Legal Online Poker New York
With people increasingly turning to online means of diversion, it’s no shock that New Yorkers have an interest in online poker. With neighboring New Jersey and Pennsylvania both offering legal online poker, those in the Empire State could be forgiven for suffering a bit of envy.
Thankfully, there seems to be a general movement toward legalizing online poker in the New York Legislature. A bill to do so is currently under consideration in committee, and even if it fails, the sentiment is unlikely to go away soon.
In the meantime, New Yorkers can play online poker at sweepstakes poker sites. As it turns out, some great poker action is available in the state right now.
This page is the premier destination for all information about online poker in NY. Below, we offer the latest for news about laws, launches, and, when the time comes, bonuses at the various sites.
Make sure to bookmark this page and check it frequently. Things can happen quite quickly when it comes to online poker.
Is Online Poker Legal in New York?
Not just yet. Although New Yorkers can see that their brethren in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are enjoying the fruits of legal online poker, they are unable to take part themselves.
However, with people living more and more of their lives online, it’s unlikely that online poker will remain illegal for much longer in New York. In fact, there is already a bill to bring online poker to the Empire State active in the New York Senate.
Perennial gambling proponent State Sen. Joseph Addabbo reintroduced his 2019 bill to legalize online poker as S 18 in this lawmaking session. The bill’s language and aim are simply to remove poker as a game of chance in the state.
Games of chance are typically prohibited by the New York Constitution. So, instead of seeking to overwrite the entire statute, this bill would essentially reclassify poker as a different type of game. In doing so, it would become eligible to be offered online.
At present, the bill has been referred to the Senate’s Racing, Gaming And Wagering Committee for consideration and amendment. There’s no indication about the chances of the bill moving forward, at this point, but we will monitor the situation closely.
Will New York legalize online poker?
It’s not entirely clear right now if New York will regulate online poker. Obviously, the hope is that the bill currently in the state house will pass. Failing that, it’s possible that another bill might be introduced in this session or the next.
However, to say that New York will definitely regulate online poker would be purely speculative. What is clear is that there are a few options that New Yorkers can use in the meantime. Chief among those options are the sweepstakes poker sites that are currently active in most US states.
What are sweepstakes poker sites?
Nearly everyone has encountered sweepstakes before. They usually involve a company pledging to give away large sums of cash or prizes.
As it turns out, sweepstakes are far more diverse than simple raffle-type giveaways. In fact, there are entire sweepstakes sites dedicated to providing a reasonable facsimile of an online poker site.
How is this possible?
In order to see how social poker sites can even do this without drawing the attention of law enforcement, it’s important to understand first what makes a sweepstakes acceptable. Most states have rules governing sweepstakes sites, and in general, they all have the same requirements.
The most important aspect about a sweepstakes is that it must be possible to play without spending any money. Players must be able to put themselves in the running for every single prize, and there cannot be any statistical advantage associated with sending money to the site.
So, when Publishers Clearing House states that no purchase is necessary in order to win its millions of dollars in prizes, it’s telling the truth. In order to remain in compliance with the law, any person who wants to participate must have a free path to victory.
Of course, that pathway can be quite narrow. The singular chance that the PCH Prize Patrol will show up at your door is quite low, and is on par with winning the lottery.
Sites can also make the process of requesting entry quite onerous and painstaking if they like. It cannot be impossible, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with making it annoying.
How Social Poker works
Relating the sweepstakes model to pure gambling games, however, is a challenge. As a result, social poker sites have an unusual structure that allows it to remain classified as a sweepstakes.
These sites use a dual-currency system to create separation between buying in and cashing out. Those two currencies are known as Gold Coins and Sweeps Coins.
Typically, a player will buy a certain amount of Gold Coins. As they make their purchase, the site will award the player with an amount of Sweeps Coins concurrently.
Gold Coins, although playable onsite, are never available for real money redemption. They basically are play money to experience the site’s games.
By contrast, Sweeps Coins are ineligible for any kind of direct purchase. You can only receive them for free when you purchase a certain amount of Gold Coins.
