Arizona Online Poker Laws

Arizona Online Poker Law

Arizona is home to 22 Indian casinos, of which 16 harbor poker rooms. The state has a very healthy poker community, able to sustain mid-level buy-in tournaments weekly, but as of late 2013, there’s no real push by the tribes for online poker.

When it comes to gambling expansion, current Gov. Jan Brewer is a tough opponent. She fought and beat the Tohono O'odham tribe’s efforts to open a casino in Glendale, and works with other Republican members to try to prevent more casinos from opening on tribal lands.

They’re following in the footsteps of one of the great characters involved in the online poker saga this century, former Arizona Congressman Jon Kyl. An investigator tasked with finding the people who murdered online poker as we knew it in America in 2011 would surely find and follow a bloody pair of footprints into Arizona. Kyl was co-sponsor of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006, a law that was inserted into the pages of an act designed to fund greater security at the nation’s seaports.

The UIGEA carpet-bombed the online poker industry in the United States into rubble, and Kyl is the one who flew the airplane.

But, the tale gets weirder.

Before he left office, he co-sponsored a failed bill that would legalize online poker at a federal level, saying he now considers poker to be a game of skill that should be acknowledged by providing a legal “carve-out” to the UIGEA.

Arizonian policymakers are well aware of Kyl’s shadow and how much his anti-gambling stance helped him in the polls. It wasn’t until he neared the end of his political career that he came out and declared poker as a game of skill.

Even if this opinion is shared by his former state colleagues, it shows how tentative politicians are when tackling sticky social issues like this.

On a federal level, longtime Senator and former Republican presidential nominee John McCain accidentally showed the world his stance on playing poker. He was caught playing poker on his phone during a hearing on Syria in September 2013. He tweeted that he lost.

Criminal Code

Arizona’s criminal code doesn’t specifically address either live poker or online poker. Like many states, its codes have not been updated in decades, leaving room for interpretation. People don’t get arrested in Arizona for playing poker. Bookies and operators are busted every once in awhile, but never players.

Arizona has a Department of Gambling which works as an independent regulatory body, with its eyes on the tribal casinos and the rules and regulations they must follow.

A state lottery has existed in Arizona since the ’80s, and it contracts with the Mega Millions multi-state jackpot lottery. It’s a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association, which is lobbying against online gambling, including poker.

Will Online Poker Become Legal in Arizona?

Since gambling exists only on tribal lands in Arizona, many legal questions must first be answered before Arizona residents will be allowed to play online poker. Arizona politicians are traditionally resistant to federal mandates, and it’s doubtful that state representatives will vote to take part in an online poker industry (if such a bill even passes) without a major push from its residents in the form of a referendum.

Estimated Online Poker Consumer Base

Arizona is the home to about 3.5 million people over the age of 21. It’s estimated that about 10 percent of adults played online poker before Black Friday, leaving about 350,000 players in the Arizona poker desert. Arizona’s potential poker population is the same as the population of Panama, where online poker is legal.

Closet Online Poker Game

Mexico is directly south, and Nevada is directly north.