The United States is the largest and most potentially lucrative gambling market. It’s also one of the most complex due to a myriad of state and federal and state specific gaming laws that make it a tough place for businesses to open shop and offer their wares to customers.
Despite a confusing and contradictory legal landscape, the USA is home to millions of players who will play online in a regulated environment if given the chance.
Banking, Deposits and Withdrawals
The UIGEA and The Wire Act shapes online banking’s current relationship with online poker. The UIGEA prohibited banking institutions in the United States from processing payments at US gambling sites.
For example, all credit card payments are coded with numbers that specify the purpose of the transaction. If a transaction is marked as related to online gambling, the card issuer automatically declines it.
The UIGEA (full text here) was passed by political trickery at the last minute the day before Congress adjourned for the 2006 elections.
It was attached as a rider to an unrelated piece of “must pass” anti-terrorism legislation called the SAFE Port Act. To vote against the UIGEA would have required members of Congress vote against the SAFE Port Act, which would have opened them to accusations of not caring about American security.
Best of all, the UIGEA was added at the last minute before a late vote which gave members of Congress no chance to even read the bill they were voting on.
We’re also starting to see glimmers of hope in the possibility of legalization. Many states are in the process of licensing and regulating online gambling in the United States.
Legal US Gambling Sites
The UIGEA does nothing to prevent individual states from legalizing and regulating online poker. However, there was one other obstacle up until 2011: the federal Wire Act of 1961. The Wire Act was long interpreted as applying to online poker, sports betting and casino gambling. Not only did it prevent people from placing bets over “wire” communications networks, but it also prevented states from legalizing any such activity.
This all changed in 2011 after the Illinois and New York State governors wrote the DOJ and asked for clarification of how the Wire Act is interpreted. Specifically, the governors wanted to know if their states could sell lottery tickets over the internet.
The Justice Department responded to these inquiries with a legal opinion (full text here) that covered more than just online lotteries. The opinion explained that the Wire Act applies specifically to online sports betting and no other form of gambling or poker. Here’s how the opinion summed up the issue:
In sum, the text of the Wire Act and the relevant legislative materials support our conclusion that the Act’s prohibitions relate solely to sports-related gambling activities in interstate and foreign commerce.
Long story short: states now have the authority to legalize and regulate online gambling within their borders. Many states are doing exactly that.
Online poker became a reality for the Garden State in 2013. There are now several poker sites, online casinos, and mobile sports betting in operation. New Jersey legislation requires all operators to have an existing brick-and-mortar casino in the state and allows each operator to team up with one software provider to serve state residents.
Here’s a list of the best New Jersey poker sites:
- WSOP Poker: wsop.com
- 888 Poker NJ: us.888poker.com
- Party Poker: nj.partypoker.com
- Borgata Poker: poker.theborgata.com
Nevada legalized online poker in 2013 and the first site went live later that year. Originally, there were two providers of internet poker in the state: Ultimate Gaming and WSOP. Ultimate Gaming closed in 2014 but WSOP.com remains viable to this date. If you would like to play online poker in Nevada, here’s your best option:
- WSOP Poker: wsop.com
Online gambling went live in Delaware in 2013. This is the state with the smallest population and as such, the state’s three gambling sites have had a hard time generating much action. In 2015, Delaware and Nevada reached an agreement to share poker player pools across state lines. The hope is that this pact helps boost numbers in both states.
Here’s a list of legal Delaware gambling sites:
- Delaware Park: delawarepark.com/igaming/
- Dover Downs: doverdowns.com/online
- Harrington Online: www.harringtongamingonline.com/
Other states: updates coming soon.