Many still remember the event that ignited the poker boom in 2003. On that warm spring afternoon, the teeming crowds filling the Binion’s Horseshoe gambling hall must have been amazed at the outcome of the event. Chris Moneymaker, who was playing at his first live poker event, made an epic win at the World Series of Poker and bagged a whopping $2,500,000. It was a glorious win for the new poker lord and a boon for players from Tennessee.
Tennessee might have been the birthplace of the poker boom, but that doesn’t mean poker is loved in the state. At the moment, poker is absolutely 100% illegal in Tennessee. Unlike Texas, where there are few legal casinos, Tennessee has no such options. So how do you survive if you are a poker lover looking to enjoy your favorite game in Tennessee?
What hope is there that the poker situation in the state will improve? What options can you engage in legally without attracting the attention of law enforcement agents? Here are our honest and insightful answers to these questions.
Poker Sites We Recommend
The History and Future of Tennessee Gambling
There isn’t much to say about poker in Tennessee besides that the state is one of the most restrictive regarding gambling. Tennessee has always been more extreme in its gambling laws, even compared to other states that do not permit most gambling, like Utah and Texas. In Utah, there are a few bar leagues, and Texas has some Native American-run casinos. But in Tennessee there are zero options. No Tribal casinos, no parimutuel betting, few charitable gambling organizations and few gambling events annually.
A long time ago, TN was the center of a buoyant gambling industry, and in 1796 when Tennessee became a state, gambling was a popular way of life among its people. Gambling thrived in the area throughout the 19th century and well into the early 20th century. But little by little, a sustained shift in social beliefs led more people to turn against gambling.
Many horse racing establishments ran out of funds and closed. Charitable wagering and poker games were banned. The situation worsened in 1949 when a US Senator and Tennessee resident Estes Kefauver began the march against gambling. In the wake of this operation, TN was rid of most forms of gambling. It was not until 2003 that the state legalized its real-money educational lottery.
Cake wheels, reverse raffles, and cake walks are all permitted in TN. However, the state lottery remained the only legal form of gambling till 2019, when house bill 01 was effected. This bill permitted the licensing of online sports books. In 2015, a second bill was raised to legalize card rooms, but this bill met an untimely end at the Senate subcommittee.
It’s bad enough that there are no casinos currently operating in Tennessee but what’s worse is the fact that there are no loopholes in the gambling law that can be exploited in favor of land-based poker. After the failed 2015 attempt, in 2016, the Global Poker site used the state sweepstakes law to operate legally in the state. So, poker lovers can at least play sweepstake online poker.
Given the gambling situation in TN, gamers might want to consider migrating to Mississippi and other neighboring states to enjoy a poker game. It is highly unlikely that the TN legislature will favor the gambling sector anytime soon.
Can You Play Online Poker In Tennessee?
Short answer – yes, but options are limited. The state’s laws do not allow real-money gambling of any sort. Only a few exceptions exist, and these do not often appeal to poker lovers.
For Tennessee residents seeking to play poker, they can either play with sites hosted outside Tennessee or play sweepstake poker with Global Poker. Global Poker is US-based and legal. Owing to its use of sweepstake gambling laws, it can provide legal games and tournaments for cash rewards. Aside from this option, the only other choice available for TN poker fans is for them to travel to neighboring states.
So yes, you can play online poker in Tennessee even though online poker is illegal within the state. All you have to do is join a site hosted outside the state, or use Global Poker Sweepstake. It might also reassure you to know that despite the state’s laws against online gaming, no online poker gamer has ever been prosecuted. Federal statutes like the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) and the Wire Act are directed more against those running the game than simple participants.
Is Online Poker Legal in Tennessee?
In 2006, the UIGEA forcefully removed the option to play online poker games from over 300 million US citizens, including residents of Tennessee. Despite the victory of Chris Moneymaker three years earlier, the story remains that in TN, online poker games for real money are not allowed.
It’s sad to see that despite the glory that Moneymakers’ win brought to Tennessee, none of the prominent lawmakers wanted to make the state into a poker player’s paradise. The state still stands in a conservative position against gambling. It doesn’t seem that the state of Tennessee will flinch from its staunch anti-gambling stance anytime soon.
Maybe a glance at the gambling laws around online gaming will help you better understand the situation. According to the laws of Tennessee, an event equivalent to wagering anything valuable based on chance qualifies as gambling. The law is found in Section 39-17-501.
This section makes it clear that casino games are illegal, and even simple games among friends or at public gatherings. However, there is some hope that one day in the future online poker in Tennessee could become legalized, as sports betting was legalized in 2019. This happened because some Tennessee state officials considered exploring the possible benefits of online betting.
When Will Online Poker in TN Be Legalized?
Once upon a time, online poker was the most prevalent form of poker in the US. Sites such as Partypoker, Full Tilt Poker, and PokerStars were at the forefront of this poker drive. These sites were more popular than offshore card rooms. Poker and poker lovers thrived unfettered in all parts of the US.
Gradually, many states began to impose restrictions until eventually, states like Tennessee had prohibited most forms of gambling.
The tight-knit religious communities, absence of Native American casinos, and poor legislative response have all added together to make Tennessee an online poker wasteland. Suppose the federal government approves the online poker bill, Tennessee, like Utah, would likely opt out of the opportunity.