However, Sweeps Coins are redeemable and convertible into real money. Sites can process withdrawal requests for $50 or more of Sweeps Coins.
It is also possible to receive Sweeps Coins for free. You must send a handwritten request to the sites through snail mail to do it, but you never have to shell out directly for Sweeps Coins if you do not want to do so.
Thus, purchases on social poker sites are matters of convenience, rather than compulsion. Though the activity onsite is suspiciously like any other gambling site, the truth is that it remains a sweepstakes site at its core.
New York players are more than welcome to take part in social poker sites at this time. There, you can compete against players from most other states in the US.
What about offshore poker sites? Are they safe?
If you’ve done a search for the best poker sites in New York recently, you might be a bit confused. After all, we’ve just said that there are no poker sites available in the state, but several other pages have links to sites that all claim to welcome New Yorkers.
It’s true – there are poker sites that will welcome New York poker players right now. Unfortunately, these sites are offshore poker rooms, and we cannot stress enough how cautious you need to be with them.
For one thing, the legality of playing on them is rather questionable. According to New York law, your patronage of games on these sites could potentially draw the ire of law enforcement in the state. Although playing offshore is not settled as a cut-and-dry legal question, the last thing you want is to get a knock on the door from folks in uniform because you played a few hands of hold’em on your computer.
Offshore sites also operate beyond the confines of state and federal law. They are not subject to the same standards for scrutiny, regulation, and business practices that US sites are.
In some cases, the regulators might be in cahoots or even openly affiliated with the sites themselves, leading to terrible conflicts of interest. As a result, you might not be able to get much assistance or legal remedy if you have a dispute with an offshore site. No pun intended, but it’s a bit of a crapshoot.
Finally, there’s something to be said about the chance for shenanigans when the geographic distance is great. The maxim about mice playing when the cat’s away certainly holds true, and in this case, the cat may not even be on the same continent. It is logistically impossible to monitor offshore sites from the US.
To be fair, you might not run into any difficulties with offshore sites. Many players from the States are able to use them frequently and without incident.
However, with so many risks involved, it does not seem worth it. It’s hard enough to win at poker when you’re only playing against the people at the table, much less the site itself.
If you’re going to play online poker in New York, you’re best to stick with a social poker site until NY regulates online poker.
New York Poker Laws
For such a large and progressive state, it’s a bit of a surprise to realize that New York has not been friendly to poker historically. On the whole, the Empire State laws have remained quite restrictive to the practice. It is even illegal to play in private games in your own home.
Now, it’s important to realize that there has been some legal poker play in the state since 1993. Thanks to the rooms at Turning Stone Casino and two other tribal locations, New Yorkers have been able to enjoy poker games in their home state.
However, bona fide legal poker has only been active in the state since 2013. A voter referendum that called for the creation of up to 7 Class III casinos passed, and thus, poker was on the table.
New York continues to move sluggishly toward outright legalization of the online game. At present, there are only half a dozen legal live options in the Empire State.
Are home poker games legal?
No. New York has extremely restrictive rules regarding home poker games. It is not permissible to host or play in a game where any items of value are exchanged.
This law applies even if every player in the game is related or knows one another. It also applies even if the host of the game receives no compensation or benefit.
You are unlikely to find more absolute rules against home poker games than in New York. Do not take any chances, since there may not be any bigger waste of time than acquiring a criminal record because you and a few buddies decided to play a $5 tournament.
New York card rooms
New York is currently home to six live poker rooms in the state. These rooms are equally divided between tribal casinos and commercial properties.
All six are located in upstate New York. There are no legal poker options in the immediate vicinity of New York City.
New York Poker Timeline
New York’s history with legal poker is surprisingly short. As immortalized in the movie Rounders, most New York poker players had to make do with underground card clubs in undisclosed locations for decades.
In fact, most of the successful activity has occurred in the past decade. Here are the red letter dates for poker in New York.
2013: New York Casino Gambling Amendment, Proposal 1
Voters approved a referendum that would allow up to seven casinos to be constructed over the course of two phases. Each new casino would have the option of opening a poker room along with the rest of its offerings.
