Delaware may not be a large state, nor a very populated one, ranking 2nd smallest in the US and just 6th least populace with 917,092 (est. 2013), but it is one of only three states to have legalized and regulated internet poker. Being so low on the population totem pole, the intrastate online poker market is a very small one at the moment and has a miniscule effect on the weight of the state’s tax coffers. But the fact that it even exists is a huge leap forward for the United Sates online poker community.
We already know that online poker is legal in the Diamond State, but due to the diminutive nature of the in-state-only network, many serious players don’t find the virtual felt to be all that attractive. According to statistics, the Delaware Poker Network, which consists of three online poker sites all linked and powered by 888, has only averaged about 10-20 concurrent players at any given time since it launched on October 31, 2013.
At present, Peak hour traffic tops out at around 40. Thus it’s no surprise that many online poker players might prefer to log onto international poker sites, where the player base is much larger. The question is this; is it legal to circumvent the Delaware online poker market to dip your toes in offshore player pools?
Delaware Gaming Competiveness Act of 2012
Before we get down to the real legal jargon, let’s take a brief look at the Delaware Gaming Competiveness Act signed into effect by Governor Jack Markell on June 12, 2012. This piece of legislation gave the Delaware State Lottery Commission complete control of the regulation of online poker games, online lottery sales and online casino games like slots, blackjack, keno and video poker. Essentially any gambling amusement that is legal in a licensed land-based casino or lottery retail setting is an acceptable form of online wagering – so long as it’s licensed by the state and exists as a licensed land-based operation as well. As such, the only three online poker sites belong to the state’s only three brick-and-mortar casino card rooms Delaware Park, Dover Downs and Harrington Raceway.
The Lottery Commission enforces strict laws governing the operation of legal online poker rooms in Delaware. All operators must infuse geo-location tracking software to ensure that only players physically located within the states borders are permitted to logon and play for real money, at the same time blocking access to out-of-state individuals, minors and players who have elected to join the self-exclusion list.
Deciphering the Laws of Delaware as they relate to Online Poker
Delaware’s gambling laws have changed a lot in the last two years. They are unambiguous and define exactly what can and cannot be done in terms of operating an online poker site. We will go over the most relevant statutes, along with a concise meaning of each, to better explain the legal climate for online poker in Delaware. You can find these laws in the complete text of the Delaware Code.
|Section||Text||Meaning (in re online poker)|
|29-48-4803 Definitions||(k) ”Internet lottery” shall mean all lottery games in which the player’s interaction with the game operated by the Office occurs over the Internet… including Internet ticket games, the Internet video lottery and Internet table games.||Because the iGaming market in Delaware is run by the Lottery Commission, all regulated internet games are defined as Internet lottery games.|
|(l) ”Internet table games” shall mean a lottery game in which the player’s interaction with the game operated by the Office occurs over the Internet through a website or network of a video lottery agent… and in which the game is an Internet variation or compilation of a table game or table games, provided that the game is expressly authorized by rule of the Director.||Internet table games means any form of table games played over the internet, so long as the games are operated by ‘The Office’ (i.e. regulated by the Delaware Lottery Commission) and legal in the state of Delaware.|
|(aa) ”Table game” shall mean any game played in a video lottery facility with cards, dice or any mechanical, electromechanical or electronic device or machine (excluding keno, video lottery machines, and the Internet lottery) for money, credit or any representative of value, including, but not limited to, baccarat, blackjack, twenty-one, poker, craps, roulette, bingo, wheel of fortune or any variation of these games, whether or not similar in design or operation, provided that the game is expressly authorized by rule of the Director.||Table games include poker, thus Internet table games include online poker by default.|
|11-5-1432 Gambling Definitions||(c) ”Gambling device” means any device, machine, paraphernalia or equipment which is used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity, whether the activity consists of gambling between persons or gambling by a person involving the playing of a machine. Lottery tickets, policy slips and other items used in the playing phases of lottery and policy schemes are not gambling devices.||A computer or mobile device used to gamble over the internet could be construed as a gambling device.|
|11-5-1405 Possessing a Gambling Device||(a) A person is guilty of possessing a gambling device when the person knowingly manufactures, sells, transports, keeps, exhibits, manages, places, possesses or conducts or negotiates any transaction affecting or designed to effect ownership, custody or use of a slot machine or any other gambling device.||Possession of a gambling device (when used for unlawful gambling) is illegal. Playing online poker at a site not regulated in Delaware would be considered ‘conducting a transaction’ on a ‘gambling device’, therefore is illegal.|
|(b) Possessing a gambling device is a class A misdemeanor.||Class A misdemeanors are punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or up to $2,300 fine, plus “restitution or other conditions as the court deems appropriate.”|
|(e) For purposes of this section, a “video lottery machine,” as defined in § 4803 of Title 29, which is owned or leased by the State for use in the Delaware video lottery shall not constitute either a slot machine or a gaming device.||A computer or mobile device used to play online poker at a site regulated and licensed by the Delaware Lottery Commission is not considered a gambling device.|
Is Online Poker Illegal in Delaware?
No, online poker is clearly legal in Delaware, so long as the player is of age (21+), physically located in the state and only participates at online poker sites regulated and licensed by the Delaware Lottery Commission. However, playing at unregulated poker site is illegal, and comes with a rather hefty punishment.
Is Delaware working to expand its Online Poker Market?
Yes. Delaware’s Governor Markell and Nevada’s Governor Sandoval signed the first ever interstate online poker compact in the United States back in February of 2014. This compact will allow online poker networks to pool their players, effectively giving Nevadans access to the Delaware online poker market, and in reverse, give Delawareans access to Nevada’s online poker market. The systems for player pooling have already undergone testing and have been approved by both states, but have not yet gone into effect. A tentative launch date for player pooling between Delaware and Nevada online poker markets is set for sometime this fall.
Online Poker Players from Delaware
It isn’t too hard to find professional online poker players from Delaware, especially considering the current legal climate in the area. Some of the more prestigious names include Kevin “spiderweb80” Webb and Jennifer “jennicide” Leigh.
Land-Based Card Rooms & Online Poker Rooms in Delaware
Delaware is home to three major brick-and-mortar casinos, all of which run their own state regulated and licensed online gaming sites. All three online poker sites are powered by 888 Poker with player pools linked via the Delaware Poker Network.
Location: Wilmington, DE
Poker Room: Yes
Online Poker: Yes
Location: Dover, DE
Poker Room: Yes
Online Poker: Yes
Location: Harrington, DE
Poker Room: Yes
Online Poker: Yes