Disentangling the online poker laws in Connecticut is an incredibly difficult task; one that even the chief analyst at the state’s Office of Legislative Research, Veronica Rose, could not answer with any assertive composure when asked in 2011 if online poker is legal in Connecticut. Her indeterminate answer, which basically stated “the issue is unresolved”, was delivered nearly one month after the ominous Black Friday of Online Poker, but before the US Department of Justice abruptly flipped its previous decision, declaring that individual states could decide their own fate in terms of online gambling legalization and regulation.
One might think that state law makers in Connecticut would be able to unravel the threads at that point, but such was not the case. American online poker players in The Nutmeg State have been waiting patiently (or not) for a definitive answer on the subject, but sitting by and watching other states like Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey pass online poker laws certainly hasn’t helped them achieve a more tolerant equanimity.
Legality of Online Poker Connecticut
When pursuing the government website of Connecticut’s Department of Consumer Protection, wherein lies the state’s comprised gambling laws, online poker enthusiasts are indeed immediately heartened to find a specific link entitled “FAQ – Internet Gambling”. Unfortunately, that inspirational moment, when one thinks – as I did – that the answers will be laid out right before their eyes in plain text, is nothing but a smoke cloud. The page in which that link leads speaks nothing whatsoever of online poker or gambling, much less the legalities of such. Ah, more confusion…
On the slightly brighter side, most of the other links do lead to their intended destinations. And with that in mind, we’ll detail the fundamental laws of gambling in Connecticut, what is and is not legal in general, and how those laws might be (mis)construed. We’ll also discuss briefly any legal documents in the works that might offer more decipherable online poker laws in Connecticut’s future.
Connecticut General Statutes – Gambling Laws
The following definitions are taken directly from the Connecticut General Statutes, Chapter 946, Section 53-278a-g.
Gambling; Accepted Activities: [it is not prohibited to advertise, operate or participate in] a state lottery, pari-mutuel betting at race tracks licensed by the state, off-track betting conducted by the state or a licensee authorized to operate the off-track betting system or a promotional drawing for a prize or prizes, conducted for advertising purposes by any person, firm or corporation other than a retail grocer or retail grocery chain, wherein members of the general public may participate without making any purchase or otherwise paying or risking credit, money, or any other tangible thing of value.
Gambling: means risking any money, credit, deposit or other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance or the operation of a gambling device, including the playing of a casino gambling game such as blackjack, poker, craps, roulette or a slot machine, but does not include: Legal contests of skill, speed, strength or endurance in which awards are made only to entrants or the owners of entries… any lottery or contest conducted by or under the authority of any [possession, territory or] state of the United States…
Gain/Profit: “Gain” means the direct realization of winnings; “profit” means any other realized or unrealized benefit, direct or indirect, including without limitation benefits from proprietorship, management or unequal advantage in a series of transactions.
Transmission of Gambling Information: Any person who knowingly transmits or receives gambling information by telephone, telegraph, radio, semaphore or other means, or knowingly installs or maintains equipment for the transmission or receipt of gambling information, shall be guilty of a class A misdemeanor.
Professional Gambling: means accepting or offering to accept, for profit, money, credits, deposits or other things of value risked in gambling, or any claim thereon or interest therein. [i.e. to gain anything of value from helping to provide a gambling service in any way possible, such as conducting a poker game and collecting a fixed share of the stakes, or merely promoting its existence.]
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Connecticut?
That’s a very good question, because it doesn’t all add up too well. I’ve only listed those laws that have the most direct influence on the legalities of online poker. By these laws – and there are many, many more specifics relating to the verbose gambling laws of Connecticut, if anyone cares to read it all for themselves – we know that Connecticut permits certain forms of land-based gambling, including tribal casinos, pari-mutuel wagering, off-track betting, raffles, charitable games and the Connecticut State Lottery. According to the simple definition of what is accepted activity, for all intents and purpose, we must assume all else, as defined as Gambling, is illegal.
The definition of gambling clearly states the term “poker” among its categorically banned amusements, but then goes on to say that “legal games of skill” are permitted, adding even more confusion to the mix. Connecticut has labeled poker as an illegal activity, but by failing to define a game of skill as including or excluding poker, it must be interpreted as one of the illegal forms of gambling. Toss in the fact that a “gambling device” could easily be construed as any device that is used to access an internet gaming website (it doesn’t specifically say it, but then again, it doesn’t have to), and those two facts alone are enough to effectively criminalize online poker in Connecticut.
Is Connecticut working to regulate online poker?
Yet another mysterious fog overlays lawmaker’s plausible intentions to regulate online poker in Connecticut. It’s been a bit of a slow-motion tennis match in that regard. Barney Frank’s original bill, HR 2267, introduced in 2009 to support federal regulation of online gambling was co-sponsored by Connecticut’s own Joe Courtney (D), John Larson (D), Christopher Murphy (D).
Then in 2012, it was made known that officials in The Nutmeg State had no interesting in the regulation of online poker and other forms of internet gambling. But while officials may have shown little enthusiasm, the tribal casino agencies that operate in the state were all too keen on giving their support. In a discussion regarding the fact that, legal/regulated or not, citizens of Connecticut were in fact able to log on and place wagers at online poker sites, the Mohegans chief of staff for external and governmental affairs, Charles Bunnell, stated, “we strongly support the regulation of internet gaming in Connecticut and the United States.” That was in February of 2012, and nothing noteworthy has surfaced in the headlines since.