The legality of online poker varies greatly from region to region. In some places, online poker is treated as any other industry complete with regulations, licensing requirements and consumer protections. In others, online poker rests in a legal grey area, neither completely legal nor outright prohibited. In yet other places, poker is considered a criminal activity punishable by fines and imprisonment.
My goal with this page is to give you a brief overview of the legal status of poker in a few of the larger poker markets. Let it be known that I am not a lawyer and none of what I say should be taken as legal advice. The information presented below is based on my own research and interpretations. You should get professional legal advice if you have any questions regarding the legality of any activity in your jurisdiction.
Top Legal Poker Sites in Your Country
BestPokerSite.com is designed to detect your location and automatically display poker sites that are available to players in your area. The sites in the above chart are all confirmed to accept players where you live. Pretty nifty, huh? If you’re ready to play real money poker right now, just visit any of these sites and you’ll be ready to go in no time.
I am intimately familiar with every poker site we list here at BestPokerSite.com. Any site that you see recommended anywhere on this website is a safe place to play. You will be treated well, receive prompt customer support and have access to a wide variety of games at all stakes.
Now, let’s get back to the subject at hand: the legality of online poker. Like I said above, the laws vary from country to country. The rest of this page will provide you a quick summary of the laws that govern internet gaming in various locations.
Poker Laws in the UK
The UK should serve as a model for regulation around the world. In 2005, the UK passed sweeping regulations (known as the Gambling Act 2005) that set the stage for legalizing and regulating online poker, online casino games and internet sports betting. The law made it legal to offer iGaming services in the UK as long as the providers were properly licensed.
What this means for poker players is that you can play online at sites that are perfectly legal and licensed to do business in the UK. The days of playing at offshore sites and wondering if your hobby of choice is legal are long gone. Licensed poker sites in the UK are obliged to follow strict financial regulations, maintain secure games and be truthful in advertising.
In summary, the UK is a great place to be a poker player. You have access to some of the world’s largest poker sites and can play for real money any time you want. When you’re done playing, you can request a withdrawal and have your winnings in hand that same day. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Read more here: UK Poker Sites
Online Poker in the United States
The legal situation in the United States is a bit more complicated compared to what we have in the UK. The mere act of playing online poker is not outlawed in most states, but it is clearly illegal to operate an unlicensed poker site anywhere in the US. Thus, players can visit offshore poker sites without fear of criminal liability.
However, the laws do vary from state to state. Washington State does have a law on the books that makes it a felony to play online poker, but that statute has never once been enforced. Three states now have legal online poker provided it is offered by licensed operators. But for most people, online poker rests firmly in “neither legal nor illegal” territory.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA) is the single most impactful piece of legislation affecting online poker in the US. The passage of that act did not make it illegal to online poker contrary to popular belief. Instead, the UIGEA made it illegal for financial institutions to process payments to or from unlicensed poker sites. You can thank the UIGEA for making it more difficult to make deposits and taking longer to get paid.
All is not lost in the US, though. Positive changes are afoot in forms of bills that have been introduced in almost a dozen states in recent years. There seems to be a growing movement for the US to finally just legalize internet gaming and be done with it. Opposition to the movement remains strong, however, so it is far from guaranteed that online poker in the US will ever resemble what we have in the UK.
Read more here: USA Poker Sites
Canada’s gaming landscape looks similar to the US situation on paper, but is more comparable to the UK in practice. Some interpretations of Canadian gaming law make it appear illegal for residents to play at anything other than the few basic state-owned sports betting sites that operate in certain provinces. However, there is little-to-no enforcement of these laws and people can play online poker in Canada as they wish.
Most of the world’s large, international sites accept Canadians and can even process transactions in Canadian dollars. This stands in stark contrast to the situation for US players who are blocked from most major poker sites. In Canada, you can join most major international poker sites and play real money poker.
In my experience, the best sites for Canadians are those licensed to do business in the UK. The UK’s Gambling Commission is the single most respected licensing entity in the world and exerts very high standards of quality for all operators. If you’re ready to play today, all you need to do is scroll up to the top of this page and choose a site.
Read more here: Canadian Poker Sites
As a whole, Europe is a fairly gambling-friendly region. The hands-off approach is common in European countries; people in most countries can simply log on and play wherever the wish. France and Italy do have licensing systems in place, and operators must be licensed to offer their services to residents of those countries.
The easiest way to determine if you can play online wherever you live is to join one of the major poker sites listed at the top of this page. Those poker sites are mostly compliant with local gaming laws and only accept customers from countries in which the legal situation is favorable to online poker. Again, it would be best to get qualified legal advice if you have any questions. Generally, you won’t have any problems getting signed up and playing.
Read more here: European Poker Sites
Gaming laws are complex and subject to interpretation across most of Asia. Many Asian countries appear to criminalize online poker but make no effort to enforce the law. For example, China is strictly opposed to online gaming but millions of Chinese residents play online games nonetheless.
Read more here: Asian Poker Sites