Legality of Video Poker Throughout the World
While video poker involves a great deal of skill, it also involves luck too. And the luck factor is why it's classified as gambling across the world.
As with any other form of gambling, video poker is subject to different laws across various states and countries.
Because laws vary depending upon where you live, it can create confusion as to whether you're allowed to play real money video poker.
That said, let's cover everything you need to know about the subject, including the following:
- Class II vs. Class III gaming.
- Legality of video poker across all 50 US states.
- Legality of online video poker in the US and other nations.
Class II vs Class III Video Poker
Many states in the US offer legal video poker options. But one very important distinction between states is whether they offer Class II or Class III video poker.
What's the difference?
Let's take a look at the differences, including how Class II video poker operates like a bingo game.
The US federal government passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) in 1988. The IGRA requires that each state negotiate legal casino gaming with Native American tribes in "good faith."
If states and tribes agree to a pact, all casino gaming must take place on reservations. Another key point is that Native American casinos are relegated to Class II gaming - unless negotiated otherwise.
Class II gaming mainly consists of bingo, whether electronic or played through physical cards. Other Class II gaming includes non banked card games, pull tabs, punch boards, and tip jars.
Bingo is the key here because Class II video poker machines operate like bingo drawings.
Balls are drawn (electronically) to determine winning patterns on the virtual card. In turn, these winning patterns decide whether or not you win a prize on any particular spin.
Prizes are predetermined, and the odds and payouts correspond with what you'd expect from a standard video poker game. Class II machines don't have paytables, but the payouts are close enough to what a typical video poker paytable offers.
Assuming you don't know anything about video poker strategy, one thing you'll appreciate is how you can't make mistakes. Instead, if the game predetermines that you're getting a full house, then you can't mess this up.
Let's look at an example:
- You're dealt: Jd Js Ad Ac Qd
- You have a two pair, and three cards to a royal flush.
- You throw away the Js and Ac to chase a royal flush.
- This is a strategy mistake because a two pair is valued higher than 3 cards to royal flush.
- If the game has predetermined that you'll receive a two pair, it'll correct your move and award you accordingly.
Class III gaming is the style that you see at commercial (state licensed) casinos. Native American casinos can also offer this type of gaming, but they need to receive approval from state legislators and/or voters first.
A Class III video poker machine operates through a random number generator (RNG), just like a slot machine.
An RNG cycles through millions of number combinations to determine the results of a hand. This ensures that all results will be completely random and independent of the last.
Besides how results are determined, Class III machines differ from Class II style games in a couple major ways:
- They have a paytable.
- Your strategy matters.
The paytable is always present with a Class III gaming machine, which is nice because you can see the exact prizes available.
As for strategy, every decision you make has an impact on your chances of winning. If you make a mistake, then it lowers your long term expected value (EV).
Here's an example:
- You're dealt: 9d Kh 3d 9c Qd
- You keep Kh and Qd.
- The correct decision is actually to hold 9d and 9c because they give you both 3 pair and quads potential.
This isn't to say that you can't still win with Kh and Qd - in fact, it may turn out even better. But your EV is higher when keeping the pair of 9's in this situation, making it the right strategy play.
What US States is Video Poker Legal
Now that we've covered the differences between Class II and III gaming, let's discuss what type of video poker (if any) each state offers.
One theme you'll notice in this section is that the American South is generally against gambling. The same holds true for Alabama, which only features a few tribal casinos and one racino.
All of these casinos are relegated to Class II gaming, including video poker.
The Last Frontier is also one of the last places that you want to be as a gambler.
Alaska has no legal commercial or tribal casinos. This also means that you won't be able to find a single legal video poker machine in the state.
They do allow for charitable bingo and pull tab games. But these are of little benefit to video poker players because there are no tribal casinos to operate Class II video poker machines.
Although not traditionally known as a great gaming destination, Arizona has 19 tribal casinos - all of which can offer Class II and III gaming.
This means that you'll find standard video poker machines that operate based on RNGs.
The Land of Opportunity was once one of the biggest gambling havens in the US. But they eventually outlawed most forms of gaming.
Today, you'll find two racinos that offer what are dubbed "electronic games of skill."
Although not 100% like video poker, these games see you exercise skill in trying to win the most money possible.
While California doesn't offer commercial casinos, they have 58 tribal casinos serving their massive population of 39.14 million people.
