Legal Poker Sites

Legal Online Poker - Which Sites Are Licensed and Regulated?

While the poker boom which followed Chris Moneymaker’s win in the World Series of Poker after qualifying online might be a distant memory – internet poker is still going strong. Despite efforts of the US government to stop the online games, there is a thriving (and fully legal) poker industry offshore. There are no federal laws which make it illegal for individuals to enjoy real money poker games at these sites.

Overall, the legality of an internet poker site depends on both your location and the location of the poker site operator. A key factor before you play is whether a site is licensed and regulated. This is simple to check, and should be part of the ‘due diligence’ every player performs before depositing and playing for real money.

Most of the high-volume poker sites were forced to leave the US. You’ll find some well-known brands have filled their place, offering a wide range of games including recent innovations like fast-fold poker and lottery jackpot sit n goes.

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Is Playing Online Poker Legal? Your Guide to Legal Internet Poker Sites

Around the world there is a patchwork of laws and regulations concerning online poker (and gambling in general). Some countries ban gambling; others regulate poker and separate their country from the outside world – while still other countries simply allow players to freely enjoy the games.

In the US things are even more complex – and a lot of incorrect information is spread by the mainstream media.

US Legal Poker Overview

In 2006, the federal ‘Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act’ or UIGEA was passed. More than 10 years later some people still believe that this makes playing online poker for real money illegal from the US. This is incorrect, the UIGEA focused only on banking transactions. This act made it illegal for banks to facilitate deposits at gambling sites, and for gambling sites to accept deposits from US banks. Individual players are not even mentioned in the UIGEA.

State laws are a real mix. When you look into the statutes relating to gambling, you’ll quickly realize that these are often 100 (or more!) years old. Some states (for example Utah and Washington) have updated their laws to ban online gambling. Most have not. It is a fact that no individual in any state has ever been indicted for playing real money poker online.

More recently, some states started to regulate online poker within their own borders. Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey have online poker sites which offer real money games to their residents. There are several more states believed to be looking into their own regulation – though progress has been slow with this.

Legal Offshore Poker for the US

Poker sites which offer real money games to US players are based offshore. These include some big brands with track records stretching back 10 or more years. These sites are licensed by agencies connected to the governments of nations including Antigua, Curacao, Costa Rica or Panama. The sites operate legally – some accept players from the US only, while others welcome players from all around the world.

Antigua has an ongoing dispute with the US via the World Trade Organization. Antigua claims that by preventing gambling transactions flowing freely, the US is violating international free trade laws. This claim is disputed, and discussions have been going on for a few years already.

Depositing at Legal US Poker Sites

In order to (legally!) enjoy real money poker, US players will need to avoid the restrictions on banking transactions which follow from the UIGEA. Fortunately, there are many easy ways to get money onboard – and your winnings off again.

Credit cards work well, as long as you are able to make international cash purchases with them. You will find that credit card transactions sometimes get declined. If this happens, trying again at a different time, or purchasing a prepaid visa card will often get your deposit through.

Person to person transfers are a very reliable deposit method. This involves using an office of Western Union or MoneyGram to wire cash to an individual nominated by the poker site. Your cash with usually be reconciled and in your account within a couple of hours.

Bitcoin is now a mainstream payment option for offshore poker sites. You can create a Bitcoin wallet online, and then fund this from your bank account. Once you have a wallet set up, this can be used for all your poker transactions on an ongoing basis.

Are Legal Poker Sites Safe?

As long as you stick to the trusted poker brands featured here at, you’ll find online poker is very safe. There are some extra checks, you can do. The most important of these is to make sure your site has a license from a known regulator. All legitimate poker sites will have their deal tested for fairness by 3rd party auditors. Companies like iGaming Labs and eCogra specialize in these tests, and will play millions of hands to ensure that there are no anomalies. The best brands link to their certificates from their homepage. I also advise a quick search online to make sure there are no issues, delays or scandals with payments.

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