Pennsylvania Online Poker Laws

PennsylvaniaPoker is very popular in Pennsylvania, and online poker is no exception to this fact. Poker is legal in the casinos around the state, and many players also play from the comfort of their homes at online poker sites. Pennsylvania hasn’t really said much about online poker except in 2010 when Harry Reid was pushing to legalize it.

Pennsylvania seemed to be against legalizing online poker because they were concerned that it would hurt their lottery sales. The best hope for legalization of online poker for many states is that the few states that have legalized it see huge revenue streams from it. This would encourage many more states to move forward with the legalization process.

Can Players From Pennsylvania Play Poker Online?

Yes! Poker players from Pennsylvania have a lot of options when it comes to playing poker online. All US poker sites accept players from Pennsylvania. All you need to do to get started is sign up an account, make a deposit, and begin playing. New players have the benefit of receiving hefty deposit bonuses on their first deposits at many online poker rooms.

Is it Legal to Play Online Poker in Pennsylvania?

Pennsylvania has several laws pertaining to gambling. However, these laws do not mention online gambling or online poker specifically. The laws of Pennsylvania are very broad, and leave a lot up to the interpreter of the law. We do not have any type of law degree, and we can’t tell you if it is legal or illegal to play poker online in Pennsylvania. We can go over some of the laws that might pertain to playing poker online, and we have done just that below:

  • The laws of Pennsylvania refer to unlawful number games. These are defined as All unlawful lotteries or numbers games are hereby declared to be common nuisances. (Section 5512)
  • The law goes on to define unlawful as The term unlawful means not specifically authorized by law (Section 5512)
  • The operators of illegal games are guilty of a misdemeanor under Pennsylvania law.
  • The players of illegal games are not guilty of any offense, but the players are expected to be witnesses against the operators of illegal games.
  • We have found no instances where a person has been charged with any kind of crime in Pennsylvania for playing poker online.
  • Social gambling seems to legal in Pennsylvania as long as no one is taking a rake from the game or charging a fee to play the game. [1]

Since online poker is not specifically authorized by the law in Pennsylvania, it would probably be considered unlawful. However, the way that we read the laws of Pennsylvania it would be the poker site that would be in trouble for offering the game and not the player for playing the game.

This is just our lay person interpretation of the laws of Pennsylvania. We are not experts in any way. Laws are complicated, and we suggest that you consult an attorney to clarify the laws if you are concerned about the legality of playing poker online in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania Gambling History

Gambling has played a part in Pennsylvania for as far back as we can find documentation. It hasn’t always been legal to gamble in Pennsylvania, but this did little to stop those who wanted to gamble. Illegal gambling houses were prevalent around the state.

Pittsburgh was a popular gambling destination, and in the early 1900s most law makers turned a blind eye to the illegal gambling taking place. Newspapers began reporting about the illegal gambling, and this brought a lot of attention to the matter. Law enforcement started cracking down. Old newspapers report raids on gambling houses as far back as 1934.

This did not stop all of the gambling in the state, but it was moved more underground. Many lawmakers were suspected of receiving payoffs from the operators of gambling houses. It was common for people to get off work and stop by the bar for a drink and a few hands of poker. Even though it was illegal, it was a widely accepted way of life.

The illegal gambling continued in Pennsylvania for many years. Regardless of the raids on illegal gambling houses, gambling in the state continued to thrive. Finally in 1972, Pennsylvania decided to legalize some forms of gambling. The Pennsylvania Lottery was introduced.

The lottery was a great success, but it also led to the biggest gambling scandal in history in the 1980s. Nick Perry was the announcer for the daily number broadcast and he along with several other people devised what became known as the Triple Six Fix. They put weights in all of the lottery balls except the balls that had the numbers 4 and 6. The insiders in this conspiracy bought lottery tickets containing the numbers 4 and 6, and they also placed bets with bookies on the outcome of the lottery drawings. [2]

Their scandal worked and on April 24, 1980 the numbers 666 were drawn as the winning numbers. The unusual betting patterns of the insiders of this plan made the lottery staff suspicious that something was going on. They launched an investigation into the matter and charges were brought against Perry and 5 other men. Perry was convicted, but he maintained his innocence up until he died in 2003.

An interesting fact about gambling in Pennsylvania is that the Pittsburgh Steelers might not exist without gambling. The founder of the team, Art Rooney, won $2500 at the racetracks. He used this money to purchase the NFL entrance fee.

The next legalization of gambling in Pennsylvania came in the form of charity bingo in 1981. It was common for nonprofit organizations like churches to hold bingo games to raise money for charity, but it wasn’t legal prior to 1981. The new law allowed these charity organizations to raise money legally.

The turn of the century brought about a push for legalizing casinos in the state. The state was losing a lot of money because people were traveling to nearby states to gamble. There were several failed attempts to legalize casinos. Finally in 2004, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board was founded.

The gaming control board chose to legalize casinos and began issuing licenses in 2006. Licenses were granted to stand alone casinos and to horse racing facilities to offer slot machines and a few other games. The platform of games was expanded in 2010 when blackjack and poker were added to the mix.

Legalized Gambling Options in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania has been slow to legalize gambling over the years, but today you will find a wide array of legalized gambling in Pennsylvania. You can place bets on the horse races, play charity bingo, play the state lottery, and gamble in the casinos. You can find a legal gambling avenue on pretty much any kind of gambling in Pennsylvania.

Will Pennsylvania Legalize Online Poker in the Future?

Pennsylvania has voiced their concerns on legalizing online poker. They are afraid that this will take revenue away from the state because people will not be gambling at their casinos. New Jersey legalized online gambling, but the online sites have to be owned by a land based casino in the state of New Jersey. This might be an option for Pennsylvania. It is not likely that Pennsylvania will legalize online poker any time in the near future.


  1. Jump up ^ Pennsylvania Gambling Statutes
  2. Jump up ^ Pennsylvania Gambling History