When it comes to poker in the US, Florida currently ranks alongside Nevada, California and New Jersey as one of the poker capitals.
Especially since 2010, when Florida lawmakers removed betting restrictions to allow the state’s card rooms to offer no-limit games. The Sunshine State became a genuine poker hotspot with dozens of active brick-and-mortar poker rooms.
As the third-most populated state in the US, Florida would seem like a good candidate to support real money poker sites as well. But even though Florida lawmakers have occasionally discussed that possibility, there hasn’t been any progress yet to make Florida online poker a reality.
This Florida poker guide includes past and present discussions of online poker, a look at sweepstakes poker sites and their relevance to Florida poker. We also review current Florida poker laws, including their application to home games and a list of all the state’s card rooms.
Finally, we consider the potential for real-money, legal and regulated online poker to come to Florida.
No, neither online poker nor online casino in Florida is currently legal.
Lawmakers have considered legalizing online poker in the past, including in 2011, when online gambling bills were introduced in the state House and Senate. While those bills failed to pass, the topic remained alive over the next two years, kept so in part by Delaware legalizing online gambling in 2012, and Nevada and New Jersey following suit in 2013.
Discussions about online poker discontinued in 2014, however, when then-Gov. Rick Scott made known his support of a ban on all types of online gambling, both in his state and on a federal level. Scott’s announcement essentially quelled any further legislative movement until he left office in early 2019 after winning election to the US Senate.
Scott’s successor, fellow Republican Rick DeSantis, was less vocal about gambling-related issues during his gubernatorial campaign. Although, when asked, he expressed opposition to online gambling expansion. DeSantis had something else in common with Scott in that he also received financial backing from billionaire gaming magnate and significant GOP donor Sheldon Adelson, the late CEO of Las Vegas Sands and a fierce opponent of online gambling.
In the same 2018 election in which DeSantis was elected governor, Floridians approved a constitutional amendment giving citizens the right to vote on any future legislation affecting casino gambling in the state. That meant voters, and not legislators, would get to decide about the building of new casinos and/or the legalization of sports betting going forward.
The amendment makes passing any casino-related legislation potentially more difficult. It requires a lengthier and more complicated process.
Meanwhile, the state and the Seminole Tribe have been involved in lengthy and contentious negotiations over the renewal of their compact, which further complicates the landscape of gambling legislation.
The complexity of that situation has, so far, prevented Florida from joining the wave of states that have introduced sports betting since the U.S. Supreme Court ruling lifted the federal prohibition in May 2018.
All these factors suggest that progress on several other fronts would need to occur first before the topic of online poker in Florida is taken up again.
There isn’t any momentum at present to suggest an online poker bill will be advancing through the legislative process any time soon.
In fact, current Florida law describes illegal gambling in such a way as to suggest gambling online, including playing online poker, is prohibited.
“Whoever plays or engages in any game at cards, keno, roulette, faro or other games of chance, at any place, by any device whatsoever, for money or other thing of value, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor of the second degree,” reads the statute.
Much of Florida will need to balance competing priorities and interests before pursuing sports betting. That same balance will no doubt need to be addressed before Florida will be able to legalize and regulate online gambling, including online poker.
If the state does legalize online poker in FL, it will likely be the Florida Lottery that will serve as the regulating body. It has been cited to perform a similar function over mobile sports betting in past proposed bills.
Sweepstakes online poker sites operate within states’ sweepstakes laws to provide poker players an alternative way to play online.
Sweepstakes online poker sites are unlike real-money sites in that users play the games using virtual currencies rather than cash.
For example, Global Poker uses two virtual currencies: gold coins and sweeps coins.
Players purchase gold coins with which they can play gold coins-only cash games and tournaments. In other words, gold coins are essentially “play money.”
However, by purchasing gold coins, players receive sweeps coins as a bonus. They can also obtain sweeps coins in other ways, such as via Facebook giveaways or by writing to Global Poker and requesting them.
Sweeps players can use coins on sweeps coins-specific cash games and tournaments in which they can collect more sweeps coins.
After accumulating a minimum amount of sweeps coins, players can then redeem them for US dollars and withdraw the money.
It is worth noting that Florida’s sweepstakes laws do impose certain restrictions that cause some sweepstakes sites to operate differently in Florida than they do elsewhere.
Without any legal real-money online poker options in Florida, some players in the state turn to so-called offshore poker sites that are operating outside of the US and serve American players.
While those who play on these sites aren’t likely to face legal repercussions, they are, nonetheless, taking significant risks when they do.
Ever since the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006, these non-US sites have been forced to find creative ways to allow Americans to deposit and withdraw funds. That’s because the UIGEA prohibits American banks and financial service providers from allowing transactions to and from non-US gambling sites.
Some of these “rogue” sites are licensed and regulated in other countries, but not all of them.
