Poker is ‘barely legal’ in Virginia.
With that being said, there are better states for poker players than Virginia. Far better, actually.
You want to follow their rules. You do not want to walk the line. Their penalties are pretty harsh.
§ 18.2-326. Penalty for illegal gambling.
Except as otherwise provided in this article, any person who illegally gambles or engages in interstate gambling as defined in § 18.2-325 shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor.
§ 18.2-328. Conducting illegal gambling operation; penalties.
The operator of an illegal gambling enterprise, activity or operation shall be guilty of a Class 6 felony. However, any such operator who engages in an illegal gambling operation which (i) has been or remains in substantially continuous operation for a period in excess of thirty days or (ii) has gross revenue of $2,000 or more in any single day shall be fined not more than $20,000 and imprisoned not less than one year nor more than ten years.
What they fail to tell you is if they think you’re playing or operating a game illegally, they’ll send in SWAT to break down your door and arrest you.
That’s no joke. It happens often in Virginia. In fact, there was just a story a couple weeks ago of high stakes game being raided by the state’s SWAT Patrol.
So, pay attention to what we tell you below. And, if you have any questions or concerns, get in touch with your lawyer…before you participate (or operate) a game.
Legality of Home Poker Games in Virginia
This is your only opportunity for legal poker in Virginia.
And I say that with a smirk on my face …for two reasons:
1) Their statutes:
§ 18.2-326. Penalty for illegal gambling.
If an association or pool of persons illegally gamble, each person therein shall be guilty of illegal gambling.
“Nothing in this article shall be construed to make it illegal to participate in a game of chance conducted in a private residence, provided such private residence is not commonly used for such games of chance and there is no operator as defined in subsection 4 of Section 18.2-325.”
So, just don’t rake the pot, charge an entry fee or make a profit off food and beverages and you’ll be fine.
Sort of. Which brings us to number 2.
2) SWAT Raids
Someone must’ve forgotten to tell the boys in blue that it’s okay to play poker at home. Because there’s been multiple stories over the last couple of years of SWAT busting private poker games.
One guy even got shot – no joke!
There have been numerous stories about games being busted, even games where more than $150,000 in cash was confiscated from the players involved.
We’ll have to wait to see how this pans out. But according to the report the defense plans to fight this.
This is why I say poker is ‘barely legal.’ It doesn’t sound like everyone got the memo. So, if you do plan to run or play in a home game, make sure you’re following the rules to a “T.”
Online Poker Legality
Online gambling is illegal in Virginia. The state made it so when they passed bills H1584, HB 1700 and S 1195 in 2011.
Usually, this is where I would suggest playing at offshore sites. But considering how serious the state is on busting home poker games, I’m not going to bother.
I don’t think you should, either. Plus, there aren’t a ton of options anyways if you wanted to go down this route.
Casino Poker is Illegal, Too
You will not find any state, commercial or tribal casinos in Virginia. It’s all illegal.
A few years ago (Senator) J. Chapman Petersen introduced SB 849. This would define poker as a game of skill (which would open the door for legal home, bar, league, etc games). However, the bill gained no interest and died within weeks.
How Does The Future Look?
‘Experts’ think we’ll see legislation as early as 2017 or 2018.
No way. Not when you consider how trigger happy they are in busting home poker games, which, supposedly, are legal.
And don’t forget they made gambling illegal just a couple years ago.
There was also a study not long ago where Virginia residents voted 55-33 in favor of banning online gambling.
So, unless poker becomes a game of skill (fat chance) there’s no way we’ll see it regulated in Virginia.
No way in hell.