Florida Poker & Gambling Laws Online

Florida Poker OlineFlorida has had a long history of trying to control gamblers. Floridians were not legally allowed to play poker until the 1980s when the Federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed and the reservations starting setting up legal casinos. The legality of playing poker did not stop the players though. The first known gambling hall in Florida dates back all the way to 1888.

Through the years Floridians tried to halt gambling until they didn’t have much of a choice with the Indian Reservations because of the federal law. The officials still try to keep a firm hold on gambling in the state and are very reluctant to accept any new forms of gambling for their state.

State Representative Joseph Abruzzo has attempted on a few occasions to get online poker legalized in the state of Florida, but his efforts have failed. In fact, Florida seems to be adding stricter laws since his efforts to legalize online poker.

Can Players From Florida Play Poker Online?

Yes! Florida has yet to ban access to online poker rooms. Currently all USA poker sites offer their services to players from Florida. Florida has shut down several internet cafes where many people gambled online. This has calmed the internet gambling in Florida, but it definitely hasn’t stopped it. [1]

Is it Legal to Play Online Poker in Florida?

The question of legality of online poker in Florida is still up in the air. Florida passed a law earlier this year that was more than likely intended to make playing poker online illegal, but if you read the law literally then what Florida actually did was make cell phones and computers illegal by the wording in the law.

Section 849.16 states that machines or system[s] directly or indirectly operated by a user that can be used to play games of skill or by reason of any element of chance or any other outcome unpredictable by him or her are illegal, in so long as an exchange of money, credit, allowance, or thing of value can be traded for. [2]

Florida does have several laws pertaining to gambling and poker, but none of the laws address online poker. Chapter 849 of Florida’s statute covers gambling. We have a few highlights from Chapter 849 laws below:

  • Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree
  • Home games are acceptable as long as the pot does not exceed $10 in value, and there is no fee or rake taken to play the game [3]

Florida Gambling History

The documented gambling history from Florida dates back to 1888. This is when Henry Flagler opened the Ponce de Leon hotel in St. Augustine. Within months of opening Henry Flagler added the exclusive, private Bacchus Club to the mix. The Bacchus Club was a casino with craps tables, roulette wheels, and bookie boards.

The adventure was so successful for Flagler that he started building a chain of hotels all of which included private clubs which were casinos. He strategically placed these hotels/casinos on the beach and on railroad routes. This was a very successful venture for Flagler.

By the 1920s the illegal numbers game bolita had become very popular in Tampa, FL. Even though gambling was still illegal in Florida in the 1920s, gambling houses were flourishing. An illegal horse track was also added to the mix in 1924.

Teamsters were common in the Florida area in the 1920s and 1930s and the law enforcement could do little to control the increasing gambling halls that were springing up everywhere. The politicians and law enforcement were frequent visitors the gambling establishments. Their pockets were being padded by the teamsters so it wasn’t in their best interest to shut the establishments down.

In 1931 the legislation legalized betting on horse races. There was much opposition to this, but Florida was so broke due to the depression that they had to figure out a way to generate some income for the state. The governor of Florida at that time vetoed the bill, but his veto was overridden. This was the first time that Florida had any sort of legalized gambling in the state.

After betting on horse races were legalized many other forms of gambling were introduced to the state. In 1935, the state legalized slot machines for the race tracks in an effort to bring in more money.

Over the years many prominent people tried to push through legislation to open casinos in Florida, but the efforts failed. Florida Tribes finally won the right to build casinos after the 1988 federal mandate. The games they were allowed to offer were limited, but this was still a victory. In 2004, Floridians sparsely legalized slot machines. This allowed the casinos to add these to the mix and greatly increased revenue.

Along with the federal mandate that allowed Tribes to open casinos in 1988, Florida also started a state lottery that year. The legal gambling avenues for Floridians greatly increased in 1988 and continued to slowly increase throughout the years. It seems that every aspect of gambling comes with a fight, but small victories have enabled Floridians quite a few avenues when it comes to gambling. [4]

Legalized Gambling Options in Florida

Florida has several legal options when it comes to gambling. A state lottery, over 20 poker rooms, 8 casinos, and 3 horse tracks are all legal gambling avenues for Floridians. Many people in the state hope that online poker will be an option in the future, but that remains to be seen.

The Future of Online Gaming in Florida

Several well-known poker players come from the state of Florida. Michael “The Grinder” Mizrachi is one of the most known poker players from Florida. It is no secret that he sharpened his poker skills by playing online poker. To date, every effort to legalize online poker in the state of Florida has been met with stricter rules concerning gambling online. The Tribal casinos in Florida are opposed to any legislation that would legalize online poker in fears that it would hurt their businesses. At this time it seems very unlikely that Florida will legalize online poker any time in the near future.


  1. Jump up ^ Florida Shuts Down Internet Cafes
  2. Jump up ^ Florida Bans all Cell Phones and Computers
  3. Jump up ^ Florida State Statutes
  4. Jump up ^ Gambling’s Long History in Florida