The answer to the question “is online poker legal?” varies from state to state, depending on factors such as state laws, gambling interests, and politics. While some states have long resisted both gambling and online poker, others like Nevada and New Jersey have made the game legal. New Hampshire and West Virginia have recently joined the ranks, making it possible to play online poker in those states.
Despite being a highly profitable business, the US poker industry has experienced some ups and downs over the years. Its halcyon days came to an end with the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, which made it illegal for payment processors to process payments for gambling activities. Thousands of UIGEA-busted sites were forced to close and players had to find other ways to fund their accounts.
However, poker has since rebounded from this low point and has become a legal activity in some states. Nevada was first to make online poker legal and is home to the World Series of Poker (WSOP). The WSOP has grown into one of the biggest — if not the largest — tournaments in the world.
After a period of waning interest, California’s online poker scene started to pick up steam in recent years and now generates over $1 billion in revenue each year. That is not counting the massive card room scene at California’s tribal casinos such as Mohegan Sun and Mashantucket Pequot. The biggest stumbling block in California’s path to online poker legality is that it will require a constitutional amendment to change the current gambling laws.
A small but growing number of states have also joined the regulated online poker market. New Jersey is the biggest online poker market in the country while Delaware is a close second. These states are part of the Multi-State Gaming Compact, which allows their residents to compete against players from other signatory states – expanding the player pool and increasing revenues.
Other states haven’t embraced online poker, including Florida, where lawmakers are reluctant to allow any forms of gambling, let alone a game that can be played by anyone in their homes. There is no chance of Florida ever legalizing online poker, but it may be possible for the state to join the Multi-State Gaming Compact in the future. Other states that have yet to legalize online poker include Michigan, New York, and Nebraska.