Is Online Poker in New York Legal?
New York State has a long tradition of underground cardrooms where some of the world’s best poker players learned their trade. However, when it comes to internet poker, New York gamblers are restricted to a few legal options: They can drive over the border into New Jersey or Pennsylvania to play online.
Alternatively, you can play sweepstakes poker games at sites like Global Poker. These sites operate a sweepstakes model where you purchase Gold Coins to play games with. You can also receive Sweeps Coins to use in tournaments and cash games. Accumulate enough Sweeps Coins and you can trade them in for prizes, including cash.
Luckily, New York has a raft of new commercial casinos that have sprung up in the past few years. Each land-based New York casino boasts a full poker room offering cash games and tournaments around the clock. Plus, you can enjoy a poker game at many of New York’s existing tribal casinos. As of early 2021, you still can’t play casino games at an online casino in NY either.
When to Expect Online Poker to be Legal in New York?
So, why isn’t NY online poker legal? Well, it’s not for want of trying. In fact, since commercial casinos and cardrooms were given the go-ahead in 2013, New York lawmakers have been attempting to pass an online gambling bill. So far, nothing has made it into the state legislature.
Mobile and online sports betting is finally getting the go-ahead in New York. And with gamblers flocking across the border into New Jersey to gamble, online poker could follow in New York. For now, hopes rest on Bill S00018, which would allow poker to be considered a game of skill. This would have huge implications and could pave the way for New York poker sites to open their doors.
Sen. Joseph Addabbo’s bill proposes:
- Up to 11 New York online poker licenses
- Sites to be regulated by New York State Gaming Commission
- Unlimited skins under each license
- Players aged 21 or over only
- Tribal casinos and video lottery facilities allowed to apply for licenses
- Fee of $10 million up front for a 10-year license
- 15% tax on GGR (Gross Gaming Revenue)
How Long Does It Take to Set Up Online Services After Legalization?
For online poker, New York could legalize games in the next few years. But how long could operations take to launch?
First, companies will need to apply for a license from the New York State Gaming Commission. They may also have to have deals in place with an existing land-based casino. The right background checks will have to be performed, as well as software audits.
Using New Jersey as an example, it took nearly a year for the first legal online poker site to launch from the time of the gambling bill passing. That sort of timeframe should be expected for the first online poker room to debut in New York.
Is Live Poker Available for Those Living in New
New York online poker might be a distant dream at the moment, but a poker player can still enjoy the thrill of a live poker game at cardrooms across the state.
The law on brick ‘n mortar casinos was relaxed in 2013, allowing for the construction of up to seven commercial casinos. Some of the new commercial casinos in New York, and a handful of tribal casinos, offer live poker games. Here are five of the biggest cardrooms in the state:
Offered: Tournaments, cash games
Turning Stone Casino
Offered: Cash games, tournaments, single-table tournaments, bad beat jackpot
del Lago Resort & Casino
Offered: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud cash games and tournaments
Resorts World Catskills
Offered: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, cash games, tournaments, bad beat jackpots
Seneca Niagara Casino
Offered: Texas Hold’em, Omaha, Seven Card Stud, cash games, tournaments, bad beat jackpots
Can I Play Online Poker in New York from NJ Casinos?
No, a New York resident or visitor can’t play in a NJ online poker room from within NY state lines. For legal online poker, New York residents have had to make the trip into New Jersey to play for real cash.
New Jersey legalized online poker back in February 2013. Under the new law, it is legal for players in the Garden State to log on and play real money poker. You can also play games via mobile poker sites. However, every New Jersey online poker site requires players to be in the state to play. NJ poker rooms use sophisticated geolocation tools to make sure their players are logged on legally within state borders.
There is no restriction on opening an account, so a New York resident can set up a poker account as long as they are over 21. However, you will have to make the drive into the Garden State before you play.
What About Offshore Poker Sites?
Offshore online poker sites have always provided online games to US players, even in states where online gambling is banned. While it’s possible to sign up to offshore poker rooms and make deposits, the process is fraught with problems. Sites aren’t licensed in New York, or even the US, and you are taking huge risks with your money and personal details.
The RNG May Not be Accurate: All online poker sites use a Random Number Generator (RNG) to determine what cards are dealt. Good RNGs ensure a fair shuffle of the deck and are properly audited by approved testing labs. With offshore online poker sites, there’s no guarantee the RNG is up to the job.
There is Little Protection Against Bots and Cheats: Bots use pre-programmed software to automatically make decisions on your behalf. Bots are now banned at many licensed, legal online poker sites in the US, but the same isn’t true at offshore rooms. In addition, there are fewer checks and balances at offshore poker rooms when it comes to multi-accounting.
Personal Data May Not be Secure: Legit poker sites use the best Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption to ensure your personal details are kept safe. Offshore poker rooms have more relaxed relationships with their licensing bodies. That means your name, address or card details may not be properly protected.
You May Not Receive a Payout on Time: It’s great to win at online poker, but it’s even better enjoying a fast withdrawal. Unreliable offshore poker rooms may hold onto winnings longer than they should or deny a payout due to spurious reasons like bonus abuse.
Bonuses May Not be Honored: Most offshore poker sites offer a range of promotions to attract players. These can range from deposit match bonuses to loyalty schemes and rakeback. Offshore sites may come up with all sorts of reasons to deny bonus cash, even if the player is totally in the right. And you have no recourse.