In 2000, the state amended their constitution to allow for Class III style gaming and regular video poker games.
Colorado is one of the most liberal states, as evidenced by the fact that they were the first to legalize recreational marijuana use.
It's no surprise that they're also liberal with casinos too, with 38 commercial gaming establishments found throughout the state. This means you'll never be far from a video poker machine in the Centennial State.
Foxwoods Resort and Mohegan Sun are the only two casinos in Connecticut. But these are also two of the largest casinos in the United States.
Both establishments can offer Class III gaming, and you'll find a large amount of video poker games in Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.
The Diamond State is home to three racinos, including Dover Downs, Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, and Harrington Raceway & Casino.
These venues are licensed to offer a wide variety of gaming, including video poker.
The Sunshine State is home to 2 commercial casinos, 8 tribal casinos, and 25 racinos. This gives you a number of Class II and Class III gaming options throughout Florida.
Georgia, another southern state, only has one legal casino option - a cruise ship that heads out into international waters.
You can enjoy legal video poker aboard the Emerald Princess Casino Cruise once you're out to sea. But you can't play the game anywhere else in the Peach State.
Along with Utah, Hawaii is the only state that doesn't allow any type of gaming. This means no video poker or any other casino games.
Idaho features 7 tribal casinos and 8 racinos, both of which can offer Class II video poker machines.
Tribal gaming interests have made attempts in the past to get Class III gaming legalized. This includes the Coeur d'Alene, the Kootenai, and the Nez Perce tribes, who, in 1992, fought to get state laws amended.
But Idaho's government - not wanting to go against their largely conservative beliefs - blocked these Class III gaming efforts. The Coeur d'Alene later attempted to establish a poker room in 2014, but they were ultimately unsuccessful here too.
Looking back on these events, it doesn't seem that Idaho will change their stance on Class III video poker any time soon.
In 1990, Illinois legalized riverboat gaming. Since then, 10 riverboat casinos have sprung up around the Land of Lincoln.
These casinos offer Class III games, and you'll have numerous video poker options in Illinois.
The Hoosier State has gradually seen their number of casinos increase over the past few years. They now feature 11 commercial casinos - all with Class III video poker.
They also feature two racinos, including Hoosier Downs and Indiana Downs, both of which have over 2,000 machines.
The Hawkeye State was a pioneer in the riverboat gaming industry, legalizing the activity in 1989.
They now feature 14 commercial casinos and 3 racinos. All of these establishments are allowed to offer Class III style gaming.
In 1995, Kansas and four tribes signed pacts so the latter could open Class II gaming facilities. In 2016, the state passed legislation to create four state licensed casinos and to allow electronic gaming at racetracks.
Today, Jayhawks can enjoy video poker machines at a variety of gaming establishments.
Well known for the Kentucky Derby and other thoroughbred racing, the Bluegrass State makes every effort to protect their lucrative racing industry.
This includes banning commercial and tribal casinos. Unfortunately, this leaves Kentuckians without any land based video poker options.
Other than Nevada, the Bayou State is the only other place in America where casino gambling is legal throughout the entire state.
That said, you have 16 commercial casinos, 4 racinos, and 4 tribal casinos to choose from.
The Pine Tree State has one commercial casino in Hollywood Slots, and one racino in Scarborough Downs. This leaves Main residents with two places where they can play video poker.
The Terrapin State has really ramped up their casino gaming industry since they now feature 6 commercial casinos.
You can play video poker at Horseshoe Casino Baltimore, Horseshoe Casino Perryville, Grand Falls Casino Resort, Maryland Live!, MGM National Harbor, and Rocky Gap Casino Resort.
Currently, Plainridge Racecourse is the only place where you can play video poker. But Massachusetts has issued casino licenses to MGM and the Wynn, while Penn National received a slots only license.
MGM is scheduled to open in the summer of 2018, and the Wynn is scheduled to launch in the summer of 2019.
The Great Lake State features multiple casinos in the Detroit area, along with tribal casinos sprinkled throughout the state. This means you'll have more than enough video poker options in Michigan.
Minnesota has a thriving casino gaming market that includes 19 tribal casinos.
Whether you can play Class II or III video poker machines depends upon the casino. Some tribes have different compacts with the state government than others.
