Legal Pennsylvania Poker Laws

A Guide to Poker in the State of Pennsylvania

Penn State Gambling Laws

In this guide to poker in Pennsylvania first up you get a quick look at the general gambling environment, before a closer look is taken at the laws specifically relating to poker. After that you can find out where you are able to play live. At the end of this page is an overview of how online poker currently stands in Pennsylvania and some thoughts on the future.

A Brief Overview of Gambling In Pennsylvania

For many years Pennsylvania was a dry state as far as gambling was concerned. Until 2004 the only wagers allowed was pari-mutuel horse betting and the State lottery. When laws allowing charity gambling were passed, momentum began to grow towards wider regulation. Casinos were permitted later that year, although these were only class 2 establishments only allowing bingo type games.

Finally in 2010 category 3 games were allowed, which cover casino table games including poker. This has resulted in large jump up in attendance leading to greater profits for the companies and tax dollars for the State. Now the genie is out of the bottle Pennsylvania is rapidly becoming one of the leading pro-gambling states.

Is Poker Legal in Pennsylvania?

Poker can be played legally in any licensed card room in this State. Outside of this the law is vague on what is actually meant by a gambling activity, relying on Common Law formed by the precedents set in previous court cases.

Section 5513 forbids someone to do the following:

(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.

Where can you Play Live Poker in Pennsylvania?

With a mix of casinos and ‘racinos’ (casinos at racetracks) there are nine licensed poker rooms currently operating in Pennsylvania. These rooms offer a wide range of cash games around the clock in addition to a daily tournament schedule. Some of the larger rooms at Harrah’s Philadelphia and Parx Casino & Racing have hosted national tours such as the WSOP Circuit events and the WPT Regional tour.

With no carve-out for home games in Pennsylvania law, it must be assumed they are illegal. Providing that no one is profiting from the running of the game, or overseeing the game and profiting from sales - then everyone could be classed as a player, meaning no one would be liable for prosecution. This theory has yet to be tested given the authorities have no history of breaking up low stakes home games between friends, and do not seem likely to pursue such a policy.

Charity events are not permitted in Pennsylvania, although free to enter bar leagues are allowed as long as no entry fees are involved. These leagues still offer small prizes donated by the business hosting the events and are fun social events designed to gain food and drink sales.

Where Online Poker Stands in Pennsylvania

After a build-up of support for regulated online poker over 2014, State Senator Ted Erickson introduced his bill in June which seeks to regulate all forms of internet gambling in Pennsylvania. It proposes to have strict limitations on licenses although it does bring up the possibility of interstate poker, possibly joining player pools with Delaware and Nevada or New Jersey. The bill may well get passed as there are a number of powerful political and commercial voices backing it.

One interesting proposal included would result in no penalties being imposed on players using unlicensed sites. This actually would actually put into writing how many have interrupted the current Pennsylvanian laws - the players will not suffer fines or imprisonment for playing on unlicensed sites.

If legislation does get passed it is likely a number of offshore sites will remove themselves from the market within Pennsylvania, or at least stop signing players up. Until then there are still a good number of sites based in the Caribbean and elsewhere providing games.

In Summary – Pennsylvania Poker

Pennsylvania has seen a rapid relaxation of gambling laws resulting in many options for live players in casinos. While home games are not legal as such there appears to be little or no enforcement and players will not be charged if caught.

Regulated online poker stands a strong chance of becoming a reality very soon, and until then residents still have the offshore sites to play on.

2014 Bill: