Currently, the states of Nevada, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Michigan have regulated and legalized real money online poker sites. A brief recap of how this situation came to be is helpful to understand the current situation of the US Online Poker market.
The boom of online poker sites in the US
Since the first poker sites debuted in the late 1990s, online poker in the US has existed for many years. At that time, mostly unregulated, meaning there were no specific laws about real money online poker.
The unregulated industry flourished after Chris Moneymaker's 2003 World Series of Poker triumph and the ensuing "poker boom." However, problems would come not long after that.
Congress established the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006 in response to the expansion of unregulated real money online poker sites, driving a number of them out of the US market. Numerous powerhouses, including PokerStars, decided to take a chance and continue to accept players from the United States. It bought them a few more years, but eventually, internet poker in the US faced another, much bigger issue.
On April 15, 2011, the FBI closed the biggest US online poker sites, on what became later known as "Black Friday," as part of an ongoing investigation. Players in the country battled to have their accounts returned after the companies were compelled to stop operating in the nation. Some were only paid after months or years, and many others lost their money forever. This tarnished the reputation of real money online poker for years to come.
After several years, regulated, legal online poker rooms finally made their way to the United States in 2013.
Individual states regulated real money poker operations within their own virtual ring-fenced borders, restricted to each state. The prognosis is getting better, but the great majority of the country still cannot access legal online poker.
Legal Online Poker in the US
US Online Poker sites have been struggling since an initial rush in 2013 when three states (New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware) legalized online poker within their boundaries.
Pennsylvania, the fourth state, didn't decide to regulate the game until 2017. Furthermore, the first cards were not dealt in the Keystone State until November 2019.
Michigan is the most recent state to approve legal online poker sites, on January 29, 2021. Online poker is also legal in West Virginia, although no virtual hands have been dealt there as of yet. Obtaining a license is no simple ordeal and for some poker sites, it might not even be worth it.
So who is next? It's probable that additional states will move toward regulated online poker now that online gambling, especially sports betting, is becoming more widely recognized. But as we've seen, it's not always a straightforward procedure.
Best Online Poker Sites for US players
Players in the US looking to play real money online poker have a number of legit, safe, options, regardless of the state they live, and to play with the rest of the world as well. Check out Donkhunter services to find the best online poker sites for you, 24/7 customer support, and assistance with opening your account.