Gambling Laws in Tennessee
Tennessee’s gambling laws are some of the most stringent in the US. Legal betting options are limited to a few charitable wagers, a state lottery, a tiny number of horse tracks and a handful of regional lotteries.
Tennessee’s firm anti-gaming regulations do not provide the loopholes or exceptions that are commonly found in other similarly hostile states. No social or private games may be played in homes, offices, or other private spaces. Non-profit bodies can conduct bingo games to raise funds, but anything that appears like gambling will not be tolerated.
Tennessee statutes contain two distinct types of charges for illegal gambling. There are punishments for individuals who engage in gambling and those who participate in gambling-promoting acts. Anyone caught in the act of wagering a bet will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor and could receive an accompanying fine of up to $50. Setting up a poker gaming house to earn money is classed as a Class B misdemeanor and carries an accompanying fine of $250.
Anyone who finances or supervises a wagering tournament could be charged with a Class E felony and receive $10,000. Depending on the gravity of the offense, there could also be an accompanying jail term.
According to the Tennessee criminal code, betting is considered illegal whether or not skill is one of the factors employed in attaining the desired results. So, TN online poker gamers would not be able to sustain a case here. Online gamers often argue that because they are participating in a game where the outcome is dictated by their skill, the gambling laws have no hold on them. This line would not work in TN.
Is Sweepstake Online Poker Legal in Tennessee?
In many states of the US, sweepstakes are considered the go-to option where real-money gaming has been prohibited. In Tennessee, although sweepstakes are not illegal, there are several restrictions on some types of sweepstakes. For example, TN residents are prohibited from engaging in online sweepstakes sponsored by manufacturers of wines and liquors. Sweepstakes can also be deemed illegal if those participating in the game are mandated to make donations or purchase products.
Who Regulates TN Online Poker?
There is no agency specifically designated for the regulation of Tennessee online poker because it is not legal in the state.
Best Tennessee Online Poker Real Money Sites
As we mentioned earlier, Tennessee players who want to play poker for real money in the state can try out offshore sites. They have not been deemed legal but they are not regulated by the Tennessee government. Some of the best options include:
1. Ignition Poker
Online poker games offered by Ignition can be accessed from various devices. The site offers a 100% bonus for poker games and another $1,000 for several other casino games. Ignition poker has earned its place as the site with the highest traffic in TN, and has a reputation for being one of the friendliest sites. Whether you enjoy the ordinary sit-n-go games,, lottery-style jackpot poker or even the no-limit Hold’em all these games are available at Ignition.
2. Bovada Poker
Bovada poker is the mother of Ignition poker, and offers the same games. Besides poker games, there is a sports betting section here. You don’t need to keep two accounts if you enjoy poker and sports betting. You can keep all your online gambling within the same account on Bovada. On this betting platform, you can get 100% up to a $500 poker bonus, $1,000 (x3) casino bonus and $250 sports bonus. Bovada gives more bonuses if deposits are made in Bitcoin.
3. Everygame Poker
Everygame poker site is certainly not one of the big dogs in poker gaming, but it stands out for certain reasons. The foremost of these reasons is its bonuses. Gamers at Everygame poker can get poker reloads, a 36% rakeback, and regular tournament overlays. There are no deposit bonuses, and there are weekly rake races and many free perks for customers.
4. Americas Cardroom
To be able to play in Americas cardroom, players need a PC. Only a very limited number of devices can access the entire card room experience. You need to make an initial deposit, and then you can get 100% up to $1,000 in bonuses.
5. BetOnline Poker
This site is rated as one of the best online poker sites for Tennessee residents. Not only is it very reliable when it comes to pay-out speed, but it also offers a great variety of tournaments and cash games, fantastic welcome bonuses and large weekly prize pools. BetOnline was created in 2001, and is a sophisticated poker betting platform.
Is online poker legal in Tennessee?
Local gamers are not allowed to play in land-based poker houses in TN. However, no laws prevent TN residents from playing poker at sites hosted outside the state. So, if you are a poker lover, you can certainly play real-money poker by engaging sites like Americas Cardroom, Everygame or Bovada Poker.
Will real-money online gambling in TN be legalized soon?
From the standpoint of legislators in Tennessee, it doesn’t matter if E-Gaming is the next big thing. They are unconcerned about whether other states are legalizing E-Games or if more brick-and-mortar betting rooms are being constructed. So, probably not.
Can I play at more than one poker site?
Definitely! You can play online poker at more than one poker site. Even if you are already a registered customer at one site and later find another with some qualities you like, you can join that new site. For instance, one site might offer more games while another offers more bonuses; do not rob yourself of the fun. Sign up with both sites and get the best of both worlds.
Are there state-licensed poker sites in Tennessee?
Even though sports betting has become legal in Tennessee and sports lovers can bet legally online within TN, there are no state-licensed poker sites in Tennessee.
What is the minimum gambling age in TN?
You have to be 18 or older before being able to place bets on the limited gambling options TN offers. If you want to place bets on Tennessee sports, you must be at least 21 years old.
Why is poker illegal in TN?
TN is home to many religious and political embellishments, and these might be reason enough to put up a stance against gambling as a whole.