Online poker exploded in popularity in the early 2000s, but its growth in the United States was halted in 2011 when the Department of Justice seized the domains of the three biggest online poker sites serving the US market – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. This effectively banned online poker in the country.
In the years since, the legal status of online poker in the US has differed from state to state. Now we’re in a new year, it seemed an opportune time to provide an update on the state of online poker in the United States so whether you’re a US resident or passing through, you can get an idea as to what states online poker is available and which ones have hope for the future.
States Where Online Poker is Legal
Unfortunately, there aren’t many states that where online poker is legal but its growing at least:
Online poker has been legal in Nevada since 2013. The state currently has two online poker sites – WSOP.com and RealGaming.com. Nevada has a small population, limiting the potential player pool for online poker.
New Jersey legalized online gambling including poker in 2013, becoming one of the first states to permit online poker again. The state has a thriving online poker market with sites like PokerStars NJ, 888poker NJ, and partypoker NJ. Online poker in New Jersey benefits from the state’s large population and poker-friendly demographics.
Online poker launched in Pennsylvania in 2019. PokerStars PA and partypoker PA are currently the two sites operating in the state. Pennsylvania’s early online poker market has shown promising potential.
Michigan legalized online gambling in 2019 and launched its first online poker site, PokerStars MI, in 2021. As a populous state, Michigan offers opportunity for substantial online poker liquidity.
Delaware offers legal online poker through its state lottery. However, as of 2024, they switched from 888Poker to Rush Street Interactive. As such, there is very limited online poker activity in Delaware.
Despite online poker’s limited legal status, there have been some positive developments that indicate progress is being made:
- Several states, like Connecticut, Massachusetts, and California, are currently considering bills to legalize online poker. California in particular would be a game-changer for US online poker.
- Some states, like Michigan, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia have forged agreements to share player pools between their online poker sites. This increases liquidity and makes games more attractive to players.
- There is federal legislation in the works, like the Internet Poker Freedom Act, that aims to set federal standards for online poker legality in the US. This could pave the way for nationwide legalization and shared player pools.
- Popular offshore online poker sites like America’s Cardroom continue to serve US players in unregulated markets. Their continued operation suggests demand remains for online poker in the US.
The Future of Online Poker
While progress has been slow, the current trajectory suggests online poker has a future in the United States. More states are recognizing the benefits of a regulated online poker market in generating revenue and protecting players. Federal legislation could eventually fill in the gaps on a nationwide level, leading to a thriving, regulated online poker industry across the US.
For poker enthusiasts and part-time poker players hoping to play their favourite game online, it is a matter of waiting for more states to launch regulated sites, and monitoring developments in nationwide legalization efforts. Though the wait continues, there are good reasons to be optimistic about online poker’s growth prospects in the coming years.
The potential is there for states like New Jersey to become models for well-regulated nationwide online poker. In the meantime, if you’re looking to improve your live game, why not book in a consultation call with me?