There are literally millions of online poker enthusiasts residing throughout the United States, and Maine is no exception. Before the catastrophic ‘Black Friday of Online Poker’, players were able to log onto just about any internet poker site and play the game for real money to their hearts content. But after that ominous date – April 15, 2011 – the forecast of internet gaming changed dramatically in the US. The question many residents of the Pine Tree State are now asking is whether online poker laws in Maine are reflected by any of those changes.
The US government was adamantly against the idea of online gambling ever since 2006, when it passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. It took them years to follow up on that legislation, as is evident by Black Friday, when the world’s largest online poker rooms – PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker – were effectively shut down by the Department of Justice in the spring of 2011. But on December 21 of the same year, the DOJ flip-flopped, deciding that only sports betting over the internet was deemed illegal (via the Wire Act of 1961), and other forms of online gambling, including poker, could be regulated by individual states, should they desire to enact the appropriate legislation to do so.
Several states jumped on the band wagon, including Nevada, which has since launched two real money online poker sites; Delaware, which is set to launch later its first online ambling sites this month; and New Jersey, scheduled to go live with internet casino and poker sites on November 23, 2013. Other states are considering regulation of online poker and/or casino games, but Maine is not currently one of them. But just because online poker is not legalized in a state does not necessarily mean that it is illegal.
Legality of Online Poker Maine
While Maine may not be one of the biggest gambling states in the nation, it does present several opportunities for residents and visitors to place bets. There’s a bingo casino in Bangor, along with a traditional slots casino, and two raceway parks offer pari-mutuel betting on harness races. Maine supports tribal gambling, state regulated gambling and a statewide, government run lottery system. With that in mind, it’s evident that state officials are not opposed to generating tax revenue from gambling operations.
When it comes to online poker laws in Maine, however, this is one of those states that falls in the proverbial ‘gray area’. Law makers have not specifically addressed the legalities of gambling over the world wide web, which leaves the laws wide open for interpretation.
Next, we will examine the precise literature of Mane’s gambling laws as they may pertain to online poker. We will also assess the current situation in the Pine Tree State in regards to future regulation of online poker in Maine.
Maine Revised Statutes – Gambling
The following text is taken directly from the Maine Revised Statues, Title 17-A, Chapter 39: Unlawful Gambling. Please note that some text has been omitted to preserve fluency and relevancy, but care has been taken not to alter its meaning. Please use the link above to read the full text.
17-A §952. DEFINITIONS
Advance Gambling Activity: A person “advances gambling activity” if, acting other than as a player… he engages in conduct that materially aids any form of gambling activity…
Contest of Chance: means any game, contest, scheme or device in which:
A. A person stakes or risks something of value for the opportunity to win something of value;
B. The rules of operation or play require an event the result of which is determined by chance, outside the control of the contestant or participant; and
C. Chance enters as an element that influences the outcome in a manner that can not be eliminated through the application of skill.
For the purposes of this subsection, “an event the result of which is determined by chance” includes but is not limited to a shuffle of a deck or decks of cards, a roll of a die or dice or a random drawing or generation of an object or objects…
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…
Gambling Device: means any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment that is used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity…
What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in Maine?
The combined definitions of gambling and contest of chance clearly include the game of poker. The law states the element of chance must be “eliminated through the application of skill”. While skill certainly reduces the chance factor, it does not eliminate it. Thus the argument that poker is a game of skill, as deemed by a federal judge in August of 2012, is not a valid loophole for players. Specific verbiage, such as ‘internet’, ‘online’ or ’world wide web’ may not be found in Maine’s gambling laws, but the definition of a gambling device could easily be interpreted to include gambling over a computer, laptop, mobile device or tablet.
That being said, it’s impossible for us to confidently pronounce whether it is or is not legal to play online poker in Maine. We would advise interested parties to contact a legal authority, such as a certified attorney, for a more accurate interpretation of the law.
Is Maine working to regulate online poker?
There is no proposed legislation coursing through the veins of Maine’s government offices at the moment. Since Maine is obviously open to filling its tax coffers with gambling revenue, we can easily assume that online poker laws will come to Maine in the future. However, that won’t likely happen until the government passes regulatory guidelines on a federal level. For the moment, Maine legislators will sit by idly studying the success rate of other regulated states. If and when the US regulates online poker on a nationwide basis, and if other states do see ultimate success with their online gambling markets, we can expect Maine to climb aboard with all the alacrity of a fruit bat in a citrus grove at midnight.