Virtual Online Poker Cardrooms: Gambling Under US Federal Law?


Peer to peer iPoker as conducted on the worldwide internet has received much attention given the ever-increasing popularity of the game across the globe.

Questions over the legality of such virtual online poker cardrooms has also been widely-debated. Typically, those legal debates have focused upon the amount of skill in poker and whether it predominates over elements of chance in the game, thus taking poker out of the realm of gambling under the vast majority of legal schemes. The skill versus chance assessment is indeed a formidable argument in favor of poker as a game of skill. It has been persuasively and successfully argued in several jurisdictions worldwide. And, of course, it is near and dear to poker players everywhere who vigorously and passionately argue that poker is a game of skill.

Obviously, skill is the proverbial “sexiest” argument for poker; and is no doubt the most persuasive. But from the standpoint of those site operators who host such online poker cardrooms – those virtual tables where players meet to test their skills against one another -- it is only one of many in poker’s potent legal arsenal. This article takes a close look at another: are such virtual cardrooms “engaged in the business of betting and wagering” under US Federal Law?

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