Of the near 100 online poker sites regulated offshore that continue to accept US customers, a large handful of them refuse to permit players form the state of Louisiana. That fact brings into question just what Louisiana online poker laws have been put into place, and whether or not it is truly illegal to play card games over the internet for real money from within the Bayou State.
The climate of online poker changed drastically in 2011. It started with the DOJ’s assault on the industry with the seizure of three of the world’s largest online poker sites, including PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker. That date was forever embossed into the hearts of American online poker players as ‘Black Friday’. But the dark clouds passed when, in December of that year, the DOJ made a sudden and highly unexpected decision that the Wire Act of 1961 did not criminalize all forms of online gambling, as they had previously insisted. Instead, only sports betting was references, thus states were given the privilege of writing up legislation to regulate online poker and other forms of internet gambling, should they choose to do so.
Nevada, New Jersey and Delaware have since passed online gambling laws, and two casinos in Las Vegas have moved ahead with the launch of the very first real money poker sites regulated in the United States, making Nevada the first state to incorporate a legal internet poker market. Some states went the opposite direction, choosing to expressly outlaw online gambling activities. Unfortunately, Louisiana is one of them.
Legality of Online Poker Louisiana
Louisiana has a massive gambling industry already. With very limited options for gamblers in border states like Texas, there are numerous casinos near the outskirts of Louisiana that gain a mass of revenue from tourists who travel across the border primarily to gamble. In fact, casinos and race tracks dot the map in and around all major cities, offering everything from slot machines, to table games, to pari-mutuel horse and greyhound racing. With such an open mind towards statewide gaming in general, one would naturally assume that Louisiana would be keen on the idea of regulating online poker and casino games.
However, if we closely examine the online poker laws in Louisiana, we find that the Creole State has actually taken the time to prohibit online gambling sites from gaining access to players within its borders. Individuals in Louisiana are also prohibited from accessing such websites and placing wagers. To better explain matters, we’ll examine that online poker laws in Louisiana in depth. We will also explore the possibility of Louisiana regulating online poker in the future.
Louisiana Revised Statutes – Gambling
We’ve taken these excerpts from gambling related texts within the Louisiana Revised Statutes, Title 14: Criminal Law. Note that we’ve omitted some text to maintain fluency and relevancy to online poker, without altering the meaning.
RS 14:90 Gambling
(a) Gambling is the intentional conducting, or directly assisting in the conducting, as a business, of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit.
(b) Whoever commits the crime of gambling shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.
(2) Whoever conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of an illegal gambling business shall be fined not more than twenty thousand dollars, or imprisoned with or without hard labor, for not more than five years, or both…
RS 14:90.3 Gambling by Computer
D. Whoever commits the crime of gambling by computer shall be fined not more than five hundred dollars, or imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.
E. Whoever designs, develops, manages, supervises, maintains, provides, or produces any computer services, computer system, computer network, computer software, or any server providing a Home Page, Web Site, or any other product accessing the Internet, World Wide Web, or any part thereof offering to any client for the primary purpose of the conducting as a business of any game, contest, lottery, or contrivance whereby a person risks the loss of anything of value in order to realize a profit shall be fined not more than twenty thousand dollars, or imprisoned with or without hard labor, for not more than five years, or both.
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Louisiana?
By all accounts, yes, online poker is illegal in Louisiana. The laws are very cut and dry. To gamble over the internet as a player (as detailed in RS 14:90.3 subsection D) is worthy of up to $500 in fines and/or up to 6 months in prison. Actually conducting, or assisting in the provision of an online gambling site imposes a much harsher penalty, but players are specifically targeted by the law.
Some have argued that the definition of gambling, as provided in RS 14:90, section A (1) (a), does not relate to players, but rather those who provide or help to provide illegal gambling services. The fact that separate penalties are presented for those who commit gambling, and those who actually help conduct illegal gambling services, makes us think otherwise. However, we are not legal authorities. As always, we advise those who want to play online poker in Louisiana to contact a licensed attorney for a full and accurate description of the law.
Is Louisiana working to regulate online poker?
Louisiana has made it clear that the state is not interested in legalizing and regulating online poker for the time being. Like most states in the US, there are budget deficits that must be addressed, and with that in mind, the Bayou State may very well discuss relative legislation in the distant future. But that’s not likely to occur until a number of states can prove that online poker has greatly benefited their tax coffers, without a significant breach in consumer protection. Louisiana is adamant about protecting its youth from having access to underage gambling, and without proof that such restrictions can be successfully applied, it could be a long wait before law makers in Louisiana consider online poker regulation.