Internet poker is a popular form of online gambling. Through the use of the internet, players from around the world are able to "sit down" and play at the same poker tables. Countless websites host these online poker rooms. Online players can bet fake money, or real money linked through a credit card.
Currently, there is no federal law against playing poker online. However, the Supreme Court has not given an opinion on the matter. Thus, the lower courts have been free to rule on the issue. This has produced a confusing set of legal decisions on whether the federal Wire Act applies to internet gambling websites. Generally the Wire Act has not been applied to online poker. Further, it seems unlikely that Congress would pass laws against internet poker, especially considering its status as a game of skill, verses a game of chance.
In June of 2006, Washington became the first state to pass a law making internet poker illegal. In Washington, online gambling is now a felony with penalties of up to 5 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. Other states may soon follow suit and pass laws against internet poker. However, the new state laws outlawing internet poker are not expected to be enforced. Thus, they are simply political grandstanding done by politicians who are seeking approval from various interests. Additionally, some other states, such as North Dakota, are considering bills that would endorse internet poker and clearly make it legal.
While there is no clear answer as to whether playing internet poker is legal, it appears unlikely that federal or state authorities would seek prosecution for the offense. It is much more likely that the owners and operators of internet poker sites will be prosecuted under the existing Federal and State laws.
If you have been charged with illegal gambling as a result of playing internet poker, your should contact a business attorney. Your attorney will be familiar with the federal and state laws which apply. If you have been charged with illegally running an online poker website, you face serious criminal and civil penalties. You should contact an attorney who will be able to advise you of your rights and help in your defense.