Beginner's guide

Where Is Legal to Play Poker in US?

Poker has long been played in the United States and the country is home to some of the best poker rooms on the planet. A trip to Las Vegas or Atlantic City can result is some fantastic games of poker and the games featuring the best players in the world often go in deep into the night. However, there is often some confusion surrounding online poker and where you can legally play online poker in the US.

Real money poker has been on a rollercoaster ride in the US in recent years and it all started in 2011, when the Department of Justice seized the domains of major poker sites based on money laundering and bank fraud. This was clearly a huge setback for those who enjoyed playing real money poker online. However, just one year later, a federal judge ruled poker was a game of skill and is not gambling in the same sense as placing a bet on the horses. Nevada was the first state to open a regulated online poker website following the ruling and several states continued in their footsteps.

Another big development in the world of online poker in the US came when the Supreme Court struck down a ban on sports betting. This saw many states regulating sports betting and they also took the opportunity to do the same with online poker.

In terms of the states that acted quickly to legalise online poker, New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware were fast to introduce legal online poker games. However, that was back in 2013 and it has been slow going since then, with Pennsylvania joining the party in 2017. It took a further two years for online poker to actually be played in the Keystone State, which underlines the slow progress made in the United States when regulating online poker.

The fifth state to join the online poker party in the US was Michigan. Regulated online poker became available in January 2021 in the Wolverine state and West Virginia has also made progress by introducing online poker legislation but at the time of writing, it has yet to really get going in the state.

So, West Virginia is legal but not live and there are several other states where bills have been introduced but have yet to be passed for the regulation of online poker. Kentucky, Virginia, New York, and Connecticut all have bills on the table for the regulation of online poker and they should all be passed without too much difficulty. Massachusetts, which is the 7th-smallest state in the United States, is in the same position as West Virginia, in that they have passed a bill to make real money online poker legal but it is not yet live in the Bay State.

There are many benefits for states when legalising and regulating online poker games for real money. Firstly, it stops people using offshore poker sites, which can be dangerous as they lack any protection for players should something go wrong. Regulated poker sites have to follow strict guidelines and the licenses are partnered with land based casinos, meaning the reputation of that casino is on the line. Secondly, regulated online poker rooms must have secure processes in place to ensure your money is kept safely and will never be misplaced. Thirdly, you will be asked to confirm your identity when joining a legal online poker site in the United States and this information will be kept secure, something that is not guaranteed when using offshore poker websites.

So, at the time of writing, online poker is available in five US states but that is sure to increase steadily over the next few years.

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