Is Online Poker Legal in the State of New York?

// Published by Luke

Although New York is home to many things, online gambling is not one of them. This state has been in a sort of limbo when it comes to sorting out the legality of online poker and other web-based gambling services.

In fact, this is the case with many other states that haven’t been able to figure out how to legalize and regulate online poker and other gambling activities. Some people would dare say that lawmakers like things as they are at the moment since nobody is really being prosecuted for playing online poker in the US, regardless of the state they live in.

Before we proceed to talk about New York, in particular, let’s take a look at the state of affairs in the entire country regarding this issue.

The State of Affairs in the US

Since the US is the first country associated with poker, so many people would expect that the game is legal in all states. However, the relationship between the country and gambling of any sort has been quite complex during its history. While some states frown upon all types of games of chance (mostly the ones from the Bible Belt), others are quite open about them and are looking forward to welcoming any change that would bring them additional profit. One such state is Nevada.

If we were to list US states according to their relationship toward online poker (and other online gambling activities), they would be divided into three main categories: strict, indifferent, and open.

Legalized Online Poker

In addition to the aforementioned state of Nevada, other states that are open toward poker are New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. In fact, Delaware and Nevada even signed an online poker partnership, according to this article.

The good news is that many other states are working on regulating online poker, so we are bound to see many others join the club and welcome entertaining poker games on the web.

Prohibited Online Poker

On the other hand, there are a couple of states that are not really happy about the entire “online poker” movement and deem it illegal. In other words, not only are interstate platforms forbidden, but players are also not allowed to play any kind of online poker. If you are found with online poker software on your computer, you could be prosecuted for that in Washington, Utah, and Florida. Therefore, full prohibition is active.

Nevertheless, no one has ever actually been prosecuted for playing online poker, despite it being illegal, so one could argue that even the three states that completely banned online poker are actually in the “legal limbo” we mentioned before.

Is New York Indifferent?

Now that we’ve covered the states that legalized and prohibited online poker, we are left with the third group of states — the one that includes those states that were not mentioned above. New York also belongs to this group; however, it is on its way to legalize and regulate online poker.

Before we proceed to discuss how online poker in New York is actually available for the residents of this state, we need to address a couple of issues that made it illegal in the first place.

The UIGEA

The UIGEA stands for the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that was passed back in 2006. Its main purpose was to regulate all types of online gambling except for fantasy sports. The UIGEA was, however, heavily criticized by many professionals as it failed to actually put a stop to the dangers that come with online gambling. Nevertheless, it was enough to put a lot of confusion among the lawmakers, and it eventually came down to individual states to decide on their approach to this issue.

The Wire Act

The Wire Act is an old legislative piece used by many anti-online gambling advocates as the basis for not allowing this type of activity in the US. However, this is a very old act, and it was recently reinterpreted so as to allow states to decide on the legality of sports betting as well.

Complications

These two acts made a complete legislative mess, so the majority of states simply decided not to do anything. However, many lawmakers are realizing that leaving things up to chance is perhaps not the best approach to this problem and that they should probably deal with online gambling regulation on the state level.

Nevada had it solved a long time ago, and so did New Jersey. Delaware and West Virginia also did a fantastic job, and Pennsylvania is the newcomer to the family of states with regulated poker.

But what about New York? It seems that New York has made really good progress in this aspect and that it will join the family in a year or two.

New York Will Regulate Online Poker

The idea of online poker being regulated in New York is not new, it just seems that the state’s officials have more important things to do at the moment. The talks about the regulation have started back in 2014 but came to light after a bill was passed by NY Senate in 2016. That was the first time ever that online poker had a serious opportunity to become legal. As a matter of fact, the Senate voted with 53-5 in favor of legalization.

However, something happened along the way as the State Assembly never actually dealt with it. A similar pattern was repeated over and over again — the bill passes through the Senate Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee and pretty much stays there.

The state failed to legalize online poker in 2019, and now everybody has high hopes that 2020 will be the year when New York will finally join the states with regulated online poker. Until then, poker lovers will have to look for other ways to play online poker in New York.