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Legal Online Poker

Online poker legality

The legality of online poker is a thorny issue that’s perplexed players, politicians and even operators from the earliest days of online poker. These days the laws are much clearer than they used to be and for the most part it’s easy to enjoy poker from the comfort of your home. In fact it’s arguable that there’s never been a better time to play online poker. It’s always worth it to brush up on the law in your country of residence, however, and see exactly what’s legal and what your rights are as a poker player.

Legality & Online Poker

So is real-money online poker legal? The short answer is yes. The slightly longer answer is that it depends on where you live.

Online poker is legal in much of the world but there are some large regions (such as China) where it is restricted.

Generally online poker fits into three different categories around the globe:

  • 1. Fully legal, licensed and regulated by government bodies.
  • 2. Online poker exists in a gray area where it’s not illegal but not fully regulated and licensed.
  • 3. Outright banned.

There’s a decent chance that if you can access the URL of an online poker site with no problems, then you can play in your country.

Online gambling laws can be very complicated around the world but poker exists in a special space because it involves both skill and luck. Sometimes poker gets categorized with other skill games like chess or checkers but other times it’s regarded as a gambling game like blackjack or roulette.

Will I Get in Trouble?

Regardless of where you play online poker, there is very little precedent for online poker players themselves to be prosecuted.

There are times where governments have gone after online poker operators but the players themselves have always been protected.

At least in the United States, it harkens back to a law that states it’s not illegal to play online but it is illegal for the house to profit from the game. Essentially that means that friends can always get together and wager money against each other in a game of poker but if one of the friends charged an entrance fee, then that would be illegal. Regardless, you don’t hear of many $5 home games getting raided by the police.

Can I Play for Real Money?

Yes. While most online poker sites also offer a play-money version of their software, it’s real-money poker that is the biggest attraction.

While poker is enjoyed by millions of players on social networking platforms like Facebook, most players quickly move on to real-money poker where they can potentially win real cash. Because online poker allows such small stakes, it’s relatively easy to be a break-even player or at least lose money very, very slowly.

Thanks to the low stakes of online poker, it would be possible to make even a small deposit such as $20 last for an extremely long time.

Will My Online Poker Winnings Be Taxed?

This is an extremely complicated issue that can vary from country to country.

For most players, it won’t be that big a deal. Winning a few thousand dollars playing online poker doesn’t generally warrant any attention. If you were to start winning hundreds of thousands of dollars, that might be a different case altogether.

A number of countries have different rules regarding how online poker is taxed depending on whether you play the game recreationally or do it for a living.

Meanwhile there are countries like the U.K. where gamblers pay zero percent tax on their winnings, which is especially nice for online poker players.

Regardless it’s very important to check the local tax laws in your country, especially if you plan on winning a large amount of money.

Where Are the Best Countries to Play Online Poker?

This one is pretty subjective but the United Kingdom and much of Europe have progressive online gaming laws. Meanwhile in North America it’s actually Mexico and Canada that are the front-runners while the U.S. is slowly but slowly coming on board.

Central and South America also offer a lot of opportunities and Brazil is currently one of the biggest hotbeds for poker activity.

There are plenty of countries around the world that offer solid environments for playing online poker. In fact there’s a decent chance that wherever you’re reading this article from is a decent place to play.

What About Vague Online Poker Laws?

For the most part it’s pretty easy to play online poker in gray market regions where the laws are up for interpretation.

The biggest problem that players will run into is a distinct lack of options for depositing funds. Payment processors like PayPal or Neteller are usually unable to offer their services in those regions so players are restricted to credit cards or even wire transfers.

Players also get concerned about governments not being involved with running the individual sites but for the most part the sites get by with independent auditors and that usually keeps things running smoothly.

Is There Regulated Online Poker in the U.S.?

Yes, although it’s currently legalized at a state level, not federal. New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware have a large number of online poker options while other states aren’t nearly as lucky. The laws are changing, however, and more states are expected to offer regulated online poker over the coming years.

How to Support Online Poker Legalization

Online gambling legislation tends to be a laborious, slow-moving process. Players who reside in countries where online poker is restricted are likely going to have to have some patience.

On the other hand, it can be useful to contact your local representative and express your support for the ability to freely play online poker.