The Magnolia State was famous for their widespread riverboat gambling in the nineteenth century. Today, Mississippi is still a gaming haven, thanks to their 17 casinos.
This is a large casino industry when considering that Mississippi has just 2.92 million people and isn't a tourist magnet. It also means that you won't have any trouble finding video poker here.
Like Mississippi, the Show Me State also had a thriving riverboat gaming industry in the nineteenth century. They passed legislation in 1990 that reopened their casino industry, and they now have 13 casinos today.
This offers Missourians a wide range of spots where they can play video poker.
Big Sky Country has an insane number of charity gaming establishments, with over 292 spread across the state. Montana also has a few tribal casinos that offer Class II gaming.
The Cornhusker offers Class II video poker machines in tribal casinos, bars, nightclubs, and pari mutuel facilities.
Nebraska is really conservative, so we don't look for them to add Class III gaming any time soon. But the good news is that you won't have trouble finding Class II options because the state features 13 tribal casinos.
Home to over 320 casinos, the Silver State is the mecca of video poker.
What's truly exciting about Nevada is that you can find games that offer over 100% payback, including full pay Deuces Wild (100.76% payback) and 10/7/5 Double Bonus (100.17%).
This is especially the case in Las Vegas, which has the largest concentration of video poker machines. Searching the site vpFREE2.com will help you narrow down where the best video poker games are in Vegas.
- New Hampshire
While there's been a push to legalize commercial casinos in New Hampshire, nothing has happened yet.
This means that your video poker options are void in the Granite State, although there's promise on the horizon.
- New Jersey
While Atlantic City is the only place you can enjoy casino games in New Jersey, it features some impressive casinos. This includes the Borgata, Caesars, Tropicana, and others.
You won't have trouble finding video poker in Atlantic City. And we suggest that you start with Caesars Atlantic City, where you'll find a Joker Wild Double game that pays back 99.91%.
- New Mexico
The Land of Enchantment has a unique relationship with its tribes, whereby the latter pays 26% of its gaming revenue to the state.
This revenue sharing deal motivated New Mexico to amend their agreement with Native American Casino in 2001. The key element of this revamped tribal gaming pact is that casinos can offer Class III gaming.
- New York
New York is known first and foremost for their lottery since it generates over $9.7 billion annually. But they also have a strong casino industry that includes 4 commercial casinos, 7 racinos, and 9 tribal venues.
The commercial casinos, racinos, and tribal casinos owned by the Seneca Nation can offer Class III video poker. All other gaming facilities offer Class II gaming.
- North Carolina
North Carolina has an interesting history with video poker.
They used to allow video poker machines at bars and restaurants in limited capacity. But in 2006, a report surfaced that over 20,000 illegal machines were found throughout the state, compared to just 10,000 legal and registered games.
This resulted in the state banning video poker machines at bars and restaurants.
Luckily, you can still find these games at Harrah's Cherokee Casino and Harrah's Cherokee Valley Casino - both in the western part of the state.
- North Dakota
The Roughrider State has 6 tribal casinos that offer Class II gaming, including video poker machines.
They currently have proposed legislation (SB 2221) that would allow for 10 racinos across the state. Seeing as how the state doesn't offer Class III gaming, the proposed racinos would generate results via horse races.
The Buckeye State voted against casino gaming twice (1980 & '90) and against riverboat gaming once (1996). But they finally approved four commercial casinos in 2009, followed by racinos in 2011.
Today, Ohio features 4 commercial casinos and 7 racinos - all offering Class III video poker.
The Sooner State has a truly massive tribal gaming industry, with 126 casinos spread throughout its 69,887 square miles.
Oklahoma and their Native American casinos have a strong relationship because the latter pays exclusivity fees. Tribal casinos here are allowed to feature both Class II and III video poker.
The Beaver State isn't a well known gaming hub, but they do have 7 tribal casinos. And what's nice for video poker players is that these establishments offer both Class II and Class III gaming.
The State's largest casino is Spirit Mountain, which features over 2,000 gaming machines.
Up until 2004, Pennsylvania only had racetracks and a lottery. But this changed with the Racehorse Development and Gaming Act, which allowed for casinos, racinos, and slots parlors.
Now, the Keystone State features 12 casinos, all of which offer Class III video poker.
