Where Can You Legally Play Online Poker? A State-by-State Guide

Poker enthusiasts around the world have been looking for ways to enjoy their favorite card game online. With the rise of online poker, many people have been wondering about the legality of this new trend. Although online poker has gained tremendous popularity worldwide, the legal situation regarding it is still a complex and varied one.

Laws surrounding online poker are different from country to country, and even from state to state within the United States. The legality of online poker has been a subject of heated debate for years, with supporters and opponents alike voicing their opinions on the matter. Some people believe that online poker is a game of skill and not chance, while others view it simply as another form of gambling that should be banned. Regardless of one’s opinion, understanding the legal situation surrounding online poker is key to staying out of trouble.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the laws governing online poker in various countries around the world. We’ll explore the legal landscape in North America, Europe, Asia, and beyond, giving you a better understanding of the legal implications of playing online poker in different parts of the world. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a newbie to the online poker scene, this article will provide you with valuable insights into the legalities of the game.

The Legal Status of Online Poker

Online poker has been mired in a legal gray area for many years, with different countries having contrasting laws regarding the activity. In some countries, online poker is entirely legal while in others, it is banned outright LeoVegas.

One of the biggest issues when it comes to the legality of online poker is the vague definition of what constitutes illegal gambling. In some countries, gambling is only illegal if it involves betting on events outside of a player's control, such as sports games. Meanwhile, other countries consider all forms of gambling to be illegal unless they are permitted by the state.

Despite the discrepancies between countries, there are some basic guidelines that govern the legality of online poker. Generally, online poker is legal if the operator is licensed by the government and the games are played within that country's borders. However, even if an operator is licensed, they may still be prohibited from offering their services in certain countries.

It is important for online poker players to be aware of the legal status of the activity in their country. Playing online poker in a country where it is illegal can result in severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment.

  • Bottom Line: The legality of online poker varies widely from country to country. It is crucial for players to be aware of their country's laws before engaging in the activity.

Online Poker in the United States

Online poker in the United States has a complicated legal history. The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in 2006, which made it illegal for banks to process payments related to online gambling. This effectively made online poker illegal in the United States.

However, individual states have the power to legalize online poker within their borders. So far, only a few states have done so, including Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey. Michigan and Pennsylvania have also recently legalized online poker and are in the process of implementing regulations.

Players in states without legalized online poker can still play on offshore sites, though this is technically illegal. The Department of Justice cracked down on these sites in 2011, but a legal opinion issued in 2018 cleared the way for states to legalize online poker without fear of federal interference.

  • Currently, the states where online poker is legal are:
    1. Nevada
    2. Delaware
    3. New Jersey
    4. Michigan
    5. Pennsylvania

It is important for players to check their local laws and regulations before playing online poker. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse and players could face legal consequences for playing in states where it is not legal.

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA)

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is a United States law passed in 2006. It is designed to regulate and prohibit online gambling at the federal level. The UIGEA prohibits financial institutions, such as banks and credit card companies, from processing transactions related to online gambling.

While the UIGEA does not make online gambling itself illegal, it does make it much more difficult for Americans to gamble online. This is because many credit card issuers and banks now refuse to process any transactions related to online gambling, making it harder for players to deposit and withdraw funds at online poker sites.

Despite the UIGEA's restrictions, some states in the US have passed their own laws legalizing online poker. For example, Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey have legalized and regulated online poker, allowing residents to play online legally.

However, players should be aware that the UIGEA does have global implications, as many international banks and payment processors will not process transactions related to online gambling in order to comply with the law.

State-by-State Online Poker Laws in the U.S.

Online poker laws in the United States vary from state to state. While some states allow online poker to be played without any restrictions, others have placed strict regulations and bans on the practice.

Currently, there are only five states in the U.S. where online poker is fully legal: Delaware, Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. In these states, players can access online poker sites and play against others within state borders.

Other states have taken a different stance on online poker. Some have passed laws specifically prohibiting online poker, while others have yet to take any action. As of now, players in most states cannot legally access or play at online poker sites.

It is important to note that even in states where online poker is legal, there may be restrictions on the types of games that can be played and the sites that can be accessed. Players should always research their state's laws and regulations before playing online poker.