Regardless, US players are in an awkward position should they ever encounter any problems regarding game integrity or the security of their funds.
It has happened that some offshore sites have closed and made off with players’ money, in which case American players don’t have any legal recourse to try to recover their funds. Also, those who suspect cheating, collusion, ghosting, multi-accounting or other types of fraud generally have to trust the sites will respond to their complaints. If they do not, the players don’t have any legal avenues available to them.
By contrast, legal, licensed and regulated real-money sites are required to monitor the games and prohibit any fraudulent activity. They also must ensure the safety of players’ funds to operate, making them much more preferable to offshore sites.
Florida has an interesting history when it comes to its poker laws.
While the state has been open to legal poker for decades, for much of its early history, lawmakers sought to keep the games small by placing limits on the amount of money players could risk while playing.
In 1989, Florida lawmakers legalized low-stakes home poker games.
The new law specifically allowed so-called “penny-ante” games to be played in private residences as long as the pot for each hand did not exceed $10.
This law proved significant later when just a single Florida county, Broward County, chose to legalize poker in 1994.
Broward was home to the state’s first casino, Seminole Casino Hollywood (later known as Seminole Classic Casino).
When the new law passed, the casino began to offer poker games, albeit with a $10 per pot limit.
Two years later, poker was legalized throughout the state at horse tracks, kennel clubs and jai-alai frontons, though again with that same restrictive $10 per pot limit. Such a limit not only meant the games necessarily had to be played as fixed-limit only, but usually, the betting was over near the start of a hand since it would only take a few small bets to reach $10.
In 2003, the statutory restrictions on card rooms were changed and the $10 pot limit was removed. However, the maximum for any single bet was set at $2, with a maximum of three raises allowed per betting round.
This meant fixed-limit hold’em and stud games with $1/$2 limits were fine, but NLH still could not be played. Even so, and despite not having no-limit games, Florida card rooms began adding tables as poker’s popularity increased markedly amid the “poker boom” of the mid-2000s.
Players and card room operators clamored for the betting restrictions to be changed.
Finally, in 2007, a law was passed that allowed players to play no-limit hold’em, although again in a restricted way. The new law removed the limit on pot sizes but introduced a $100 maximum buy-in as well. Again, many no-limit hold’em players complained how limiting the buy-ins affected strategy in such a way as to make the games more luck-based since everyone was always technically “short-stacked,” relatively speaking.
Finally, starting in July 2010, the buy-in restriction was lifted and poker players in Florida could at last play no-limit hold’em without any limits either on bet sizes, pot sizes or buy-ins.
Yes, it is legal to play in home poker games in Florida, although there are restrictions.
That Florida law governing “penny-ante” home poker games, passed in 1989, remains on the books today.
To quote from the law (Section 849.085 of the Florida statutes), a “penny-ante” game is as “a game or a series of games of poker” or other games like bridge, dominoes or mahjong “in which the winnings of any player in a single round, hand, or game do not exceed $10 in value.”
The law goes on to stipulate the host of the game cannot be compensated or charge admission or a fee to participate, that the home game cannot be advertised, and that all participants must be at least 18 years of age. Also, interestingly, “a debt created or owed as a consequence of any penny-ante game is not legally enforceable.”
Florida has card rooms located throughout the state, including near Tallahassee and Jacksonville. In the central part of the state, including near Orlando, on the West Coast around Tampa, and down the East Coast from Daytona to Miami.
Poker players in the state can play in stand-alone poker rooms, in rooms located in the state’s many racinos, as well as in rooms at the tribal casinos.
Stand-alone rooms, like bestbet Jacksonville or the ones at racinos like the Palm Beach Kennel Club, are among the busiest and most popular poker venues in the entire Southeast.
The rooms at the Seminole Hard Rock casinos in Tampa and Hollywood are also especially popular, and like the others, they frequently host large tournament series.
Below is a comprehensive list of Florida’s many card rooms.
Most specialize in no-limit hold’em at a variety of stakes, although the larger rooms with 15-20 or more tables will additionally spread pot-limit Omaha, stud games and mixed games.
Most rooms also often run daily and weekly tournaments, with the biggest venues that frequently host tournament series stops for significant national tournament tours, such as the World Series of Poker Circuit, the World Poker Tour and others.