- Rhode Island
The Ocean State has been slow to embrace casino gaming, finally legalizing slots parlors in 2012. This has enabled the Newport Grand and Twin Rivers Casinos - former pari mutuel betting venues - to help keep gambling tax dollars in state.
- South Carolina
The Palmetto State has fairly tough gaming laws since they don't allow commercial or tribal casinos on mainland. In 2003, voters rejected a tribal gaming compact to ensure that the status quo remained.
The only place where you can play video poker is at the Big M Casino cruise ship, which must depart for international waters.
- South Dakota
Home to Deadwood, the infamous gold mining town where "Wild" Bill Hickock was shot during a poker game, South Dakota still has a thriving gaming industry today.
The Mount Rushmore State features 10 commercial casinos and 9 tribal casinos. These are spread out across South Dakota's 78,116 square miles, meaning you can find video poker all over.
While Tennessee allows daily fantasy sports and pari mutuel wagering, they have banned commercial gambling and don't have any tribal casinos.
This means that you'll need to head south to Mississippi, or west to Missouri to find video poker machines.
The Lone Star State has gambling options, but they're hardly enough to cover a land spanning over 268,000 square miles.
Texas offers 2 Class II gaming facilities in the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle and Naskila Entertainment.
As mentioned with Hawaii, Utah doesn't allow any form of gaming.
The Beehive State is unlikely to change their anti casino laws because their majority population is made up of conservative Mormons.
The Green Mountain State is tough on gaming. They only legal and available form of gambling offered here is the state lottery.
Horseracing and tribal gaming are also legal in Vermont. But the catch is that there are no active tracks or Native American tribes with the state.
Virginia is one of the least tolerant states towards casino gaming, given that they don't have any casinos.
This leaves residents of the Old Dominion having to travel to neighboring Maryland or Delaware for video poker action.
The Evergreen State's gaming industry is dominated by tribal casinos. These venues can offer a mixture of Class II and Class III gaming, meaning you'll be able to play video poker one way or the other.
- West Virginia
The Mountaineer State has 4 racinos, all of which offer Class III machines. Guests of the Greenbrier Resort can also play casino games, giving video poker players a fifth option in West Virginia.
Wisconsin has 32 tribal casino, and all can offer Class III gaming. This gives residents of the Badger State almost 17,000 gaming machines to choose from, including a good deal of video poker.
The Cowboy State features three tribal casinos, including the Little Wind Casino, Shoshone Rose Casino, and the Wind River Casino.
These are all Class II gaming facilities, so your video poker action will be based on chance. 18 year olds can play in these venues because no alcohol is served in Wyoming's casinos.
Legal Online Video Poker in the US and Other Countries
Online gaming has been a murky subject in many parts of the world since it began in the mid 1990s.
More states and countries are regulating the matter as time goes on. But this still leaves a lot of questions regarding online video poker and other games.
Let's take a look at key issues regarding the US internet gaming situation, as well as what you can expect from other countries too.
One common myth about internet gaming is that it's illegal across the US. And one reason for this is the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA), which prevents banks for accepting online gaming transactions.
But the idea that iGaming is illegal across America is false. In fact, most states have yet to offer any definitive stance on whether they think online gaming is illegal or not.
This leaves internet video poker and other casino games in a legal grey area. And offshore casinos have stepped in to fill this need for many Americans.
Most offshore casinos are located in Antigua & Barbuda, Costa Rica, Curacao, and Panama.
All of these places offer licenses to online gaming sites, but it's up to the companies themselves to remain reputable.
The good news is that most offshore operations are honest because they won't receive much repeat business otherwise.
The bad news is that there are some bad apples in the bunch, and these casinos face little repercussion. Some offshore sites are slow to make payouts and/or poor at handling customer service issues.
This is why it's best to check out reviews on offshore casinos before you sign up and deposit anywhere.
Currently, we count over 40 states that are regularly served by offshore sites. This means that most Americans will have no trouble playing legal internet video poker.
Delaware, New Jersey, and Nevada are the only states that have regulated online gaming at this time.
This means that iGaming sites must be approved and licensed to operate in these three states. Meanwhile, offshore casinos are shut out of these places
Video poker players can ignore Nevada because their market only features poker games like Texas holdem, Omaha, and 7 card stud.
This leaves Delaware and New Jersey as the only American states with regulated video poker.