  • In Delaware, online poker has been legal since 2012. Players must be located within state borders to access poker sites. Delaware also has a compact with Nevada and New Jersey, allowing for player pooling between the states.
  • Nevada was the first state to legalize online poker in 2013. Players must be located within state borders and can access a limited number of online poker sites.
  • New Jersey legalized online poker in 2013 as well. Players must be located within state borders and can access a variety of online poker sites.
  • Pennsylvania legalized online poker in 2017, and sites began launching in 2019. Players must be located within state borders to access poker sites.
  • Michigan legalized online poker in 2019, but sites have yet to launch. Once they do, players will need to be located within state borders to access poker sites.

Overall, the landscape of online poker in the United States is complex and ever-changing. Players should always stay informed about their state's laws and regulations to ensure they are playing legally and safely.

The Future of Online Poker in the U.S.

The future of online poker in the United States is uncertain. While online poker is legal in some states, it is illegal in others, making it difficult for players living in non-legal states to participate in online poker games.

However, there is hope for the future of online poker in the U.S. In recent years, a number of states have legalized online poker, and more are considering similar measures. Additionally, there have been efforts to legalize online poker at the federal level, which would make it legal across the entire country.

Despite these efforts, online poker in the U.S. still faces challenges. One of the biggest challenges is opposition from anti-gambling groups, who argue that online poker is a form of gambling and should be illegal. Another challenge is the need to establish a regulatory framework that ensures fair play and prevents fraud.

Despite these challenges, many online poker players in the U.S. remain optimistic about the future. With the support of the poker community and the ongoing efforts of lawmakers and advocates, it is possible that online poker will one day be legal and widely available across the country.

Online Poker in Europe

Europe is one of the most poker-friendly continents in the world. Online poker is legal and regulated in many countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, and Germany. However, the laws and regulations surrounding online poker vary from country to country in Europe.

The United Kingdom is one of the most popular destinations for online poker players. The country has a well-regulated market, and there are many online poker operators licensed by the UK Gambling Commission. France and Italy also have regulated online poker markets, but the player pool is smaller compared to the UK.

In Spain and Germany, online poker is legal, but the player pool is not as large as in the UK, France, and Italy. In Spain, online poker is regulated by the Spanish Gaming Commission, and in Germany, online poker falls under the jurisdiction of each of the country's 16 states.

Other countries in Europe, such as Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, also have a legal and regulated online poker market. These countries are known for their strict regulations and high taxes for online poker operators.

  • United Kingdom: well-regulated market with many licensed operators
  • France and Italy: regulated online poker market with a smaller player pool
  • Spain and Germany: legal online poker but with a smaller player pool
  • Sweden, Denmark, and Norway: strict regulations and high taxes for online poker operators

The Legal Landscape of Online Poker in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom's Online Gambling Regulations

The United Kingdom's online gambling laws are among the most permissive in the world. The country has had a regulated online poker and gambling market since 2005, with the enactment of the UK Gambling Act. This law created a framework for remote gambling operations to obtain licenses from the UK Gambling Commission, and established standards for responsible gambling and player protection.

Online Poker in the UK

Online poker is fully legal and popular in the UK, with a thriving industry of British and international operators. The UK Gambling Commission has licensed dozens of online poker sites, which offer cash games, tournaments, and other variants to players in the UK and beyond. UK poker players enjoy a wide range of payment options, fast and reliable software, and some of the lowest rake charges in the world.

Advantages and Concerns

The UK's permissive online poker laws offer several advantages to players and operators. The market is transparent and competitive, with strong consumer protections and a wide variety of games. However, there are also concerns around addiction, underage gambling, and the negative social impacts of online gambling. The UK government has taken steps to address these concerns, such as requiring operators to contribute to problem gambling research and treatment programs.


Overall, the UK's online poker regulations offer a positive environment for players and operators. While there are valid concerns around the social and public health effects of gambling, the UK's regulatory framework provides a strong basis for responsible and enjoyable online poker play.

France's Online Poker Laws

France is one of the few countries in Europe where online poker is legal. The country has a clear legal framework that regulates online gambling activities, including poker. The French government established ARJEL, an online gaming regulatory authority, which is responsible for issuing licenses to online gambling operators and enforcing the regulations.

The French online poker laws ensure that the games are fair and transparent for all players. All licensed operators are required to use certified software and undergo regular audits to ensure compliance with the regulations. Moreover, the laws prohibit operators from offering any unfair advantages to players, such as access to insider information or cheating tools.

One of the key features of the French online poker laws is the taxation system. Operators are required to pay taxes on their gross gaming revenue, while players are not taxed on their winnings. The taxes collected from the operators go towards funding social initiatives and promoting responsible gambling in the country.