|bestbet Jacksonville||201 Monument Rd., Jacksonville, FL 32225||70|
|bestbet Orange Park||455 Park Ave., Orange Park, FL 32073||40|
|Big Easy Casino||831 N. Federal Hwy., Hallandale, FL 33009||30|
|Casino Fort Pierce||1750 S. Kings Hwy., Ft. Pierce, FL 34945||25|
|Casino Miami Jai-Alai||3500 NW 37th Ave., Miami, FL 33142||12|
|Creek Entertainment Gretna||501 Race Track Rd., Gretna, FL 32332||26|
|Daytona Beach Racing and Card Club||960 S. Williamson Blvd., Daytona Beach, FL 32114||55|
|Derby Lane Poker Room||10490 Gandy Blvd., St. Petersburg, FL 33702||51|
|Ebro Poker Room||6558 Dog Track Rd., Ebro, FL 32437||25|
|Gulfstream Park||901 S. Federal Hwy., Hallandale, FL 33009||19|
|Hialeah Park Casino||100 E. 32nd St., Hialeah, FL 33013||33|
|Isle Casino Pompano Park||777 Isle of Capri Circle, Pompano Beach, FL 33069||38|
|Kings Court Key Poker Room and Jai Alai||355 E. Palm Dr., Homestead, FL 33034||6|
|Magic City Casino||450 NW 37th Ave., Miami, FL 33125||19|
|Melbourne Greyhound Park||1100 N. Wickham Rd., Melbourne, FL 32935||40|
|Miccosukee Resort||500 Southwest 177th Ave., Miami, FL 33194||5|
|Naples-Fort Myers Poker Room||10601 Bonita Beach Rd. SE, Bonita Springs, FL 34135||34|
|Ocala Gainesville Poker||4601 W. Hwy. 318, Reddick, FL 32686||28|
|One-Eyed Jacks at Sarasota Kennel Club||5400 Bradenton Rd., Sarasota, FL 34234||35|
|Orange City Racing and Card Club||822-4 Saxon Blvd., Orange City, FL 32763||33|
|Oxford Downs Poker Room||17996 S. US Hwy. 301, Summerfield, FL 34491||24|
|Palm Beach Kennel Club||1111 N. Congress Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33409||64|
|Pensacola Greyhound Track||951 Dog Track Rd., Pensacola, FL 32506||25|
|Seminole Coconut Creek||5550 Northwest 40th Street, Pompano Beach, FL 33073||23|
|Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood||1 Seminole Way, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33314||37|
|Seminole Hard Rock Tampa||5223 N. Orient Rd., Tampa, FL 33610||46|
|Silks at Tampa Bay Downs||11225 Race Track Rd., Tampa, FL 33626||23|
|TGT Poker and Racebook||8300 N. Nebraska Ave., Tampa, FL 33609||14|
|The Casino at Dania Beach||301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., Dania, FL 33004||24|
The long and winding road toward Florida finally legalizing no-limit poker games in brick-and-mortar card rooms as detailed above (see “Florida poker laws”).
Near the end of the year, that milestone was finally reached.
House Rep. Joseph Abruzzo filed a bill that would authorize operators of retail poker rooms to be able to provide online poker as well. The bill, HB 77, was called the Internet Poker Consumer Protection and Revenue Generation Act of 2011, and was initially referred to as the Business & Consumer Affairs Subcommittee.
Soon afterward, on the Senate side, Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla introduced an identically named bill, SB 812, for the same purpose.
The bill was discussed once, then after languishing a few months, was withdrawn from consideration in May 2011.
In early April 2014, Gov. Rick Scott tweeted, “Although a national ban would be a better approach, I support a ban on internet gaming in Florida,” making clear his staunch opposition to online gambling of any kind. Soon afterward, Scott signed into law HB 155, legislation prohibiting “internet sweepstakes cafes,” which provide customers access to games resembling online slots and video poker.
Scott even carried his anti-online gambling message to the US Congress as well, directly petitioning federal lawmakers to support the Restoration of America’s Wire Act, which would extend the 1961 law to cover all forms of online gambling. That law never passed, though Scott’s non-support for online gambling effectively prevented Florida lawmakers from considering the topic during the rest of his tenure.
During this period, a poker player named Martin Shapiro earned some attention from poker news sites for drafting his Florida-specific bill called the Internet Licensing and Consumer Protection Act of 2016; however, nothing tangible came of his efforts.
While no online poker-related legislation has been considered lately in Florida, the general topic of online gambling has been one of several topics of discussion amid the state’s negotiations with the Seminole Tribe over a new compact.
It would seem that legalizing online poker in Florida is a no-brainer. The state is already home to many large poker rooms and has firmly established itself as a kind of “poker destination” for US players.
Furthermore, with a population of around 21.5 million, there would undoubtedly be an adequate number of players in Florida to make even intrastate online poker viable in a way that would not be the case in smaller states.
The state also currently offers a wide range of other gambling options in addition to live poker, including the majority of casino games. Other types of legal gambling in the state include the lottery, betting on dog racing and horse racing, betting on jai-alai, bingo and other charitable games.
In other words, Florida is, generally speaking, a gambling-friendly state, which would also seem to indicate a good climate into which legal and regulated online poker could be introduced.
That said, the challenges being faced by those wishing to legalize sports betting in the state indicate similar difficulties likely to be met by proponents of legalizing online gambling, including online poker.