Legal Poker in Maine

A Guide to Poker in the State of Maine

Maine Gambling Laws

While Maine is by no means a poker haven, this State has stepped forward in recent years to regulate gambling within their territory. For a State with limited options to play poker, Maine has few objectors overall - and despite having a small population, it has potential to grow both live and online. 

In this guide to poker in Maine you can first find a brief overview of gambling within the State. Then the question of is poker legal or not is addressed. To finish up the options for live and online players are covered along with future predictions.

A Brief Overview of Gambling in Maine

Horse racing, particular harness racing, has been an established part of Maine’s culture since the 1950s. Pari-mutuel betting on these tracks for a long time was the only legal form of gambling in the State, until the lottery came along in the 1970s.

Casinos first started to appear in Maine during after 1988 when the Indian Regulatory Gambling Act allowed the State’s tribes to build their bingo casinos, although full casinos were not permitted until 2010. Now Maine has two casinos, the Hollywood Bangor and Oxford County Casino. Currently only Hollywood Bangor spreads poker games, although Oxford does provide some casino and video poker.

Is Poker Legal in Maine?

Chapter 39, section 952 of the Statutes defines gambling as:

“A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence”

While some may feel that poker does not fall into this category as they feel it is a game of skill the Statue continues to define anything with an element of chance as a “contest of chance”. As there is no denying that poker contains this element, there is little hope it can be declassified as gambling by using the skill game argument.

You can find poker games legally spread in the one of the casinos in Maine, as part of charity events and home games where the organizers do not profit. Poker games outside of these, where the organizers profit, are considered illegal. The good news for players is there are no laws that criminalize the participation of the games, with the legal focus being on the organizers.

Live Poker in Maine

It was not until 2010 when the first casinos opened in Maine that residents had a real chance to play outside of home games. Since new laws have come into force permitting casinos to open, poker games can be found at the Hollywood Casino Hotel & Raceway, formerly the Bangor race track.

On the whole the games spread are low stakes compared to other States, although typically higher than you would find in home games. Unfortunately tables are few and fill up quickly at weekends with wait times up to 4 hours. The casino also provides daily tournament action at an affordable price.

If you do not wish to travel to the Raceway you can find charity tournaments run across the State, with a percentage of the buy-in being donated to good causes. In addition to this home games are legal in the state, due to laws which permit social gaming. These games are legal providing those running them do not make a profit from rakes or fees.

Online Poker in Maine

Maine has no laws covering online gambling, the assumption being it is covered by the existing Statutes. While online poker can’t be considered legal, as players are not criminalized for taking part in illegal games it is unclear what the consequences would be. As of yet no one has been arrested for playing online poker and it appears unlikely this would happen in Maine.

As a result many players enjoy competing on the offshore sites. The companies behind these are mostly based in the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Netherlands Antilles and operate perfectly legal and licensed businesses. They believe they can provide games to the US because of free trade treaties and while the government disagrees they have been unable to block them. With federal restrictions on moving money to and from these sites, you may have difficulties getting your money online although the sites do offer many choices.

While Maine remains a small state, it has potential to regulate online poker by joining player pools with nearby New Jersey and Delaware. There is little opposition to such a move in Maine, especially as the State has started to see the finical benefits of legalized gambling. Currently the law-makers are observing what is going on in the regulated States before progressing with the subject.

In Summary – Maine Poker

Maine is relatively new to commercial gambling so at present options are limited. On the plus side this State has a relaxed view towards home games and even if the law is breached there are no penalties for players.

While no laws currently permit online poker you can find many offshore sites providing games to players within Maine. There is also the hope that the State will become regulated in the future, although this depends on the success of the current legal States and there is currently no bill on the horizon.