Misunderstanding of the US online gambling laws have baffled the gambling enthusiasts over the years. Gambling online is not illegal under US federal laws, but there are certain restrictions, so it is very important to understand the legal facets of of laws before involving into online gambling.
Gambling Laws in the US
At federal level, main law pertaining to online gambling is Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). It puts a restrictions on the the gambling operators who are involved in financial transfers between accounts. Section 5363 and 5366 of the act makes the unlawful internet gambling a criminal offense, where parties are involved in wagering and any kind of fund transfer. But this act do not criminalize the participation in online gambling.
Dominion over gambling is a state issue and each states have power to regulate or make changes to laws. As of now only four states viz. Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware have legalized the online gambling. Players from these states can participate on the approved online portals. There are some states who explicitly prohibits the internet gambling and a player should check the laws of the land before playing online.
Online Poker in the US
If we talk specifically of poker, then people have voiced in support of it saying that outcome of this game depends on skills of players rather than on chance, so it should be kept outside the enforcement of UIGEA act. As aforementioned about online gambling, playing poker online is perfectly legal on states of Nevada, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. A player should always play on regulated websites, which abide by the local and interstate laws. There are many unregulated websites, which offer online poker to the US citizens and does not follow UIGEA act, so participants should be aware of such scammers.
Regulated market of online poker of New Jersey is the largest among the four states, Nevada comes second and Delaware at third place. Online poker was legalized in Pennsylvania on Oct 2017 and legalized websites are yet be launched. Several states are making progress to legalize online poker websites and effects are yet to be seen.
Conclusion - Is Playing Poker really Legal in USA?
Participation in online gambling is legal in the US with restrictions on fund transfer for betting or wagering. Jurisdiction of any unlawful gambling comes under state level and each state have their own regulation.
Online gambling laws are evolving from time to time at both federal and state level, so all the enthusiasts should keep a track of the changing scenario. For any legal advice players should head to attorneys rather than to online resources. Cyber resources help you understand and interpret the laws but do not provide any legal advice.