Connecticut is the 3rd smallest state in the US, but considering its diminutive size, is fairly well packed with the 29th largest population of 3,596,080 (est. 2013). Finance, insurance and manufacturing are the three largest economical industries in the state, making up more than 28% of the Nutmeg State’s gross domestic product. While regulated gambling does exist in the state, it is very limited and makes up a miniscule percentage of the GDP.
One form of gambling that is not regulated in Connecticut is online poker. Residents continue to log on to real money Texas Holdem sites and toss chips on the virtual felt, but whether doing so is legal or not is a large subject of debate among the iGaming community. This article is intended as an examination of the state’s current gambling laws in an effort to determine whether online poker in Connecticut is legal, illegal or somewhere in between.
Land-based Gambling in Connecticut
By exploring the land-based gambling industry in the Nutmeg State, we can learn a lot of information about how online poker might be viewed. There are currently two casinos in Connecticut, along with a single greyhound racing park and a throng of off-track betting sites. Connecticut also offers its own state-run lottery, and the two casinos both offer expansive poker rooms. However, both casino card rooms are operated by tribal groups. The state does not regulate any casino card rooms on its own.
Suffice it to say, Connecticut lawmakers are not opposed to supplementing their tax dollars by way of lottery and live/off-track betting, but casino gambling and poker is off the legally authorized menu (unless it’s being run by a Native American tribe under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act).
Deciphering the Laws of Connecticut as they relate to Online Poker
Since online poker is not specifically regulated in Connecticut, the only way to determine whether the activity is illegal is to study the text of the General Statutes of Connecticut. You’ll find the complete text of the state’s Gambling Laws under Chapter 946: Offenses Against Public Policy. Below is a list of applicable laws and definitions that could relate to online poker, followed by a more concise meaning.
|Section||Text||Meaning (in re online poker)|
|Sec. 53-278a Gambling: Definitions||(1) “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;||Profiting from gambling could mean a lot of things, whereas Gain specifically relates to gambling winnings.|
|(2) “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…in which awards are made only to entrants…||Poker is classified as Gambling if anyone stands to make a profit (as opposed to a player’s gain). If only players stand to gain, and no profit is made, it is not considered gambling (i.e. social poker games are legal).|
|(3) “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…||Professional gambling refers to a game that is conducted for profit, not just gain. Real money online poker sites would be considered professional gambling venues because they collect rakes and fees.|
|(6) “Gambling information” means a communication with respect to any wager made in the course of, and any information intended to be used for, professional gambling…||Any form of communication that aids in the process of professional gambling (including online poker) is defined as gambling information.|
|Sec. 53-278d. Transmission of Gambling Information||(a) 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.||Submitting a deposit, withdrawal or wager over the internet would aid in professional gambling, thus could be defined as communicating gambling information, and is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $2,000 fine.|
Is Online Poker Illegal in Connecticut?
Yes. Despite no direct mention of playing poker over the internet, there is enough explicit terminology to allude to online poker being illegal. Any form of poker that makes a profit (not just gain) is an illegal operation, but operators aren’t the only ones at risk of punishment. To play poker for real money online is to knowingly transmit or receive gambling information, which carries the heftiest penalty of any misdemeanor crime in the state.
Is Connecticut working to Legalize Online Poker?
At the moment, no. There were once rumors that Connecticut was on board for online poker regulation, but that was back in 2009, long before Black Friday, when three of the state’s representatives sponsored Barney Frank’s introduction of online gambling regulation on a federal level. Nothing else was heard from Connecticut until 2012, shortly after the DOJ reversed its opinion of the Federal Wire Act so that states could regulate online poker and casino games if they wish, at which point the state said it had no interest in doing so.
However, that same year, the state’s two tribal casino operators, the Mohegans (operators of Mohegan Sun) and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe (operators of Foxwoods), both declared their interest in pushing for online gambling legalization in Connecticut. Although nothing has come to fruition yet, the recent launch of PrivateTable.com in California by the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel – a site that is said to be legally launching online poker for real money in the very near future – could eventually motivate these two tribes to pursue online poker with or without the approval of state officials.
Online Poker Players from Connecticut
There are several highly successful online poker pros hailing from Connecticut, including Andrew “amoney13” Lauer, TJ “tableburner”/”big$bond” DEramo, Adam “beck_AA” Becka and Jonathan “tha203grind” Pereira, just to name a few.
Land-Based Card Rooms in Connecticut
Connecticut is home to two major casino card rooms, including the celebrated Foxwoods Resort Casino in Ledyard, CT. The Foxwoods features over 100 poker tables and is famous for hosting major poker tournaments throughout the year, including the Foxwoods Poker Classic, Foxwoods WPT World Poker Finals and WSOP Circuit events.
Foxwoods Resort Casino
Location: Ledyard, CT
Poker Room: Yes
Location: Montville, CT
Poker Room: Yes