To help decipher the complicated gambling laws of Florida, we’ve created a handy table that outlines what’s legal and what’s not, so check it out below. If you want to check out the legislation yourself, look for code sections 849.01 et seq.; 550.001, et. seq.
|There are currently no regulated online poker sites in the state of Florida, which means players have to venture to offshore poker sites.
|Online Casino Games
|There are currently no regulated online casino sites in the state of Florida, which means online games are considered illegal.
|Live Poker is legal in licensed cardrooms. Home games are legal as long as the maximum win in any one hand is $10 or lower and is played in a residence.
|There are two federally recognized tribes operating live casinos in the state of Florida.
|Betting on sports is illegal in the state of Florida, with the exception of bowling tournaments.
|DFS is currently illegal in Florida – several bills have attempted to legalize the activity, but none have passed.
|Miscellaneous Forms of Gambling
|Pari-mutual betting for jai alai and horse racing, charity bingo games, and state-run lotteries are all legal in Florida.
Online Poker Status in Florida
Currently, there are no licensed Florida online poker sites. State law forbids gambling, as can be seen in Chapter 849, Section 08 of the 2022 Florida Statutes:
“Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other game of chance, at any place, by any device whatever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”
Quite clearly, poker falls within this remit as a game of chance played with cards. If you were to argue that poker is a game of skill rather than a game of chance, then you’ll find the law still isn’t on your side. Chapter 849, Section 14 states the following about betting on games of skill:
“Whoever stakes, bets, or wagers any money or other thing of value upon the result of any trial or contest of skill, speed or power or endurance of human or beast, or whoever receives in any manner whatsoever any money or other thing of value staked, bet, or wagered, or offered for the purpose of being staked, bet, or wagered, by or for any other person upon any such result, or whoever knowingly becomes the custodian or depositary of any money or other thing of value so staked, bet, or wagered upon any such result, or whoever aids, or assists, or abets, or influences in any manner in any of such acts all of which are hereby forbidden, commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082 or s. 775.083.”
However, there are exemptions to these rules that may provide some hope for fans of online poker. One of the exemptions listed is cardrooms, which are defined as “a facility where authorized games are played for money or anything of value and to which the public is invited to participate in such games and charged a fee for participation by the operator of such facility.”
These cardrooms are not considered to be casino gaming operations and can therefore offer legal real money poker. While a cardroom must have a license from the state to be able to offer games, it stands to reason that if an online poker site was granted a license under the same grounds, it would be legal for Floridians to play online poker. Unfortunately, we have not seen any such thing, which is why it remains illegal to play online poker in the state of Florida.
Most Recent Online Poker Happenings in Florida
Unlike other states across the country, we’ve seen attempts to pass legislation that seeks to legalize online gambling in Florida. The most recent of which was in 2021, when Governor Ron DeSantis, along with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, agreed upon a new tribal-state compact which would authorize the tribe to offer expanded forms of gambling. Included in these provisions was an item that suggested the tribe could introduce online versions of their gambling games, which would include online poker.
However, the item was removed before the legislature was approved. Furthermore, a federal judge ruled that the compact violated federal law and vacated it – a ruling which is currently being appealed. While it’s promising that the issue of online gambling is being discussed, the fact it was struck from the legislature as it was being approved shows that we’re still a long distance from online gambling being legal in Florida.
The outlook of legalizing online poker in Florida wasn’t always so gloomy, and there appeared to be significant headway made back in 2018. This was the year that Amendment 3, known as the Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative, made its way onto the ballot. This Amendment would give Floridian voters the “exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida,” – putting the decision in the hands of the public.
There was a mixed reception to the proposed Amendment, with some people thinking that giving Floridians the right to make this decision provided a clearer path towards legal online poker, whereas some thought that taking the decision out of the hands of elected officials, making it harder to pass. In fact, Donna Blevins, the state director of the Poker Alliance (formerly the Poker Players Alliance), said the following on the Amendment:
“There is no bigger ‘tell’ about Amendment 3 than the decision by the Seminole Tribe and the Walt Disney Co. to dump tens of millions of dollars into supporting it. […] I oppose it because Amendment 3 fundamentally changes the way our state makes important decisions about gaming. It removes our elected officials from the process of shaping public policy. It denies local voters the ability to approve casino gambling in their areas of the state. It eliminates the ability for voter-approved casinos in South Florida to offer new products. It forecloses on the opportunity for Florida to legalize sports betting and expand poker, in any form.”
However, the Amendment made it to the ballot and passed with a 71%/29% majority. Many people thought this result would pave the way for the Florida Casino Gambling Expansion Initiative to make it onto the 2022 ballot; however, the initiative did not receive enough signatures to make it.
Can I Play Online Poker in Florida?
It can be quite disheartening to learn that as resident of Florida, you can’t play legal online poker from a site that has a license form FL. However, if you want to get your online poker fix, you have a few options:
Offshore Poker Sites
One of the most popular ways is to play on an offshore site that provides real money games to American players. While these sites are technically illegal under Florida State Law, Florida is what’s referred to as a “safe state,” which means it’s very unlikely for the police to break your door down because you wanted to play a $20 online poker tournament.
If you don’t want to take the risk of playing on an off-shore site, there are sites offering what’s called “Sweepstakes Poker” – a way to play online poker for real money that takes advantage of a legal loophole. For those of you who are unaware of what Sweepstakes Poker is, let’s take a closer look at it.
Sweepstakes Poker is a form of poker that is played with a digital currency rather than real money. To play on these sites, you must buy this digital currency with real money. You play all of your games on this site with the digital currency, and then once it’s time to cash out, you can trade that digital currency back for real money, thus sidestepping the gambling regulations.
Whether you want to play on Sweepstakes Poker sites like Global Poker or try offshore sites like Ignition, we always recommend doing your due diligence before signing up.
Famous Florida Poker Players
Florida has seen its fair share of big names come through the ranks and make a splash on the big stage. Many of these players made their start in online poker before Black Friday happened, which serves to highlight how much poker talent has been lost due to the lack of access to legal online games.
Players such as Jason Mercier, Michael and Robert Mizrachi, Sam Soverel, and Sean Winter all made their start in their home state of Florida and have gone on to achieve huge success in the poker world. In fact, Florida has four players in the top 50 All-Time money list at the time of writing – a huge achievement for a single state.
To properly celebrate the tournament achievements of these Florida alums, let’s take a look at the top 5 most winning tournament players who hail from the Sunshine State:
- Sean Winter – $23.8 million.
- Sam Soverel – $20.6 million.
- Jason Mercier – $20.6 million.
- Michael Mizrachi – $17.4 million.
- John Racener – $11 million.
The road to legal online poker in Florida has been a rocky one over the past few years. While it looked like Amendment 3 might provide an avenue for legalizing online poker, we’re yet to see anything concrete make its way into the legislation. However, residents of Florida are still able to access online poker games through off-shore sites or Sweepstakes Poker sites.
Despite several bills that could legalize online poker in the state of Florida failing to pass, we remain optimistic that one day we’ll see online poker back in the Sunshine State, so subscribe to Tight Poker to stay up to date with all the latest goings on in the world of online poker in Florida.