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College 101: Is Online Poker Legal?

I’ve been fascinated with Texas Hold’em for a while. I guess it started with reading about Chris Moneymaker’s incredible story and how he became famous. All of this from winning an incredible tournament online. I am in New Jersey, and I often play in Atlantic City; however, this is quite a drive and my college class schedule does not allow me to do this regularly. Also, I am trying to improve my game and prefer the non-intimidating online environment. However, is online poker legal? I see all types of answers online and am not quite sure.

We remember Chris Moneymaker’s rise to stardom back in 2003. He was arguably the catalyst to poker’s boom. Mainly, this was because of the perceived notion that anyone could play and win an online tournament and earn a spot at the World Series of Poker. Books on how to learn poker emerged daily, and many people were drawn to action. We knew folks who moved to Las Vegas to play professionally. The rise continued steadily and, in 2013, United States online poker activities reached 2.2 billion with a potential to grow by 3.3 billion by 2013.

The question of legality, however, is not as clear as the game’s popularity and rise. Online poker sites have been targeted by the United States Department of Justice and have been continuously shut down during the last decade. Although some sites and experts claim that online poker is completely legal in most states, the reality is more complex. The legalization and regulation of online poker dates to 2005 when North Dakota tried to legalize activities for organizations that moved physical operations to the state. However, the Justice Department intervened and warned state senators that such activities could violate federal law. In 2006 the government passed SAFE Port Act, which had a provision on online gambling. Experts widely considered the provision to target the banking industry and not online poker players directly. However, multiple sites including PokerStars and PokerParty were shut down and ceased operations in the United States.

Today, experts believe that legalization is inevitable. The state governments of Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware have reached agreements to allow players in their states to engage in online activities. Most of the legalization arguments stem from studies that show that poker is a game of skill and, therefore, cannot be considered gambling. Such studies were heard in federal court in 2012 by Judge Jack Weinstein, who dismissed an indictment against a man convicted of operating an illegal poker club. Many other cases have used the dismissal as precedence and the idea that poker is a game of skill has been changing the perception of lawmakers.

As of today, and at least in your state, you are within your legal rights to play online poker. We would advise you to continue building your game by playing online. However, playing online for money is quite different than playing online without financial impact. Players will often play hands differently; therefore, free games will not provide the same learning experience needed to build skill. Therefore, take advantage of programs such as Caesars Casino bonus code to obtain some free money and play poker online. Many of these sites are attempting to rebuild their following by taking advantage of the new legal stance and are providing benefits, codes, and player perks. As you build your skills, keep in mind that although poker is a skill game, you can also lose money. Play responsibly and understand your financial limitations.

“All the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

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