State law specifically prohibits the operation of an online gambling site, but not necessarily playing at one. Indiana Poker: State takes aggressive approach to illegal gambling. Players appear to be targets along with operators. Indiana has a law outlawing the operation (but not the use) of online casinos.
The two major exceptions where playing online poker is an illegal activity are in the states of Washington (where playing is a felony) and Utah, (where it’s a class B misdemeanor). On the opposite side of the coin are three states that fully embraced the legality on online poker: Nevada, Delaware, and New Jersey.
While US-based online poker is illegal in most states, US players do have some legally sanctioned options available through legitimately licensed and regulated offshore destinations. It is likely that more states will push for regulated online poker, but it takes time for legislation to pass and be implemented.
Up until 2011 The DOJ’s interpretation of the 1961 Wire Act (first officially entered in 2002) effectively made online poker illegal in the US. That changed when, at the urging of Illinois and New York, the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel reexamined the Wire Act, and concluded its scope is limited to sports betting.
Outside of states with online poker, most other US jurisdictions don’t have laws in place explicitly making online poker illegal. Indiana is an exception, as online gambling in the Hoosier State is expressly outlawed. State-regulated online sports betting sites operate legally in Indiana, but any kind of online gambling outside of those legal sportsbooks is punishable by law.
Online poker continued to grow until April 15, 2011. On that day, three of the largest online poker operators in the world were indicted on various illegal gambling and money laundering charges, including violating UIGEA. The sites included PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker/Ultimate Bet.
First, we attempt to summarize the current legal status of online poker in the United States. You may be surprised to learn that, despite a confusing legal landscape, it is generally accepted that playing online poker is currently legal in the U.S., at least at the federal level. For this reason we feel a better way of approaching the issue is to look at when online poker will be regulated on a state by state basis.
Indiana law does not permit any kind of online poker play whatsoever. In fact, Indiana is one of the few states to criminalize online poker play. It will take a change in the law before online poker rooms can come to the state. There are, in fact, ten live poker rooms spread throughout Indiana’s casinos.