Funds Might Not be Segregated: Segregated funds are one of the most important features of a good poker room. If funds are segregated, it means your own cash is kept totally separate from the operating costs of the poker room. That means if the site goes bankrupt, your bankroll will be completely safe. Unfortunately, many offshore sites still don’t keep funds segregated. There’s no way of knowing whether you’ll get your cash if something goes wrong. Should online poker NY sites become available, this won't be an issue with them.
Customer Support is Poor or Non-Existent: Good customer support is vital if something goes wrong. If the software crashes or you lose money, you need to get hold of a friendly customer service agent to sort the problem. Not all offshore sites offer phone and live chat support, and you may go weeks without hearing from the company.
Famous New York Poker Players
Despite poker being largely banned in New York, the state has produced some of the game’s biggest and best players.
Howard Lederer was born in New Hampshire but spent much of his early poker career in the illegal gambling dens of New York City. Lederer moved from chess to poker and joined the Mayfair Club in the city, a legendary poker den also frequented by pros like Dan Harrington, Stu Ungar, and Erik Seidel. Lederer would go on to win two World Series of Poker bracelets and became one of the leading faces of Full Tilt Poker before it was closed to US players in 2011.
Like Howard Lederer, Erik Seidel migrated to poker via another popular game – in his case, backgammon. He became a regular at the Mayfair Club alongside other pros who would go on to take down multiple WSOP bracelets. Seidel hit the big poker scene in 1988 when he finished second to Johnny Chan in the WSOP Main Event. He has gone on to win eight World Series bracelets and a World Poker Tour title.
Stu “The Kid” Ungar was one of New York’s best gin rummy players when he was introduced to poker. He was a frequent visitor to the Mayfair Club before being persuaded to enter the WSOP Main Event. In 1980, Ungar played his first-ever Texas Hold’em tournament – the World Series of Poker Main Event – and won. He followed it up with a second successive victory a year later. Ungar would win the Main Event once again in 1997, but years of gambling addiction and substance abuse would catch up with him. The Kid died in 1998 without a dime to his name.
Isaac Haxton was born in New York City and discovered poker at college following an early interest in Magic: The Gathering. He learned the game at New York’s Turning Stone Casino before moving online. He quickly crushed the big-stakes cash games online, becoming one of the most successful online players of all time. Haxton has now racked up nearly $28 million in live tournament earnings and sits 16th in the all-time money-earners list.
What Forms of Gambling Are Legal In New York?
New York has a long history of gambling, and the laws are becoming more relaxed. The Empire State has over 30 brick-and-mortar casinos including tribal casinos and newer commercial casinos. Retail sportsbooks have also been made legal.
In 2021, online and mobile sports betting was legalized after a lengthy process. The New York State Gaming Commission will oversee the industry and determine which operators will get licenses. Winning bids may come from any of New York’s commercial casinos or one of the state’s Native American tribes. Racetracks like MGM Yonkers Raceway may also launch their own NY online sports betting apps.
Online casinos and online poker remain prohibited. However, with many New Yorkers traveling over the border into New Jersey to gamble online, that may change in the future.
New York Poker History & Laws
2001: New York legalizes tribal casinos in the state and allows racetracks to convert into racinos.
2013: The Upstate NY Economic Development Gaming Act passes, paving the way for new commercial casinos in New York. Four commercial casinos are open as of January 2021. All offer legal poker and sports betting.
2015: New York online poker bill S05302 is introduced by Sen. John Bonacic. The bill proposes the legalization of online poker games and doesn’t ban “bad actor” sites.
2019: Sen. Joseph Addabbo introduces Bill S00018, which seeks to make poker a game of skill. The proposal includes 11 licenses for online poker in New York.
2021: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo indicates that he supports mobile sports betting, which could be legalized in the state by year’s end. As of January, online casino gaming was not being considered, but that could change.
The Projected Path for Online Poker in NY
With online sports betting now legal in New York, other forms of gambling may follow. New York has a long history of illegal and legal poker rooms. And you can now play Texas Hold’em or Omaha at many of the state’s land-based casinos.
However, for now, there are no legal online poker sites serving New York players. The road to legalized mobile sports betting has been hard enough, and it could be several years before casino games and poker go online.
New York Hold’em players have two options. They can drive over the border into New Jersey or Pennsylvania and play online there. Online poker is fully legal in those two states as long as you’re located within state borders. Just register your account online in New York, then travel across the border with your smartphone or laptop to log in.
Alternatively, you can jump into legal sweepstakes poker games online. Sweepstakes sites use a unique type of "Sweeps Coins" that you can use to play tournaments and cash games. Win virtual coins and cash them in for real prizes!
NY Online Poker FAQ
No. While poker is legal at land-based casinos, there are no laws allowing real-money poker online in NY.
Once New York passes an online poker law; the first poker rooms should go live within a year. Many of the prospective software providers are already operating in the United States.
Yes, of course, but you will need to be in New Jersey to play for real money. However, you can register your account in New York first before making the journey across the border.
Online poker sites use special geolocation tools like GeoComply to confirm you are playing legally within state borders. You can also install geolocation plugins on your mobile phone.
Offshore poker sites are not always safe and should be avoided. Some offshore sites are more relaxed in the way they store data and regulate random number generators. We never recommend signing up to an offshore poker room.
Jon Young is a writer and magazine editor with over 12 years' experience in the gaming sector. He has written on everything from poker and slots to casino, sports betting and mobile gambling. When not trying to take down the Mega Moolah jackpot he can be found playing poker tournaments in casinos.