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New Hampshire Online Poker Laws

For card gaming enthusiasts, New Hampshire isn’t the most ideal place to hang your hat. There isn’t a single live poker table – or at least not a legal one operating ‘above ground’ so to speak – in the entire state. Casino gambling of any kind is heavily frowned upon by the laws of New Hampshire, and can get players and/or operators hit with anything from a misdemeanor to a felony charge. Thus a vast number of card gaming fans in the state have been looking to online poker to satiate their needs.

But if live poker games are illegal in New Hampshire, wouldn’t it stand to cross over into the cybernetic realm that online poker would be prohibited as well? Not necessarily. Just because something isn’t specifically legalized does not make it illegal by default. And with most directives of the Granite State dating back as far as the quill pen, the ambiguity of its gambling laws is difficult to decipher. With that in mind, many players of online poker in New Hampshire have been scratching their heads over the same, simple question – Is online poker legal in New Hampshire?

Legality of Online Poker New Hampshire

Gambling has played an interesting role in New Hampshire’s history. It is the home of one of the oldest and most famous horse racing tracks in the United States, Rockingham Park, where such esteemed thoroughbreds as Sea Biscuit (1934-35) and Mom’s Command (1984) have been featured. New Hampshire was also the first of the 50 US states to introduce a state-issued lottery all the way back in 1964.

In regards to online poker, however, the New Hampshire Revised Statutes do not mention poker games anywhere within the text, online or otherwise. Gambling is represented by a vague definition that could easily be misconstrued by anyone who doesn’t dabble in legal jargon. It is our goal to come to a relative determination as to whether online poker laws in New Hampshire permit or forbid the activity, but as always, this is just our educated opinion, not perfect legal advice. For that, you’ll want to contact a local authority on the topic.

New Hampshire Revised Statutes – Gambling

The following citations are taken from the New Hampshire Revised Statutes, Chapters 287 and 647, as they may pertain to online poker laws. Some text may be abridged to maintain fluency without changing the meaning.

287-D:1 Games of Chance | Definitions

Games of Chance: means any game involving gambling as defined by RSA 647:2, II, or any lottery prohibited by RSA 647:1 [(i.e. any lottery not authorized by state law). Excludes slot machines, 50/50 raffles and ice-out contests]

647-2 Gambling

I. A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if such person knowingly and unlawfully:

(a) Permits gambling in any place under the person’s control.

(b) Gambles, or loans money or any thing of value for the purpose of aiding another to gamble.

(c) Possesses a gambling machine.

I-a. [Penalties]:

(a) A person is guilty of a misdemeanor if such person conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of a business and such person knowingly and unlawfully permits gambling on the premises of the business.

(b) A person is guilty of a class B felony if such person conducts, finances, manages, supervises, directs, or owns all or part of a business and such person knowingly and unlawfully conducts, finances, manages, supervises, or directs any gambling activity on the business premises which does any of the following:

(1) Has had gross revenue of $2,000 in any single day.

(2) Has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of 10 days.

(3) Accepts wagers exceeding $5,000 during any 30 day period on future contingent events.

II For the purpose of this section [Definitions]:

Gambling: means to risk something of value upon a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that something of value will be received in the event of a certain outcome.

Unlawfully: means not specifically authorized by law or not solely for amusement, without stake or possibility of gain or loss.

What does it all mean? Is online poker illegal in New Hampshire?

It’s very hard to conclude whether online poker is illegal in New Hampshire. On the one hand, the term unlawfully applies to anything not specifically authorized by state law, and poker is not mentioned anywhere in the NHRS. That would lead us to believe that online poker is, in fact, illegal by default. However, gambling is defined as risking something of value on an event “not under one’s control or influence”. Poker is clearly a game of skill in which the player’s decisions influence the outcome of each hand. Then again, despite the federally recognized skill factor, the game of poker is still considered to be gambling by federal law.

Try as we might to uncover the truth behind each state’s equivocal online poker laws, we simply cannot give a direct answer in the case of online poker in New Hampshire; at least not according to the state laws themselves. Instead, we will reference a case from Danvers, NH where, in the fall of 2012, a man was arrested and eventually sentenced to 2 years in prison for running and profiting from an illegal online gambling website (and neglecting to pay his taxes on those profits, of course). The site in question was directed towards sports betting, not poker, but since neither sports betting nor poker are specifically authorized in New Hampshire, it points to one being just as illegal as the other.

And with that, we must conclude – to the best of our abilities – that yes, online poker is illegal in New Hampshire, and if caught conducting (i.e. playing) online poker, one could be penalized with a misdemeanor, or even a felony if he/she makes more than $2,000 in a single day.

Is New Hampshire working to regulate online poker?

With so few gambling options available to residents of the Granite State, chances that online poker will be regulated any time in the near future are slim to none. However, law makers did sanction a special commission to begin drafting gambling regulations back in July, which are scheduled for review in December and consideration in 2014. One way or another, all signs point to New Hampshire waiting at least until federal online poker regulations are passed before entering into an internet poker market. Federal guidelines would provide a complete framework for state-to-state regulators, rather than leaving state law makers to design their own legislation from scratch.