The first phase allowed for up to four casinos to be built in upstate locations. In the intervening years, all four casinos have come to fruition in the state.
Three of those locations elected to host live poker onsite. So, as it stands, New Yorkers can play cards at del Lago Resort and Casino, Resorts World Catskills, and Rivers Casino and Resort Schenectady.
The second phase calls for up to three casino properties to be founded in New York City itself. According to the language of the referendum, the state is allowed to begin the process of licensing those properties seven years after the initial passage. In other words, the road to New York City casinos is likely to begin in November 2020.
2020: Senate Bill S18A
The referendum did not, however, provide for the introduction of online poker in any way. So, that’s why Sen. Addabbo has chosen to introduce the latest version of his online poker bill to the New York Senate in 2020.
The bill pledges to allow up to 11 online poker rooms to operate in New York. Each operator would be able to secure a 10-year license at a cost of $10 million. Proceeds from online poker play would be taxed at 15%.
The bill also seeks to reclassify poker as not a game of chance. Games of chance are forbidden under the New York Constitution, so this provision is a way to avoid having to push for an amendment to the state’s supreme law.
However, this bill is a straight copy of Addabbo’s same legislation from 2019. That law never went very far, so there’s no guarantee that this one will do any better.
So far, the only amendment that the bill has undergone is a semantic change to a single phrase. Whether other New York legislators will care enough to order substantive changes remains to be seen.
What does the future hold for New York online poker?
It’s hard to say. The current bill in the New York Senate (and its Assembly counterpart) are carbon copies of a bill that went precisely nowhere in 2019.
It would seem to make sense to offer more options for online gambling to an increasingly homebound and wired populace. New York is not a small state, geographically, and its main population center has no poker options nearby.
New York has also allowed retail sports betting to debut in its upstate properties. However, lawmakers have similarly resisted calls to legalize online sports betting in NY.
As a result, New Yorkers have been pouring into New Jersey and Pennsylvania in droves to cast their wagers. New Jersey has overtaken Nevada as the top location for sports betting at times, in part because of New York City denizens spilling across the Hudson River.
Common sense suggests that online poker, online sports betting, and perhaps online casinos might be coming to New York in the near future. Unfortunately, as is often the case with lawmakers, common sense may not be the determining factor. So, it’s hard to say when online poker might be coming to the Empire State.
Online Poker NY FAQ
Social poker sites will give you Sweeps Coins for free if you write a request to them via snail mail. However, if you want to buy Gold Coins and receive Sweeps Coins alongside the purchase, the minimum amount you must buy is $5.
Most online poker sites set their minimum deposits at $10 across the board. However, certain bonus offers may call for slightly higher deposits in order to become eligible for the bonus payout.
No. Most social poker sites do not allow deposits or transactions with PayPal.
However, when and if online poker launches in the state, PayPal is a common payment processor for sites to offer. So, there is a good chance that you will be able to use it then.
The most common game variants are no-limit Texas Hold’em (NLHE) and pot-limit Omaha (PLO).
Every single site will have a multitude of NLHE games running at any one time. Even if the site is small, there will be several options for hold’em players to get into the action.
PLO is also quite popular for sites to offer. If a site has the ability to offer more than one game, Omaha will certainly be the follow-up to NLHE.
Otherwise, the variants offered can be anything that the site chooses to highlight.
Other sites might offer limit versions of hold’em, the hi-lo variant of Omaha, or various types of seven-card stud. Some sites even create their own games for a limited release.
Yes. As long as you are playing on a US-based site, there should be no concern about the safety of your information. Each site is regulated by federal law, and many of them also have to answer to state regulations.
Most poker sites are owned and operated by major gaming operators with long histories of reliable service. You should have no problem with any of them, and there are options for remedy if you have a dispute.
Many sites are entirely browser-based. It is not necessary to download a client or a mobile app to play.
Most online poker sites, however, will maintain both clients and mobile apps. Depending on your chosen format, you will have to download some sort of program to your device in order to take part.