So much has happened in the United States over the last few years regarding the legalities of online poker and online gambling in general that it could make a gargoyle’s head spin. In December of 2012, when the Department of Justice decided to give individual states the right to make their own decisions regarding legal online poker, players from all 50 states became highly intrigued by what was (or wasn’t) going on in their home state. The same can be said of online poker laws in Alabama.
Legality of Online Poker Alabama
For all intents and purposes, just about any form of gambling is considered illegal in the state of Alabama. There are no casinos or card rooms earning tax dollars for the government. They don’t even have a state lottery. However, there are a few gambling destinations in Alabama, including three greyhound racing parks and a few bingo casinos situated on Native American reservations. As for poker games among the general population, no one (outside of tribal groups on tribal lands) is permitted to offer any form of poker or casino gambling within the state, online or otherwise, outside of a social home game.
We’re going to examine the current state of Alabama statutes in regards to the legalities of online poker, as well as any activity that may (or may not) be taking place in higher political offices to alter the current stance on internet poker games. But before we can truly decipher the legalities of online poker in Alabama, we must first take a look at the way the Alabama Criminal Code defines such activities.
Alabama Criminal Code – Gambling Laws
The following definitions are taken directly from the Alabama Criminal Code, Section 13A-12-20.
Gambling: A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome…
Contest of Chance: Any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein.
Gambling Device: Any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment that is normally used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity, whether that activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person involving the playing of a machine.
Player: A person who engages in any form of gambling solely as a contestant or bettor, without receiving or becoming entitled to receive any profit therefrom other than personal gambling winnings, and without otherwise rendering any material assistance to the establishment, conduct or operation of the particular gambling activity.
There are many more definitions provided in the Alabama Criminal Code pertaining to the subject of gambling, and you’re welcome to click the above link and read them all if you wish, but these should suffice for the purpose of this document. Now that we know what Alabama considers gambling, gamblers and ways in which one can make a gamble, let’s look at the laws surrounding them.
The Alabama Criminal Code, Section 13A-12-21, entitled ‘Simple Gambling’, states: “A person commits the crime of simple gambling if he knowingly advances or profits from unlawful gambling activity as a player.”
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Alabama?
Understanding all of that legal jargon isn’t the easiest thing for everyone, so I’ll lay it out for you. Basically, no, it is not legal in Alabama to participate in online poker games for real money, or anything else of value, so long as you are risking something of your own in the process. Those free-to-play poker sites that give everyone a liberal amount of poker chips and offer magazine subscriptions, raffle entries or whatever else to those who win the most chips are just fine, but genuine online poker sites that offer traditional games for real money are outlawed.
Now you may notice the terms ‘remote gambling’ or ‘internet’ or ‘telecommunications’ are never used in Alabama’s laws. That is because they are so antiquated. But just because they are old, mostly written by our ancestors, doesn’t mean they can’t be interpreted by today’s standards. The definitions are so vague that the term gambling device can refer to anything at all that allows a player to gamble on a contest of chance, and that includes computers, laptops, mobile devices, tablets and anything else that can connect to the internet.
The short answer… yes, it is illegal to play online poker in Alabama for real money.
The long answer is a lot more complicated, however, when you consider that no one has been arrested for illegally gambling over the internet in Alabama since the creation of the world wide web. In fact, there are only two known cases in the United States that concerned a player being charged with illegal gambling involving the internet, and the last one occurred Oklahoma in 2011. Realistically speaking, Alabama residents can still access offshore online poker sites that accept US players, make deposits, play online poker and – assuming it’s a legitimate poker room – request their withdrawals as usual.
Is Alabama working to legalize online poker?
Ever since December 2012, when the US Department of Justice overturned its previous opinion that online gambling was entirely illegal across the nation, giving US states the individual right to decide such laws for themselves, several states have begun the process of legalizing online poker, online casino games, online sports betting, or an amalgamation thereof. Unfortunately, Alabama is not one of them.
Alabama’s state legislators have maintained for decades that gambling of most kinds is not something they are interested in legalizing. We’re talking about one of just seven states in the union that refuses to even establish its own state lottery. If the government doesn’t care to earn extra tax dollars from a state run lottery, why would Alabama’s law makers care about legalizing online poker? Sadly, for residents of Alabama, it doesn’t look like online poker will be officially legalized anytime soon.