Pennsylvania Legal Poker Sites

Pennsylvania StateWith 9 decent sized poker rooms to choose from, Pennsylvania was a fairly recent addition to the list of poker-friendly States. Prior to 2010, there were no legal real money poker games in this State of any description. While home games and charity poker are not allowed under the PA law, bar leagues with no buy-ins are popular here. One nuance of the gambling laws in this State means that players of games are almost completely exempted – with the law focusing on organizers and profiteers.

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This article gives you all the relevant information on playing the different forms of poker in Pennsylvania. First of all, live casino poker rooms are covered – including venues which host some big events. After that you will find information on the social poker scene. Next up online poker is discussed, including recent legislation attempts. You’ll find information right from the Statutes after that, with analysis of what these passages mean to poker fans in PA. At the end of the page is a summary of the key findings.

Pennsylvania Live Poker Games

There has been an explosion in growth of casinos since the 2010 regulation of live venues was voted into law. These State-licensed casinos are so popular that the Mohegan Tribe has opened a venue outside of any tribal compact. This is the tribe behind the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The 9 major poker rooms here offer daily tournament and cash game action. They also host some traveling tournament brands including the WSOP Circuit events and Big Stax series tournaments.

For those in the Eastern side of this State, New Jersey and Delaware have even more casino poker card rooms within easy reach.

Are Home Games Legal in Pennsylvania?

Although live poker is a big draw for players in Pennsylvania, there is no carve-out under the current Statutes for home games. One ‘out’ for this type of game could be that ‘mere players’ are not singled out under the laws, and in a home-game everyone is ‘just a player’. This has not been tested in any court – though there is no history in the press of small stakes social poker games being visited by law-enforcement.

Charity fundraisers can’t host poker nights in PA, with raffle and bingo promotions the legal options. Bar leagues with no entry fees run here, with minimal prizes of dinner vouchers and so on, these are more social events than big tests of poker skill.

Pennsylvania Online Poker Games

Online poker games raise an interesting question for residents of Pennsylvania. Since the ‘player only’ defense works for most of the laws here – it would follow that merely playing at a real money online poker site is not against the law. The government do not agree, citing the existing anti-gambling Statutes as broad enough to including online gambling, even though they laws pre-date the internet.

There was an attempt at the regulation of online poker games in 2012. This was killed off in committee and never made it to the Senate floor for a vote. This does show support for regulation exists in PA, and hopefully regulation will follow in the not too distant future.

The only current option for online poker fans in this State is to play at offshore poker sites located out of the Caribbean. While tens of thousands of players enjoy the games from across the US every week, it is the responsibility of each individual to work out their own legal situation from their own State before they sit down to play.

What Do The Pennsylvania Gambling Statutes Say?

Like most other States, the laws in PA take the ‘ban absolutely anything, then exempt what we would like to piece-by-piece’ route. The key difference when you read these laws is how focused they are on people who are running, organizing, publicizing or profiting from the games. Players are more or less completely discounted throughout the law books.

One thing you do not want to do is host and unlawful gambling game on your building in Pennsylvania – this is specifically covered in the laws and could potentially lead to harsh penalties.

Here are a few of the clauses from the key Statutes, this is from Section 5513:

(1) allows persons to collect and assemble for the purpose of unlawful gambling at any place under his control;
(3) solicits or invites any person to visit any unlawful gambling place for the purpose of gambling; or
(4) being the owner, tenant, lessee or occupant of any premises, knowingly permits or suffers the same, or any part thereof, to be used for the purpose of unlawful gambling.

Pennsylvania Poker – Summing It Up

This State is poker friendly from the perspective of live card rooms at their many licensed casinos. Other than these venues, there is actually not too much poker going on. Home games are not carved out, charity poker is not possible, online poker is believed to be covered by the existing laws and the single attempt at regulation did not work out.

Optimistically, PA looks like a great candidate for future poker regulation, and even perhaps liquidity sharing with nearly New Jersey and Delaware.