is there a deposit match with BetMGM Poker?

Yes, BetMGM Poker runs through the BetMGM Casino brand. Therefore you get a $1,000 deposit match at a 100% match rate with your very first deposit. For example, with a first-time deposit of $200, BetMGM will match with $200 of bonus credits. This is valid for up to $1,000.

Does California have online poker?

No, California does not have any legal iGaming or sports betting within the state. However, California is currently the largest card room revenue machine in the United States. It is very likely that online poker could come in the future with a State Constitutional Amendment.

Do all online casinos offer online poker?

No, actually, a majority of the casinos currently do not offer online poker with the casino. Online poker is a separate license and is something that many casinos currently skip out on developing. You will need to find an operator that offers online poker to play.

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Sam Shefrin is the founder of Lineups.com, Inc. Before Lineups, he started Daily Fantasy Cafe, Inc. in 2014. Armed with a passion for sports and every Atlanta team, his journey continues with the goal of making Lineups a premier sports analytics destination. He has been quoted on Forbes.com for industry insight and his websites featured on NBATV, Yahoo! Sports, Fantasy Pros, Bleacher Report and SB Nation.