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With the growth of online iGaming in the US in recent years, online poker sites have started to appear, offering players the chance to play online poker for real money. Although major online poker sites have only begun to appear recently, online poker has been around in the United States for decades. Before mobile poker and online poker rooms became the norm, there were sites offering versions of the classic card game back in the late 1990s.

After Chris Moneymaker’s 2003 victory at the World Series of Poker, a massive surge of people wanted to learn how to play poker, and the unregulated online market boomed. However, unsurprisingly as these poker games were taking place in an unregulated environment, restrictions were introduced. In response to the rise of unregulated online poker, Congress approved the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. This meant a large number of real money gambling sites were forced out of the US market. Some big brands, including PokerStars, decided to stay the course and remained available for US players. It bought them some time, but there would come a stage where online poker in America would be a topic of discussion once again.

In April 2011, the FBI shut down the biggest US-facing poker sites and blocked their pathway to American players. Consequently, the companies were forced to stop operations in the US, and players struggled to get money refunded from their accounts.

Following this, legal, regulated online poker eventually launched in the US in 2013. The online poker legal process dictates that individual states can offer regular real money poker apps and sites within their own virtual ring-fenced borders. Currently, most of the country does not have access to win real money playing legal online poker, but the situation is getting better.

Online poker players could soon see more states launch a legal online poker industry like the NJ online poker market. As more real money poker app USA options become available, new poker game versions launch, bringing new and exciting experiences for bettors.

Whether you are an experienced poker player or new to the game, check this page for updates on legislative progress and essential news on the online poker world.

States with a Legal Online Poker Market

If you are looking for the best online poker sites, you will find them in US states with a regulated market offering cash games and free online poker options. After a quick start that saw three states (Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey) legalize online poker within their borders in 2013, the industry has slowed down.

It was only four years later, in 2017, that a fourth state, Pennsylvania, began offering real money poker apps for android and iOS devices. However, it wasn’t until November 2019 that the first hands were dealt in the Keystone State. The newest state to offer legal poker apps for real money is Michigan. Residents can now legally visit an online poker room in the Wolverine State, as online poker was legalized on January 29, 2021. Additionally, West Virginia passed legislation authorizing online poker but playing poker online has not yet started in the state.

Now online gambling is becoming more widespread across the country; it is likely that more states will move towards regulated online poker. However, as recent history suggests, this is typically a long process.

Advantages of Legal Online Poker

There was a time when the only online poker available in the US was on dodgy, unregulated, and unsafe offshore sites. These offshore poker rooms carry lots of risks and drawbacks, with players’ information not protected. With licensed, regulated sites, you can be assured the operator will keep your information safe and provide a superior experience. You can guarantee a top poker site will be legal and licensed. For example, the world’s largest poker site, PokerStars, is fully licensed in all the jurisdictions in which it operates.

Some of the advantages of playing real money games at legal online poker sites include:

Player Protection

Everything on a legal poker site is legitimate. All players must confirm their identity before they can begin playing online. Before you deposit and visit a poker room or try and play some free poker, the site needs to know who you are. These online poker rooms use casino-level security to protect personal information, so your details won’t be passed to any third parties without your knowledge.

Playing at an offshore site, your information is not protected, and you will be at much more risk of data being compromised.

Safe Deposits & Withdrawals

Regulated online poker sites in the US must operate under the strict guidelines and regulations imposed by the state’s appointed gambling authority. Consequently, every poker room must prove they have the required secure payment systems to hold your funds. The best poker sites will also process your payments in a timely manner. Licenses are linked to a brick-and-mortar casino or lottery program, which further emphasizes the point that financial transactions will run smoothly.

If you want to play a poker game on a black market site, you will experience significant issues getting your funds in a reasonable timeframe. In some cases, bettors don’t receive their cash at all, and if this happens, there is not a lot you can do.

Responsible Gaming Tools

The rules and protocols on legal sites are constantly monitored, and any operator who doesn’t abide by these rules will suffer major consequences. As unregulated sites don’t fall under these regulations, they can manipulate their policies, bonuses, and promotions, and the outcome of the game itself.

No recognized authority can enforce fairness on the part of offshore poker sites, so if a player suffers, there isn’t much that can be done.

Multi-State Legal Online Poker

In February 2014, Nevada and Delaware entered into a compact that saw both states agree to share online poker liquidity. After several years of talks working out technical details, New Jersey joined the fray, signing onto the compact in October 2017. Full liquidity sharing between the three industries went live on May 1, 2018.

Although the Nevada/Delaware pact briefly boosted poker activity, this did not imply future success. Nevada’s traffic numbers did not see any significant rise. However, it was highly beneficial for players in Delaware. As a much smaller market with approximately a million people, getting access to out-of-state competition was crucial to the efficacy of online poker in the state.

Adding New Jersey into the mix was a huge development. Currently, only WSOP/888 powered sites have benefited from the agreement, meaning they surged up the NJ rankings,  rivaling PokerStars NJ. This also meant the network could start supporting some massive tournament guarantees.

Pennsylvania joining the liquidity sharing compact is key for PokerStars. As the operator kept its international site available to US players post-UIGEA, it didn’t launch a site in the Garden State until March 2016 and is still banned from operating in Nevada. Therefore, being able to link its New Jersey and Pennsylvania sites together will likely increase US revenues.

Pala Poker is also expected to benefit from Pennsylvania entering the pact. So far, its New Jersey site is well behind in the market, with many believing it was only introduced so the brand could get a head start in other states.

In July 2020, the multi-state functionality was revealed in all its glory as players in Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware were all able to compete with one another for real World Series of Poker prizes through official WSOP.com online tournaments.

FAQs

Is online poker legal in the United States?

The UIGEA, a provision of the SAFE Port Act of 2006, dictates that any internet gambling is unlawful if it is not legal in which the gambling activity is occurring. Online real money poker s legal within the borders of states that have legislated it. So far, the only legal markets are in Nevada, Michigan, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

Can you play online poker on mobile?

Yes, every significant US online poker room also has a mobile app option.