Legal us online poker states ranked | pokerlistings

When it comes to legal US online poker, some states are better than others. Some have more traffic or bigger tournaments while others offer safe, regulated online poker in smaller volumes. Many state that player protection and being able to legally play poker online in a controlled environment is the most important aspect of regulation.

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Over the last seven years of writing about US poker laws, state by state, I’ve seen both good and bad changes but ultimately the number of players protected from the dangers of the offshore sites has grown. More and more US players now live in states where online poker is safely regulated and that can only be a good thing.

As more states start to introduce bills to regulate online poker and gaming, the network effects of shared liquidity come into play. Ultimately, the goal for many operators and lawyers working on getting US poker regulation over the line is a national liberalization of the market. One that could see something akin to the current Nevada-New Jersey sharing pact between all states with regulatory regimes in place – something which would give legal US online poker a mighty boost.

Which States is Online Poker Legal In The USA?

At the moment there are four US jurisdictions with active, legal online poker operations within their borders: New Jersey, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

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Although the WSOP shares player pools between its NV and NJ sites, no other combos are currently possible. Should more states legalize and regulate online poker that will change, giving more players the chance to compete against a larger player base while playing at home.

Rank State Traffic Notes

#1 New Jersey

#1 WS Op/Betfair/888Poker

Circle of Trust: Further discussions have taken place recently behind closed doors about a possible GGPoker entry into the New Jersey market. It’s unlikely this will happen without the popular poker app exiting its current market. Given 888Poker is the smallest of the big three in New Jersey right now, this is the site to watch should an operator decide to try and shake up the circle of trust in America’s biggest regulated poker market.

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August Liquidity Pact: Although it’s been quiet on the rumored WSOP-888Poker New Jersey liquidity pact since the initial announcement back in February 2020, this deal could still change the New Jersey online poker landscape. If finalized, this deal would give the WSOP access to 888Poker’s user list and vice versa, thus increasing traffic during quiet off-peak hours. It would also give the WSOP access to 888Poker’s superior casino product, which could prove crucial in the Golden Nugget-partnered site’s battle to retain its top spot position in New Jersey.

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Tournament Activity: The COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in interest in online poker across the world and the New Jersey online poker market was no exception. Although things have calmed down since the early days of lockdown, Partypoker’s recent $1 million guaranteed Sundays routinely attract over 1,000 players during peak times. The WSOP also moved its entire schedule online this year, with New Jersey residents enjoying the chance to win gold bracelets from their sofas.

Regulatory Certainty: The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement is widely regarded as one of the best regulators in the world and, although there have been delays in responding to license applications in 2020, operators work well with the regulator. The annual renewal fee for a New Jersey iGaming license is $400,000.

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Notable Operator:

  • (WSOP/MPoker Skin) - The biggest site in the state thanks to its annual World Series of Poker providing an easy way to qualify for the biggest events in Las Vegas. Benefits from a large linked player pool with NV and the Betfair skin enjoys a strong brand and cash game activity. Downside is a less than stellar tournament client that lags behind competitors.
  • (Partypoker Skin) - Strong brand and product with weekly high stakes High Roller events and a lucrative rakeback based VIP program. Close second to WSOP in terms of cash game volume.
  • (888poker Skin) - Linked to the WSOP and WSOP com com packet via a rumored liquidity pact, however yet to be implemented. Has the strongest casino and lottery style side games of any operator. Tied with Betfair for third in terms of cash game volume.
  • (Betfair Skin) - Quality European product with soft spots in the evenings and good promos including frequent $500 freerolls. Tied with Borgata for third in terms of cash game volume.
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#2 Nevada

#2 WS Op/Aston Martin Spaceship Company

Lonely Hearts Club Band: Of all the major US online poker operators only the WSOP calls Nevada home. With very few local players, the Nevada market mostly props up the site’s phone lines during the summer weeks when locals help out during the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas. Outside of that it’s a pretty lonely existence for those stuck on the treadmill of regulated US online poker.

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Shared Fate: The site in Nevada is tied to its New Jersey site and the two share both players and liquor brands. As such, anything that happens to the New Jersey operation will have an impact on the struggling Nevada site. If the new WSOP-888 liquidity pact is approved and drives significant traffic to 888Poker’s userlist, the WSOP may decide to drop its deal with South African car manufacturer Aston Martin and look for a new local partner.

Small but Perfectly Formed: If you’re looking for cash games in Nevada you won’t have much luck - there are basically none. However, if you like low buy-in daily tournaments with regular local lawyers, doctors and judges, this could be the site for you. Unlike its bigger New Jersey cousin, this site runs lots of WSOP branded satellites for both the Nevada and Las Vegas versions of the WSOP.