Overall, France has a comprehensive legal framework for online poker, which ensures a secure and fair gaming environment for players. The strict regulations and taxation system also help to prevent fraud and addiction, and promote responsible gambling practices.

Spain's Online Poker Laws: An Overview

Spain is one of the countries where online poker has become legal, thanks to legislation that was passed in 2011. The law allows both Spanish and international operators to offer online poker games to players based in Spain.

However, the online poker market in Spain is tightly regulated, with licenses required for operators and players needing to be based in Spain or have a Spanish bank account. The government also takes a significant share of revenue in the form of taxes, with a 20% gross gaming revenue tax imposed on operators.

Despite these regulations, Spain's online poker market has grown steadily since it was legalized, with a number of reputable operators entering the market and offering a variety of games to Spanish players. PokerStars, partypoker, and 888poker are among the top international operators that have established a presence in Spain.

Spanish players have also proven themselves to be among the world's top poker players, with many achieving notable successes in major international tournaments. In fact, poker has become so popular in Spain that some universities now offer courses on the game.

Overall, Spain's online poker laws have created a regulated and safe market for players, while also generating significant revenue for the government. As such, the future looks bright for the online poker industry in Spain.

Italy's Online Poker Laws

Italy's online poker laws are constantly evolving, but it is currently legal to play online poker in Italy at government-approved sites, including those run by the country's major land-based casinos.

In 2006, Italy introduced its own online gambling laws, allowing companies to apply for licenses to offer games to Italian residents. These laws were further updated in 2011, which allowed for a wider range of games to be offered.

Online poker in Italy is regulated by the Italian Gambling Authority (AAMS), which oversees the licensing process and ensures that operators adhere to the country's strict regulations. All online poker sites must be licensed by the AAMS before they can legally offer poker to residents of Italy.

Italian players can enjoy a wide variety of online poker games, including Texas Hold'em, Omaha, and Stud. The country's major land-based casinos, such as Casino di Sanremo and Casino di Venezia, also operate online poker sites.

Italy's online poker laws are a good example of a country taking a measured and responsible approach to online gambling. By regulating and licensing operators, the government is able to ensure that players are protected and that the industry remains fair and transparent.

Online Poker in Asia

Online poker has been gaining popularity in Asia in recent years, but the laws regarding its legality vary widely across the region. In many countries, there is no clear legal framework for online gambling, making it a gray area for players and operators alike.

In countries like Japan, online poker is technically illegal, but the government has largely turned a blind eye to it and many players continue to participate in the popular game. In other countries like South Korea, online gambling is strictly prohibited and players can face heavy fines or even jail time if caught.

China is also a complicated market for online poker. While the government has cracked down on illegal online gambling in recent years, there is still a huge market for the game. However, players must be careful to use trusted sites and avoid underground operators.

Singapore has taken a more proactive approach to online gambling, legalizing and regulating it under the Remote Gambling Act in 2014. This has allowed for a thriving online poker industry in the country, with operators like PokerStars and 888Poker offering their services to players in Singapore.

  • In summary, the legality of online poker in Asia is a complex issue, with laws and regulations differing greatly from country to country. Players should always research their local laws and use trusted operators to avoid any legal issues.

China's Online Poker Laws

Online poker in China is a complicated area due to the country's strict laws on gambling and online activities. While poker is largely considered a game of skill, it is still regarded as a form of gambling under Chinese law. This means that online poker is illegal in most parts of China.

Despite this, there are still some poker sites available in China, although they operate in a legal gray area. These sites mostly cater to players in other countries and are based offshore, outside the reach of Chinese authorities.

Even though playing online poker in China is technically illegal, there are still many players who participate in the game. Many of these players use Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to mask their location and play on offshore sites.

It is important to note that the penalties for playing online poker in China can be severe. Those caught playing the game could face large fines and even imprisonment. As such, it is advisable to exercise caution and do your research before attempting to play online poker in the country.

Japan's Online Poker Laws

Online poker in Japan is a controversial issue due to the strict gambling laws in the country. In Japan, gambling is considered illegal under the Criminal Code, and with no exceptions made for online gambling, online poker falls under this law.

However, some forms of gambling are allowed in Japan, such as public sports betting and lottery. These activities are regulated by the government to ensure that they are conducted legally and fairly. There have been efforts to legalize casino gambling in Japan, which could potentially include online poker, but these efforts have been met with opposition from conservative groups concerned about the potential negative impact on society.

