Legality of Online Poker
In order to beging compiling a list of the top 10 poker sites for US players requires the understanding that the subject of online poker in the United States of America is a very complex. The complexity starts with the fact that any potential online poker players mistakenly believe that it is illegal to play online poker in the US. Fact is, this thinking is simply not true, and the reality is that very few states have any laws that cover online poker, thus making it perfectly legal to play online from almost every state in the union. The only state with a specific legal restriction to real money poker is the state of Washington, which has a two decade old law that has never been enforced.
Greatest Cause of Confusion
Misinterpretations of existing laws has created much of the public confusion. The most prime example was part of a bill passed in 2006, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). This bill was widely regarded by the media as the reason that online poker was made illegal. Truth of the matter is it did nothing of the sort. The UIGEA made knowingly processing deposits to online gambling sites illegal for banks, and is in no way directed toward private citizens. By sneaking the amendment onto the coattails of a must pass port authority bill, the last minute addition to bill was done in such a way that it was never reviewed prior to a vote.
The underhanded action was taken by two senators who were known to be recipients of large sums of money from the casino lobby. The goal of their actions was to shut down real money online poker in order to give US Casinos time to play catch up to their offshore competition. Having originally thought that online poker would short-lived, domestic casinos greatly underestimated the potential and the market size of online gambling. Their short sided of the value of the internet left them needing valuable time in order to come up with a plan to infiltrate what quickly became a multi-billion dollar industry.
Other than causing confusion in the domestic casinos efforts to stop online gaming failed miserably. At the time of this posting it has been twelve years since the passing of the UIGEA, and only four states have passed any type of self-regulation, and there has not been any federal regulation whatsoever. Fortunately there are plenty of reputable online sites that are regulated offshore that still provide games to US players.
Additional Causes of Confusion
“Black Friday” still stands out in the minds of most online poker players in the US. On April 15, 2011, the US Department of Justice unveiled a 52-page indictment against the top executives of three major online poker sites (eleven individuals in all), along with a civil complaint against those companies. The actual sites were charged with violating the UIGEA, and additional charges of bank fraud, money laundering and restraining orders against 75 bank accounts used by the sites. Though the action turned the online poker world upside down, there was no action taken against the individual players of online poker.
Another legal hurdle were a slew of lawsuits filed in Kentucky in the late 2000s. Each of those cases have since been settled all in favor of the gaming sites, and without admission by any party of any criminal wrong doing.
The Wire Act of 1961 is another common misconception. This law was interpreted by some arms of government to cover online poker, However, shortly after “Black Friday”, the US department of Justice reinterpreted the Wire Act to relate only to a “sporting even of contest”. In short the new interpretation of the Wire Act excludes online poker.
Widely assumed by industry insiders these changes are believed to have been made in order to pave the way for a federally regulated framework sometime in the future. In the mean time however, there is no federal law that prohibits a private citizen or resident of the US from participating on the digital felt of online poker or any online casino from either the comfort of their home or on a mobile device if available.
A Game of Skill
Another misconception that has cause confusion regarding poker, as well as online poker is determining if it is a game of chance, a form of gambling or a game of skill. It is the contention from those that play poker and fully comprehend and understand the game’s complexities consider poker to be a game of skill. According to a 120 page ruling on August 21, 2012, of case 11-CR-414, United States vs Lawrence Dicristina, Senior US District Judge Jake B. Weinstein ruled a form the bench that the definition of gambling did not include poker which he determined through expert testimony that showed poker to be predominately a game of skill.
The complexities listed above leave many potential player believing that online poker is either not available to them or that there are only a couple of sites that they can choose a form. This however, is purely a false belief based on a lack of knowledge being readily available. The fact is that depending on which state you are in you may have the option to select form over half a dozen legitimate poker networks, as most states have no restrictions for prospective online players. In fact only a little over 2% of the US population is restricted by state laws (zero by federal laws), leaving just under 98% of US residents are not restricted by any law from playing on available US poker sites.
The only other restriction in a sense for potential online players is that not all offshore poker sites allow residents from every state in the US to play on their sites. With the list of available legitimate poker networks, will be a list of any state that has exclusions. An additional note regarding most of the poker sites that still provide service to US players is that they also offer other products as well. Most include the ability to participate in their online casinos, sports betting and racebooks. Each of these sites will happily accept your wagers if you were to decide to place bets on any of their available products.
Top 10 Online Poker Sites
No matter what state you live in there are a number of reputable online poker sites available to you, just as there are a number of websites that prospective players should avoid. Sifting through all the available sites takes a lot of time if a prospective player wishes to determine what sites are reputable and which are not. Most prospective players just want to be able to simply long onto a site and know that the play there is fair, that they will enjoy their experience and be able to deposit and withdraw funds with confidence.
The sites listed here (list to be added upon completion of research), are to help make that selection process easier by having the research at your finger tips. The goal is to provide prospective players information about a prospective site so that they can make a more informed decision about each available site.