Current Status of Poker in U.S. – FAQ for American Poker Players
Disclaimer: The information contained in this page has been pulled from various sources. Speculation in the form of logical extrapolation and educated guesses have been used. While meant to be as informative as possible, events are changing in real time. Please use your own discretion and judgment when deciding how you wish to proceed.
First and foremost – it is not a crime for you to play online poker as an individual, even if you are a United States citizen.
There is no federal law that prohibits US players from making online poker accounts and playing for real money.
Only one state has passed a law making playing online poker a crime, Washington.
In Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey, you are not allowed to play online poker at any poker room not specifically licensed by the State regulator.
Anywhere else in the U.S. you are free to open an online poker account with any poker room that accepts U.S. players.
Nobody has ever been prosecuted for playing online poker in the U.S. even in Washington where it is illegal.
So Why All The Fuss?
There were two major events which have led to the current problems with internet poker in the U.S.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) made it unlawful for banks or financial businesses to process transactions with illegal gaming sites.
At the time, the Department of Justice (DOJ) held that the Federal Wire Act of 1961 was a law sufficient to make internet poker illegal.
The event known as Black Friday, where the DOJ seized the domain names of several major online poker rooms, was based on both the DOJ’s interpretation of the Wire Act and on some rather foolish and illegal attempts by the poker sites to get around the provisions of the UIGEA.
Then in September 2011, six months after Black Friday, the DOJ changed its opinion. It released a “Memorandum Opinion For The Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division” explaining that the Wire Act did not apply to internet poker.
The legal opinion was that:
“interstate transmissions of wire communications that do not relate to a ‘sporting event or contest’ fall outside the reach of the Wire Act.”
It is this opinion, which meant that there was no federal law prohibiting internet poker, that gave states like New Jersey the freedom to introduce their own legislation.
That is why, so long as there is no legislation in your state which prohibits you from playing poker online, it is entirely legal to do so.
What About the Banks?
After the UIGEA was passed, all the major banks adopted a negative attitude towards online gambling transactions. Even today, more than two years after Nevada first legalized online poker, licensed poker operators have not been able to convince all the major banks to accept their transactions.
This is where payment processors like Neteller and PayPal have stepped in to bridge the gap. They have received licenses in New Jersey and Nevada to accept online poker transactions.
They are busy raking in very nice fees while the banks are still largely ignoring the online gambling business!
Have Offshore Operators Found Workarounds?
Like the state licensed operators in New Jersey and Nevada, the offshore poker rooms which still offer online poker to U.S. customers have managed to find workarounds to the problem of accepting deposits and paying out winnings.
Leading poker journalist John Mehaffey has provided a fantastic service by tracking how well these poker rooms manage to pay out money when customers request it. John’s monthly U.S. Offshore Online Poker Payment Processing Report gives early warning of any problems that poker rooms may experience.
Go With a Trusted Site
It may not be illegal to play poker at an offshore site, but it means that you have almost no legal redress should things go wrong.
It is critical to play only at trusted sites. Rakeback.com’s recommended list of sites for U.S. players is a good place to start.
For example, we can recommend Americas Cardroom because we know that it has never had a problem with cashouts since it launched over 10 years ago.
Rakeback.com has even interviewed the CEO Phil Nagy, and discussed the issue of financial transactions with him in person.
His view is simple:
“Bitcoin is the new Neteller for poker players. It’s hard to set up, it’s really a pain, it’s like opening a bank account, but once you’ve set it up, I can get you money, you can have cash in your bank account in 48 hrs.”
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By Joss Wood Rakeback.com Content Manager