Alabama Legal Poker / Gambling Laws

howard lederer

Legal Gambling & Online Poker Laws in Alabama

In the United States, the two major destinations you think about when it comes to gambling are Las Vegas, Nevada and Atlantic City, New Jersey. The state of Alabama is not exactly a poker player’s paradise. Compared to some states, Alabama’s poker laws are kind of flexible, though it is impossible to find a state-sanctioned public poker game. Thanks to the fact that one of Alabama’s state lines lies on the Mississippi river, a hot spot for riverboat casinos even before Las Vegas existed, some casino gambling does exist.

Can You Play Poker in Alabama Casinos?

The state of Alabama does allow a few forms of legal gambling. Alabama hosts a state lottery and dog racing tracks are particularly popular in the Yellowhammer state. You can also find casinos in the state, though the number of games you can play is severely limited. Unlike casinos in other parts of the world, only a few games are legal in Alabama casinos.

If you walk into a riverboat casino inside state lines, for example, you’ll find plenty of machine gambling and not much else. Slot machines and bingo remain the only games available to Alabama casino players. That’s because state law makes table games, including poker, illegal under most circumstances. With the state of Mississippi right next door, most poker players who live in Alabama will cross state lines to play the game they love in a state with less strict regulations.

Alabama Poker Law

All of Alabama's strict gambling laws were designed to put a stop to organized crime. Concern about gang activity led the Alabama state government to place restrictions on most forms of gambling. Thankfully, the fact that gang activity was the focus of anti-gambling laws means that Alabama law is generally tolerant of what state law calls “non-professional gambling.” That means that poker games played in the privacy of your house or some other private spot are probably okay.

Playing poker or gambling in what state law calls “an unregulated environment” carries a minimum class C misdemeanor.  According to section 13A-12-21 of the state code, "simple gambling" is a class C misdemeanor.  "Promoting gambling" by running an illegal game carries an even harsher penalty.  According to Section 13A-12-22, the promotion of gambling is a class A misdemeanor.

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Alabama?

The definition of gambling according to Section 13A-12-20 of Alabama law says "A person engages in gambling if he stakes or risks something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or someone else will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome."

Learn About Other State Laws

Are Home Poker Games Legal in Alabama?

Though there are no sanctioned public poker games in Alabama, there are ways to play a private game at home with friends. If you plan on doing so, you need to follow guidelines written into state gambling law.

A poker game played at home in Alabama is legal if you’re providing what state law calls "social gambling." The law defines social gambling as a “social game played in a private place.” If charged with a crime for playing an illegal poker game, a defendant in Alabama can defend himself by providing proof that the game was for social purposes, so the state law does provide a way to get out of trouble in case your home game gets busted.

Non-professional gambling in Alabama means you’re not running a game for financial gain. That means it is illegal to charge money for people to play in your home game or to take rake from the game’s pots. Advice to home poker providers in Alabama: don't advertise your home game outside of your own group of friends, and don't try to turn a profit on the game. Follow these guidelines and you can play poker at home to your heart’s content. While you’re at it, make sure that all players at your social poker game are at least 18 years old and remember to maintain a private environment.