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Online Poker Legal?

Last Updated: April 2008

Whether or not it is legal to play online poker in the United States is a subject of great debate with no clear answers. The reality is that the law is a bit hazy when it comes to what can and cannot be offered when it comes to online poker games. As a result, many online gambling sites have decided to simply no longer offer their games to players in the United States. Obviously, this is quite upsetting to those that enjoy playing online poker and other casino games that also happen to reside in the United States.

Gambling Laws in the US

online poker legality

From a legal perspective, online poker and online casinos offering gambling opportunities are not necessarily the same. At the same time, many of the rules and regulations that have been put into place for online poker are also in place with online casinos. For example, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Federal Wire Act prohibits transmission of sports betting through electronic transmissions across state lines. At the same time, it ruled that this does not necessarily prohibit Internet gambling. Some states, however, have their own rules in place when it comes to this type of online activity.

In 2003, however, Deputy Assistant Attorney General John G. Malcolm testified about the problems he sees in conjunction with online gambling, namely online money laundering. By 2004, both Google and Yahoo! decided to remove all online gambling advertisements from their sites. This was largely brought about by an odd interpretation of the law, which implied that the websites could possibly be considered guilty of aiding and abetting illegal activities by advertising the sites. In 2005, Yahoo! started to include these advertisements again, but only for online gambling involving play money.

Despite the pressures that the United States government has placed on many online gambling sites, many legal experts agree that the laws in the United States do not extend types of online gambling other than sports betting. In 2006, however, President Bush did sign the Safe Port Act into place, which has only served to increase the confusion and controversy surrounding online poker and other forms of gambling.

2006 UIGEA Gambling Bill

The controversy is mainly surrounded around the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) that was attached to the act. According to UIGEA, unlawful Internet gambling is defined as anything that involves placing, receiving or knowingly transmitting a wager or a bet on the Internet where making this type of bet is prohibited by law. As a result, this essentially prohibits online gambling sites from being able to complete any transaction with financial institutions in the United States. Although this caused many sites to close down their operations in the United States, there are still sites offering online gambling activities in the country.

So is playing online poker for real money legal or illegal?

Today, online gambling remains a subject of great debate. Many politicians are advocating for loosening up the laws, primarily because closing down online gambling has stopped a substantial revenue flow and because they believe it is against the rights of United States citizens to deny gambling opportunities. In addition, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) is actively fighting for the right to play at poker sites in the United States, while acts such as the Internet Gambling Study Act and the Internet Gambling Tax Act have been introduced and have a large number of cosponsors.

When it comes down to it, it is still legal for a website to host online poker to players in the United States. With all of the laws that have been put into place, however, many sites are uneasy about hosting online games for real cash. Therefore, there are still sites out there that will allow you to play if you live in the United States, but it is a bit harder to find them now than it used to be.

At Best Online Poker Sites we have reviews of the top us poker sites that still accept US poker players. Including the largest poker site in the world Poker Stars and other popular sites including Bodog Life Poker.