Online Poker - Legal?

What’s the status of online poker? Is it legal or not? I live in Illinois.

Basically no, it’s not legal anywhere in the US. The FBI closed several sites and arrested the proprietors a few years ago.

That’s not exactly true, to my knowledge. As far as the United States are concerned, what is illegal is making credit card payments to online poker sites abroad. The reason for that is that the federal government, in enacting the statute that imposed the ban, relied on the commerce clause of the Constitution, allowing Congress to regulate inerstate and foreign commerce, but it appeared untenable to argue that online poker as such was a question of such commerce. The argument could be made, however, in relation to credit card payment made from within the U.S. to an online poker site outside the U.S., so that is the action statutorily banned, not the poker play as such.

If I may add to that: The statute governing the question can be found here, and in essence what is prohibited is accepting financial transactions (not limited to credit cards) in relation to unlawful internet gambling. Intrastate and intratribal transactions are specifically excluded, however (31 U.S. Code § 5362), so if you live in a state that permits online poker and play on a platform located within that state, where the whole transaction stays within the state, then this federal law would not be applicable (because Congress would not, constitutionally, have had the authority to regulate).

It’s illegal in Thailand, but there are quite a few farangs (Westerners) who live here and make their living that way. It’s basically their job, and they’ll play at least hours a day.

As an interesting side note, the United States’ ban on Americans participating in online gambling was illegal under WTO law, and the U.S. was successfully sued by by Antigua and Barbuda (where a lot of online gambling sides are located) in WTO courts (called panels).

I’ve heard of people refusing to pay their credit-card bill when they lost, claiming that since gambling was illegal where they were playing, they didn’t have to pay up. I’ve heard the credit-card companies will agree with this. But of course, the poker website will never allow you to play again.

AFAIK this is indeed the legal situation with regards to the United States. As a resident of the US, you are not breaking a law by just playing online poker (or by participating in any other form of online gambling, for that matter). The tricky part, however, is that there is no easy and legal way to transfer money into an account with an online poker site.

In light of this situation, a number of the more respectable sites decided to no longer accept customers from the US.

I was always under the impression that the reason telephones are not permitted in Vegas sports books, poker rooms or any casino area is because it is illegal to transmit betting information across state lines in the U.S.because gambling is illegal except where authorized buy the individual states. Thus you could only gamble with others in the same state where the gambling is legal.

This may have been true in the past, but at least in the Maryland Live! casino, you can have phones anywhere. A friend of mine even took a picture of the crap table we were playing at with her camera phone. I was even surprised at that.

Well - at least you are spared the adverts for all the competing sites, promising untold riches and free money for signing up.

Those are replaced by ads for fantasy sports websites. Please remember in 45 out of 50 states fantasy sports are a game of skill and thus not gambling.

I am not saying that it is illegal to take a picture but that it is illegal to transmit betting information, such as football or baseball lines, across state lines. It would be very unlikely that anyone would stage a crap game in New York and base the outcome on the dice that are thrown in Maryland. I think casinos just went overboard on the picture/phone issue to help maintain the glamour and mystery of Vegas.

That’s fine, but you said phones were not permitted in the casino area. I was just stating a fact that one casino I know of does in fact allow phones and/or pictures. In case anyone was wondering. I’m sure I could have taken a picture of the big sports book display with the lines and odds on it. Like I said, even I was surprised since I’m used to the no phone, no camera rules from Vegas and AC.

I did not know that they had sports betting in Maryland. Please attempt to take a picture of the posting of the various lines and we will know the answer. I would bet that you are not permitted to do this but I will readily take your word for it if you say no one objects. In my experience there are signs posted everywhere in the are of the sports book notifying you of the relevant laws in this area.

Most (all?) casinos ban picture taking for security reasons.

I’ll give it a try next time I’m there. Besides, I could just write down all the lines and go outside and use my phone. I don’t think the old rules apply as much anymore due to the availability of cell phones.

I know for a fact that it is not ALL casinos, for reasons previously mentioned.

Not universally. I’ve been to casinos whose policy was that you could take photos as long as there were no patrons in them. I guess the rationale for that policy is not so much security, but rather the privacy of guests, not all of which would like there to exist photos showing them gambling.