Is Online Poker Legal in Virginia Legal?
For years, the answer to this question was a firm “no”. Virginia has no history of live real money poker rooms cardrooms or any suggestion of allowing for an online poker site.
However, over the past few years, Old Dominion has begun to relax its stance on legal gambling. Daily Fantasy Sports and online sports betting are now legal, and the first land-based casinos (which will feature sportsbooks, too) will open within a few years.
For online poker, Virginia players will have to wait a little longer. Under the VA Code, Section 18-2-325 bans games involving “uncertain or a matter of chance.” Both businesses and players could face charges if found guilty of operating an online poker room.
Does Virginia Have Any Plans of Legalizing Online Poker?
For a long time, it didn’t look as though any online gaming would be permitted in Virginia. However, now Virginians have legalized sports betting, and casino games will be available at land-based casinos in a handful of cities (once they are built).
With brick-and-mortar casinos on the horizon, that means online casino gaming could follow. And with live casinos able to offer a poker room, Virginia could in theory expand its gambling law to include online poker too.
In 2021, there are no plans to legalize online poker in Virginia. For now, you will have to content yourself with playing in West Virginia or visiting a sweepstakes poker room, which are legal because real money is not required to play.
A sweepstakes poker website uses a special model where you use virtual coins to play games. You can also purchase additional coins and be awarded Sweeps Coins, which can be used to win prizes, including (in some cases) real money.
Is Live Poker Available in Virginia?
While Virginia online poker is some way down the line, live real money poker could appear sooner. Under the new gaming law, some of the biggest gaming operators are set to construct new casinos in Virginia.
Hard Rock will be constructing a casino in Bristol, while Caesars Entertainment will operate a casino in Danville. Both operators already run successful poker rooms in states like Nevada. Once the first commercial casinos are completed in 2022 or 2023, a poker player could find live poker rooms offering Texas Hold’em, Omaha and Stud games.
Understanding Virginia Poker & Gambling Laws
Virginia has traditionally frowned upon gambling in general. The state offered little in the way of legalized gambling, and only gave the green light to casinos in 2019. And so far there has been little interest in legalizing online poker in Virginia.
Attitudes to gambling changed in 2016 when Virginia became the first US state to formally legalize Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS). By 2018, Virginia was actively looking at a casino bill. SB 1126 was quickly passed, allowing for land-based casinos in the state for the first time.
And in 2020, four VA cities – Bristol, Danville, Norfolk, and Portsmouth – held successful referendums as voters chose to allow the construction of a land-based casino in each locale. The Virginia Lottery Board will oversee all new casino gambling in the state. The first casinos are likely to open in 2022 or 2023.
Virginia also passed a sports gambling law in April 2020. It allows gamblers to place bets via mobile anywhere in the state. By law, 4-12 mobile sportsbook apps will be allowed to open in Virginia. The first mobile sportsbooks appeared in early 2021.
The Future of Online Poker in Virginia
For a long time, it didn’t look like Virginia would ever see legalized gambling. Times change, however, and now Old Dominion can look forward to mobile sports betting and land-based casinos. A would-be poker player looking for a real money poker game will likely have a handful of venues to choose from in the next few years. The wait for the state’s first poker website might take a little longer.
Chet Fussman is a writer for BetVirginia.com. Fussman is a former horse racing writer and longtime sports editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. He's a poker and blackjack player and frequent sports bettor, who plans to send the U.S. Supreme Court a thank-you card for clearing the way for states to adopt sports wagering. Fussman's philosophy: Don't let the bad beats overshadow your winning ones.