The obvious downside is that this covers less than 3% of the US population. The upside is that you can guarantee any site operating in these jurisdictions is held to the highest standards regarding fair gaming and customer service.
If you wish to play video poker in New Jersey or Delaware, you need to be within their state lines so their geolocation software picks you up. From here, you just need to visit a licensed gaming site and make a deposit or play for free.
While most states are in the grey area regarding iGaming, others have banned the activity in their penal code.
Washington is the worst state because they make it a Class C felony to play at online casinos and poker sites. The good news, though, is that the Evergreen State has never prosecuted anybody on the matter
Louisiana is another state that's tough on internet gamers. First time offenders face a $500 fine and up to six months' imprisonment.
Utah, which bans every form of gaming, includes a section (76 10 1102) in their penal code that claims online gaming is illegal. But the Beehive state has yet to take action against anybody.
Hawaii - the other state that bans everything - includes an excerpt noting that its residents are "prohibited from visiting offshore gaming sites and opening accounts." Again, though, nobody has been prosecuted on the matter.
Other states like Maryland and Kentucky have taken legal action against offshore gaming sites. Kentucky even went as far as to try and seize the domain names of 141 offshore iGaming sites in 2008.
For this reason, many offshore casinos take every step to avoid the Bluegrass State.
Tired of topping per capita gambling lists, Australia passed the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, which effectively bans iGaming.
This legislation imposes stiff daily fines on any company caught offering online casino games to Aussies. That said, it's no surprise that every unlicensed provider has exited the Land Down Under.
The Great White North is much like the US in that they don't have clear federal guidelines on internet gaming.
The clear portion of their law states that it's illegal for unlicensed Canadian companies to offer iGaming. They must be licensed by a provincial government, which we'll discuss in a moment
The grey area is whether or not offshore casinos can offer their services to Canadians. Going further, there's no law against a Canadian using offshore gaming sites.
As for provincial governments, they can decide whether or not they want to offer licensed and regulated online gaming. This all combines to make Canada just as confusing for an internet video poker player as the US.
France offers a nationally regulated online gaming market, which is overseen by ARJEL.
They legalized and regulated iGaming in 2010. Since this time, online gamers have been able to play at licensed and regulated sites.
Germany's online gaming market was a grey area up until 2008, when the country banned all iGaming except for horse racing.
In 2012, the country introduced the Interstate Treat on Gambling (ISTG) after the European Court of Justice. The ISTG allows private companies to offer iGaming to all Germans except those living in Schleswig Holstein, a state which opted out
A newly elected governing party threw out the legislation, and the country now issues licenses to international gaming companies. Long story short, Germans have access to video poker and other online casino games.
New Zealand has some of the world's clearest gaming laws. The Gambling Act of 2003 explains what activities are legal and illegal - with most local gaming sites being illegal.
The good news for Kiwis who want to play video poker is that the Gambling Act doesn't ban residents from playing at offshore sites.
In 2012, Spain set up a licensed and regulated online gaming industry. Licenses are awarded by the Spanish National Gaming Commission, which reviews companies to see if they qualify.
Several big name online casinos operate in Spain, offering many opportunities to video poker players.
The UK features a completely licensed gaming jurisdiction that's overseen by the UK Gambling Commission.
Any gaming site that enters the UK must pass strict requirements. This means that you can have high confidence in any site you play video poker at when in the UK.
One of the toughest things about playing video poker is finding a legal and reliable spot to play.
As we covered with the US states, gambling legality varies greatly depending upon where you go. Louisiana and Nevada feature legal casinos all over the state, while Hawaii and Utah ban every form of gaming
Many other states fall somewhere in between, offering a mix of commercial casinos, slots parlors, and/or tribal casinos.
The catch with tribal casinos is that most feature Class II video poker, which is luck based instead of skill based. These games predetermine your results, so you'll be corrected even when you make a strategy mistake.
We're personally not big fans of the machine lending a helping hand. After all, one of the biggest attractions to video poker is that it involves stimulating strategy.
Ideally, you'll live near an online casino that features Class III video poker. Commercial casinos are the best place to start, while some tribal casinos also have Class III gaming.
If you don't live near a casino with video poker games, you can also visit online casinos.
Most people have access to video poker options - either legal or offshore casinos. And hopefully, you have an option available that you're comfortable with.