Legal Online Poker in New York
Poker has been part of the New York gambling scene since the 19th century when the first poker clubs started operating. In fact, some of the world’s best masters of the game learned their trade in underground card rooms in the Empire State.
Today, NY has over two dozen commercial and tribal casinos with their own poker rooms. Players can also enjoy the game at racinos, but only in the form of electronic tables. Even home poker is allowed, provided you abide by specific stipulations.
As evident, the Empire State has had quite a liberal attitude toward playing poker in a live setting, but can the same be said for online poker? Can New Yorkers play the popular card game on the internet without getting into trouble? In this article, we will walk you through the legality of online and land-based poker in NY and the state’s current stance on gambling in general.
Is Online Poker Legal in New York?
Gambling in the Empire State was first recorded in the 1600s when the first horse track opened. Although unregulated, most gambling forms began flourishing over the next few centuries. Underground gambling houses became popular in the second part of the 1800s, and people loved playing roulette, baccarat, faro, and, of course, poker.
The illegal gambling scene continued booming during the Prohibition era until the state decided to regulate pari-mutuel betting in 1939. Later, charitable bingo was allowed in 1957, while educational lotteries were permitted in 1966.
Poker wasn’t legal at that time, so people mostly played it in unlicensed clubs and dwellings. It was an open secret that these clubs existed, and the authorities didn’t bother shutting them down. With the passing of IGRA, Native American tribes were granted rights to open land-based casinos on tribal land, and poker became part of the legal landscape. In 2013, the state authorized commercial gambling establishments, so players got more opportunities to pursue their favorite pastime.
Even though sports betting was also legalized in 2013, lawmakers haven’t succeeded in regulating online gambling and poker rooms despite numerous attempts over the last decade. Since the web-based version of the popular card game in NY is not explicitly regulated, it remains a gray area. As a result, enthusiasts often resort to offshore casinos.
Before you start playing real money poker in New York, read the following laws to better understand its legal framework.
- Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988
- New York Penal Law — Special Offenses
- New York Penal Law, Section § 225.05 — Promoting Gambling in the Second Degree
Best Legal Poker Rooms in New York
The following sections will discuss where you can play online and land-based poker in New York.
Legal Online Poker in New York
Although certain forms of online gambling are legal in the Empire State, such as off-track horse and sports betting, it is not the case regarding online gambling and poker rooms. It is safe to say that NY poker players have grown increasingly frustrated over the past decade since there were several attempts to legalize its online version, but none were successful.
New York took the first significant step in that direction in 2016 when Senator John Bonacic and Assemblyman J. Gary Pretlow proposed AB 1380. The bill centered on online poker only, but it, unfortunately, died in the Assembly because legislators had doubts about the safety of the games.
The former passed the Senate by a margin of 54–8 before it died in the Committee, and the latter, which would have granted 11 online poker licenses, failed to progress in the House because of the bad actor clause, which would have deemed online poker providers who continued to operate after the UIGEA became law in 2006 unsuitable for licensing.
The year 2019 brought another bill when Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. introduced S.00018, which sought the legalization of online poker as a game of skill, not chance. Soon after, Assemblyman Pretlow proposed a carbon copy of Addabbo’s bill — A.04924. However, neither made it into the law books, and the state shifted its focus to sports betting.
Addabbo reintroduced the same bill in 2020, and Pretlow followed suit. As in the previous case, he proposed that the state collect 15% of tax revenue (like New Jersey and Pennsylvania) and share liquidity with other states. The bill would have also granted 11 online poker licenses, which would have been valid for the next 10 years. Still, it didn’t move up the legislative ladder. The following years didn’t bring any change to the NY legislative landscape.
When it comes to interpreting the law, Article 225 of the Penal Code states that any form of gambling not licensed by the state is deemed unlawful. This leaves a lot to interpretation, as it doesn’t mention online poker in any way. What is certain is that the state targets operators and those who profit from this gambling activity, not individual players.
Consequently, many people use this gray area surrounding online poker to register and play at offshore casinos. They may not be licensed by the state of New York, but they possess permits from other international regulatory bodies, such as the Malta Gaming Authority and the Gibraltar Gambling Commissioner. Unlike land-based venues, they have a much larger selection of games and offer different incentives for new and recurring players.
On that note, NY players can also register and play legal money poker in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. They can even make deposits from New York; however, they must be physically located in one of the two states to be allowed to participate. Many poker pros cross the border to take part in tournaments run on PokerStars and WSOP.com.
Those who don’t want any hassle and prefer playing legal poker in NY can always join sweepstakes sites. They operate using virtual currencies rather than cash — Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins. Gold Coins have no monetary value, but when players purchase them, they can receive Sweeps Coins (via promotions and giveaways) to play in cash games and tournaments. They can later be exchanged for fiat money.
