As Maine is not exactly a place where regulated gambling thrives, it should come as no surprise that there is no statute on the books authorizing online poker, nor has the state ever seriously considered authorizing it.
The silver lining is that the state hasn’t explicitly prohibited the game, either. It’s left to fall into the patchwork of gambling laws that were written before internet poker even existed. To be certain, the game of poker is gambling, as described above. It’s also certain that there are no laws criminalizing the play of gambling games in Maine, which puts online poker players on the right side of the law.
The question is whether offering games to online is legal or illegal. There’s no good answer. The issue hasn’t been considered by the Maine courts. No matter how this issue is resolved, Maine is not the most attractive state for online poker operators in the absence of interstate player-pooling agreements. The state only has 1.3 million residents (although long, cold winters do ensure that they spend plenty of time inside!)
Tucked up in the northeastern corner of the country, Maine is a surprising bastion of conservativeness when it comes to gambling – including poker.
The only form of authorized and regulated casino gambling in Maine is slot machines. All other forms of gambling would fall under the state’s traditional unlawful gambling law in the Maine Criminal Code. Section 952(4) of that law defines gambling as risking “something of value upon the outcome of a contest of chance”. Contest of chance itself is defined to include any game in which “chance enters as an element that influences the outcome in a manner that cannot be eliminated through the application of skill.” The shuffle of a deck of cards is enumerated as such an element of chance.
Given those broad definitions, poker is almost certainly gambling under Maine law. Moreover, as poker is not expressly authorized by statute, it is considered “unlawful gambling” under Maine law. Maine Criminal Code §953 and §954 make advancing or profiting from unlawful gambling a crime. They do not target players, however.
Unfortunately for Maine poker players, there are no tribal casinos in the state that might provide a back door method of playing legal live poker.
Strangely, Maine’s gambling laws include a definition of social gambling that does not appear to be used in any statute. It has all the typical elements of a social gambling exception – most notably, that nobody profits from the game other than as players – but the definition doesn’t actually make it into any statutory exception to unlawful gambling. It would seem that the intent is to make home games legal under Maine law, although by the very letter of the law they may be illegal.
Prosecution, however, is highly unlikely.