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Regulatory Costs: Like Delaware, Nevada has a flat annual fee for an interactive gaming license of $5,000. Although there is an initial higher cost for an in-person application, once accepted operators simply need to pay the annual fee to keep their license.

#3 Pennsylvania

#3 PokerStars PA / MSPN PA

The Waiting Game: Despite going live in November 2019, Pennsylvania’s iGaming industry is still in its infancy. Loyalty programs are only just starting to roll out and PokerStars’ market leading features, such as home games, are yet to appear. Traffic levels remain low outside of the afternoon/evening rush hours and overall liquidity is hampered by the fact that only one other site is currently operational.

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Monopoly Man: That other site is operated by Mount Airy Casino Resort and partnered with MSN Sports. Traffic on this site is minimal with most cash games only filling one or two tables at non-peak times. Some in the poker community speculate that this may change if and when a liquidity pact allows communication between Pennsylvania’s two sites. Based on market share in other US states, liquidity from PokerStars could increase MSN’s traffic significantly -- although whether players would stick around once the novelty wore off remains to be seen.

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Star Arrives: Although slow to launch, PokerStars quickly became the most popular site in the state whenever overall traffic is high. The undisputed king of US online poker, Stars offers everything from ultra-soft HUD-wielding players at the lowest stakes to tougher games up top. With unique features such as its own custom software, the industry’s best loyalty scheme and access to huge international tournament series, Stars really is in a league of its own.

Taxman Cometh: Like many US taxes, Pennsylvania’s 54% tax rate on gross gaming revenue is eye wateringly high. Especially when compared to the 1-2% common in most other regulated markets around the world. While some US operators welcome the potentially profitable US market, others have shied away because of this punitive tax rate. Whether this stifles innovation and growth in the long run remains to be seen, but it does mean operators will be limited in their ability to invest in software and marketing.

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#4 Delaware

#4 Bally’s/Delpark/Dover Downs

Three Card Poker: Delaware Park, Bally’s and Dover Downs all use the same software and, unsurprisingly, share pretty much identical liquidity. Elsewhere in the state, it’s a very different story. All three sites feature similar skins to those found in Nevada and New Jersey, but the traffic light. So light, in fact, that it’s often hard to get a nine-max game going at the lowest stakes even during prime time in the evening.

No Show: Originally all three sites were due to link up with the newly regulated New Jersey market, creating a reasonably sized regional network. However, despite initially saying the network would go live in Q3 of 2019, neither Delaware nor New Jersey traffic has become interconnected. It’s unclear whether these plans are still alive, but given the lack of action since the original statements it doesn’t look hopeful.

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Making Do: Without the security of a reliable player base, Delaware’s three sites have to make do with niche customer bases. Each operator focuses on a slightly different demographic in order to generate enough cash games to run one or two daily tournaments. The worst site for traffic sometimes manages a couple of six-max games below $1/$2 during peak hours.

Cheaper to Breathe: Compared to other state-based regulators Delaware is relatively cheap with a flat fee of $5,000 per year to hold an interactive gaming license. That’s quite a bargain when you consider the hefty sums being paid by operators wanting to offer online poker in Nevada and New Jersey. Whether cheaper licences reflect a smaller market or a lower level of scrutiny is open to debate.


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On Hold: By sheer size and population California should be a slam dunk for legalized poker. But fragmented tribal relations and competing interests have thus far made agreement over a comprehensive bill impossible. A constitutional amendment was proposed in 2019 that would have allowed lawmakers to regulate online poker, but it failed to gain momentum.

It seems likely that another attempt will be made in 2021, particularly with the state ravaged economically by the pandemic. Tribes have different priorities however, with some more concerned about land-based casinos reopening successfully and others not seeing the appeal of online poker. Whether they realize how much money Californians want to grind each other for pots online, while in their pyjamas, remains to be seen.

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More Precarious Than You Think - The perceived strength of the California market, built on the notion of 40 million people, is actually more precarious than you think.

First of all, the population of 40 million is not accurate. Visitors are counted in that figure so, realistically, the adult player base available in California is probably nearer 20 million - assuming every single adult plays cards at some point. To get an idea of the actual addressable market we need to take into account how many of those adults live with children, or other family members who may impose reasonable restrictions on online poker playing parents… the % is high. Then we need to deduct the percentage of people who already have ready access to offshore sites... Another decent chunk. Finally we need to take into account liquidity sharing. If California goes alone the market will be much smaller than people imagine. There needs to be a full West Coast agreement with Oregon and maybe Hawaii and Alaska to hit the numbers people assume California can support.

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Daniel Said is a veteran writer and analyst of the poker industry. Having cut his teeth on the live poker beat for Bluff Magazine, Daniel moved into online news and analysis, becoming part of the PokerListings team in 2015.