My list of the best US poker sites which I consider to be the best rooms to play in 2023:
- BetOnline Poker
- Ignition Poker
- Everygame Poker
- Juicy Stakes Poker
- ACR Poker
- Bovada Poker
- BlackChip Poker
- SportsBetting Poker
100% Legal & Licensed Verified Bonus Mobile Friendly Advertiser Disclosure. Must be +18 to participate.
Land-Based Poker in New York
Poker in New York has a long and rich history, and it had been popular long before it became legal in land-based gambling establishments. Books such as Queer Luck and the Thompson Street Poker Club speak in detail about NY poker clubs during the 1880s and 1890s.
Another famous establishment was the Algonquin Hotel, which operated from 1919 until the 1930s. Poker was still illegal then, but underground clubs promoting this game thrived all over the city. The Mayfair Club, which served as an inspiration for the 1998 movie “Rounders”, was the place where famous players like Eric Seidel and Stu Ungar honed their skills.
Unfortunately, the Mayfair Club was closed in 2000, as well as many other establishments, especially during the tenure of New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Thanks to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, the first tribal casino, Turning Stone, opened in Verona in 1993, and it currently has one of the biggest poker rooms in the Empire State. Additionally, the law on brick-and-mortar casinos was amended in 2013, which granted state licenses to additional seven Vegas-style gambling venues. The state made this decision to stimulate the economy, which had been experiencing sluggish growth in the previous years.
Currently, the Empire State is home to sixteen tribal casinos, eight racinos, and five commercial gambling halls. Native American casinos are operated by four state-recognized tribes, but only eight can offer Class III games.
Aside from poker, brick-and-mortar casinos offer slots, bingo, video poker, sportsbooks, and electronic table games, such as baccarat, roulette, and blackjack. However, only five have dedicated poker rooms; those that don’t, such as Seneca Allegany Resort & Casino, Akwesasne Mohawk Casino Resort, Lakeside Entertainment, and Point Place Casino, offer plenty of poker titles. You can also find the popular game in the state’s racinos, but only in the form of electronic tables since they are not permitted to host live table games.
It is estimated that commercial casinos generate more revenue than the Native American ones, and the average New Yorker spends approximately $130 per year at these establishments.
How to Register at a Legal Online Poker Site in New York
Poker players from the Empire State who want to explore offshore casinos’ offers can set up an account with some of the operators we have recommended on this page. This is what to do:
Choose A Poker Room
Choose a poker room that appeals to you most by scrolling up to the top of this page.
Click the provided link, which will take you directly to the provider’s platform.
Create an account by pressing the Join/Sign Up/Register button.
Enter your username, address, and email and create a password. If necessary, verify your account by clicking the link in your email.
Deposit & Play
Once logged in, head to the Banking/Deposit section and choose your preferred payment option.
Claim a bonus (optional), make a deposit, and confirm the transaction.
When the funds become visible in your player account, you are ready to explore available cash games and tournaments. Have fun!
Land-Based Casinos With Live Poker
Brick-and-mortar casinos where you can find plenty of live poker action are Del Lago Casino (Seneca County), Turning Stone Resort (Oneida County), Resorts World Catskills (Sullivan County), Rivers Casino & Resort (Schenectady County), and Seneca Niagara Casino (Niagara County). All of them are commercial, except Seneca Niagara, which is tribal.
Turning Stone Resort has the largest poker room with 32 tables. Rivers World is right behind with 19, Seneca Niagara and Rivers Casino & Resort have 16 each, while Del Lago Resort features 14 poker tables.
Some of them have ongoing tournaments you can join throughout the year, but all offer cash games. Turning Point Casino also hosts WSOP events, The Empire State Hold’em Championships, and provides two types of daily tournaments.
Typical games players can enjoy in any of these five poker rooms include Pot Limit Omaha, Texas Hold’em 7-Card Stud, Three-Card Poker, Mississippi Stud, and several other titles.
If you are into live poker, this is where you can find land-based casinos with poker rooms:
- Turning Stone Resort & Casino — 5218 Patrick Road, Verona, New York 13478
- Rivers Casino & Resort Schenectady — 1 Rush Street, Schenectady, New York 12305
- Resorts World Catskills — 888 Resorts World Drive, Monticello, New York 1270
- Del Lago Resort & Casino — 1133 Route 414, Waterloo, New York 13165
- Seneca Niagara Resort & Casino — 310 4th St, Niagara Falls, New York 14303
Aside from the gaming floor and poker tables, these casinos are huge resorts offering accommodation, various dining options, entertainment, and many other amenities.
Final ThoughtsAs evident, the Empire State doesn’t have the most restrictive laws, but it is far from being a gambling paradise. Players have a few legal gambling options at their disposal, including the State Lottery, on-site sports betting, off-track horse betting, racinos, and tribal and commercial casinos.
On the other hand, the legalization of online gambling and poker rooms may not be in the cards for New York for the time being. Still, regulating sports betting gives hope that the state is open to adding new gambling forms to its legislative framework. Until that happens, players can enjoy web-based poker at offshore sites without worrying about legal repercussions.