Despite the legal restrictions, some Japanese players continue to play online poker on offshore sites. This is not without risk, as the government has been known to crack down on illegal gambling in the past. Those caught participating in illegal gambling can face fines and even imprisonment.

In conclusion, while online poker in Japan is currently illegal, there have been discussions about potentially legalizing it in the future. Until that happens, however, players should proceed with caution if they choose to play on offshore sites.

India's Online Poker Laws

India, like many countries around the world, struggles with legal ambiguity when it comes to online poker. While there are technically no laws explicitly prohibiting online poker, the federal government has delegated the decision-making power to individual states.

Currently, only a few states in India have explicitly legalized online poker, including Nagaland and Sikkim. These states have established regulatory frameworks and issued licenses to operators who meet certain requirements.

In other states, the legal status of online poker is less clear. Some states have taken a more restrictive approach and deemed online poker to be gambling, thus illegal under the Public Gambling Act of 1867. Others have yet to address the issue, leaving online poker in a legal grey area.

  • Only a few states have explicitly legalized online poker, including Nagaland and Sikkim.
  • The legal status of online poker is less clear in other states.
  • Some states have deemed online poker to be gambling and thus illegal under the Public Gambling Act of 1867.

It's important for online poker players in India to be aware of the legal landscape and to check with their state's laws before playing. As online poker continues to grow in popularity, it's possible that more states will follow Nagaland and Sikkim in legalizing the game and establishing regulatory frameworks.

Online Poker in Australia and New Zealand


Online poker in Australia has been a popular pastime for years, but the legal status of the industry has been somewhat uncertain. In 2017, the country's government passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill, which effectively banned all forms of unlicensed online gambling, including online poker.

Despite the ban, many offshore gambling operators still offer their services to Australian players, and the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has been cracking down on these operators.

It's important for Australian players to be aware of the risks involved in playing on unlicensed sites and to choose reputable, licensed operators.

New Zealand

Online poker is currently illegal in New Zealand, as the country's Gambling Act of 2003 prohibits remote interactive gambling, including online poker.

While offshore operators are not permitted to offer their services to New Zealand residents, there is no law specifically criminalizing players who choose to play on these sites.

As with Australia, New Zealand players should exercise caution when playing online and choose reputable, licensed sites in order to minimize their risk.

Other Countries with Online Poker Laws

Many countries around the world have taken steps to regulate online poker within their borders. Some of these countries include:

  • Spain: Spain's online poker market has been regulated since 2012, with licenses issued to both domestic and foreign operators. The country's regulatory body is known as the Directorate General for the Regulation of Gambling.
  • Italy: Online poker has been legal and regulated in Italy since 2010. The Italian government has granted licenses to a number of companies, including PokerStars and 888.
  • France: France began regulating its online poker market in 2010, with licenses granted to both domestic and foreign operators. ARJEL, the country's regulatory authority, oversees the industry.
  • Denmark: Denmark's regulated online poker market launched in 2012, with licenses issued to a number of operators including PokerStars and Betfair. The country's regulatory body is known as the Danish Gambling Authority.
  • Sweden: Sweden's online poker market was recently regulated in 2019. The Swedish Gambling Authority has issued licenses to several operators, including PokerStars and partypoker.

Other countries with regulations in place for online poker include Belgium, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Portugal, and the Czech Republic. It's important to note that while online poker may be legal in these countries, there may be specific restrictions and regulations in place that players should be aware of before playing.

Challenges Faced by Online Poker Players

Online poker players face various challenges that can make playing the game a daunting and frustrating experience. One of the biggest challenges is the uncertainty of the legal status of online poker in their country or state.

Players may find themselves in a legal grey area where online poker is neither legal nor explicitly illegal, leaving them unsure of the risks involved. This uncertainty can create anxiety and affect a player's ability to make rational decisions during the game.

Another challenge is the issue of payment processing. Many online poker platforms use third-party payment processors to manage transactions, and these processors may have restrictions placed on them by financial institutions or governments. This can result in delayed or declined transactions, making it difficult for players to deposit and withdraw their money.

Cheating is also a major concern in online poker. Players may use software to gain an unfair advantage over their opponents, or collude with other players to cheat the system. This can lead to unfair outcomes and undermine the integrity of the game.

Lastly, players may face technical difficulties while playing online poker, such as server crashes, disconnections, and slow response times. These issues can disrupt gameplay and cause frustration, leading to poor decision-making and potentially leading to monetary losses.