A new online poker boom could unfold across the US in the upcoming years. Recent federal legal developments allow regulated online poker sites to merge their player networks among multiple states.
Only one interstate online poker network currently functions in the US. The All-American Poker Network (AAPN) includes WSOP.com Nevada, WSOP.com New Jersey, and Delaware’s network of sites powered by 888poker software.
Michigan’s recently launched online poker sites could enter the interstate poker economy soon. Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware allow shared player networks through an arrangement known as the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).
Michigan passed a multijurisdictional poker bill in January 2021, clearing the way for the state to join the MSIGA potentially. Michigan launched legal online poker later that month, becoming the latest state to enter the legal online poker market in the US.
Nevada, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Delaware represent the five US states currently offering legal online poker. Of those states, only Pennsylvania operates without an interstate online poker bill in place.
What Is An Interstate Online Poker Pool?
A 1961 federal mandate known as the Interstate Wire Act dictated that electronic transactions related to “any sporting event or contest” couldn’t legally cross state lines.
In 2011, the US Department of Justice issued an opinion that attempted to clarify the meaning of the Wire Act. The 2011 DOJ opinion ruled that the language of the Wire Act only applied to sports betting transactions.
That opinion cleared the way for regulated US poker sites to merge player pools, allowing for interstate competition. In 2014, the only regulated interstate online poker network began to take form.
New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware operated as the only US states offering regulated online poker at that time. In February 2014, Nevada and Delaware entered into a Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA).
The original configuration of the MSIGA linked the player pools from WSOP.com Nevada and the 888poker Delaware network of sites. WSOP and 888poker function in partnership in the US, making the merger between the two networks a logical move.
New Jersey entered the MSIGA in 2017, opening the door for the WSOP.com New Jersey platform to join WSOP Nevada and the 888poker Delaware network in a three-state player pool. The WSOP/888poker network operates under the name All-American Poker Network (AAPN) in the US.
The player pools from WSOP Nevada, WSOP New Jersey, and 888poker’s Delaware network officially merged on May 1, 2018. 888poker New Jersey, another regulated poker site, remained as a standalone platform, not linked to the AAPN.
How Does An Interstate Player Pool Operate?
The AAPN allows players from WSOP Nevada, WSOP New Jersey, and the 888poker Delaware network to compete against each other at the poker table.
For example, a Las Vegas player logging into WSOP Nevada could open a cash game table and see players from New Jersey and Delaware at that table. The AAPN is only accessible to players logged into one of the participating online poker sites, and those players must be located within one of the three states that compose the MSIGA.
The formation of the AAPN opened up exciting new possibilities for US poker players. An online poker site’s viability largely depends on player traffic.
Online poker players never want to log into a site and see empty cash game tables and low tournament registration numbers. The AAPN expands the potential player base to include competitors located in all three participating states, including tourists traveling to Las Vegas and Atlantic City.
World Series Of Poker Online (WSOP) Events
The AAPN allows players in New Jersey to compete in online events on the schedule at the World Series of Poker (WSOP) each year. For most of the history of the series, winning an official WSOP bracelet required a trip to Las Vegas to play live at the world’s most famous tournament festival.
The May 2018 addition of WSOP NJ to the AAPN put New Jersey players in the mix for online bracelet events from the 2018 World Series of Poker. At that summer’s WSOP, Matt Mendez became the first player in series history to win a WSOP bracelet while playing from outside Nevada.
WSOP/888 is set to launch a Pennsylvania online poker site in 2021. If Pennsylvania lawmakers approve entry into the MSIGA, players in the Keystone State could someday compete for WSOP championships from the comfort of their mobile devices in Pennsylvania.
Latest Updates On US Interstate Poker
While the MSIGA came together in 2017, a later statement from the DOJ put the future of legal online poker in jeopardy. In January 2019, the DOJ issued a reversal of the 2011 opinion, stating that the language of the Wire Act applied to all forms of online gambling, not limited to sports betting.
That change in stance from the DOJ prompted Pennsylvania to hold off on entering the MSIGA. Legal online poker debuted in Pennsylvania in November 2019, with PokerStars PA going live.
PokerStars already had a New Jersey platform in place at the time of the Pennsylvania launch. However, Pennsylvania’s hesitation to pass interstate poker legislation prevented a merger of player pools between PokerStars’ New Jersey and Pennsylvania sites.
The 2019 reversal of stance on the Wire Act from the DOJ prompted the New Hampshire Lottery to file a lawsuit against the DOJ in February 2019. That lawsuit kicked off a long legal process, with the New Hampshire Lottery contending that the DOJ reversal put the state’s internet-based lottery sales in jeopardy.
Two years later, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued a final ruling that rendered the 2018 DOJ opinion invalid, and the DOJ declined to appeal the decision. The ruling gives the green light for expanded interstate online poker networks in the US.
Outlook For Michigan And Pennsylvania Joining The MSIGA
Michigan launched legal online poker in January 2021 and did so with a multijurisdictional poker bill already in place. That legislation allows the state’s two legal poker sites (PokerStars MI and BetMGM Poker) to enter the MSIGA if they wish.
With that bill passed, PokerStars could merge player pools between its Michigan and New Jersey sites. BetMGM Poker could potentially link player networks with the partypoker US Network, as partypoker and BetMGM share the same parent company, Roar Digital.
The partypoker US Network functions as a New Jersey-only online poker network for now. Formerly known as partypoker NJ, the platform underwent a name change in January 2020.
Now known as the partypoker US Network, that platform could truly become a national online poker network by merging the BetMGM Poker Michigan and partypoker NJ player pools.
Pennsylvania still hasn’t passed an interstate poker bill. BetMGM/partypoker and WSOP/888 are approved to launch online poker sites in the state, with both operators expected to do so sometime in 2021.
Pennsylvania’s entry into the MSIGA, if it happens, could push online poker to new heights in the US.
US Interstate Online Poker Pool FAQs
Yes. A federal court ruled in 2021 that the language of the 1961 Wire Act only applies to sports betting. This ruling clears the way for legal online poker networks to allow interstate competition.
A pact known as the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement (MSIGA) includes Nevada, New Jersey, and Delaware. The MSIGA allows regulated poker sites from each of those states to share player pools with other states in the agreement if they wish.
The All-American Poker Network (AAPN) currently functions as the only legal interstate poker network in the US. The AAPN operates with a merged player pool among WSOP.com Nevada, WSOP.com New Jersey, and the 888poker Delaware network of sites (Dover Downs, Delaware Park, and Harrington Raceway).
Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Michigan all offer regulated online poker in the US. West Virginia will eventually launch legal online poker sites, with the launch date TBD.
No. PokerStars’ international platform isn’t legally accessible from the US. PokerStars’ collection of US sites only allow players from within those respective states.
PokerStars lineup of US sites includes PokerStars NJ, PokerStars PA, and PokerStars MI. Two or more of those sites could legally merge player pools under US law at some point.
Yes. WSOP merged its Nevada and New Jersey player pools in May 2018, just before the 2018 World Series of Poker.
Online bracelet events are open to players in both states, and in June 2018, an online player won a WSOP bracelet from New Jersey for the first time in the history of the series.
WSOP is set to launch a Pennsylvania site in 2021. For now, however, Pennsylvania doesn’t have laws in place allowing interstate online poker.