Red Dead Online recently received a major update which signaled the end of the beta period. Among the new features was a wave of new story missions, a new showdown mode, anti-griefing measures and - arguably the most celebrated addition - poker. However, this new feature is seemingly blocked in a few countries due to local laws.
Players have been clamoring for the addition of poker to Red Dead Online ever since the game was released. Since poker was present in the single player portion of the game, it seemed like an odd omission. Now that the feature has been added, the reason why it took so long may be clearer.
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While many players are busy hitting the cards in Red Dead Online already, many others have found that feature was seemingly missing. When visiting one of the five locations that allows players to gamble with one another, no option to play poker is available. Initially, this was thought to be a bug before Rockstar Support clarified the issue.
Poker in Red Dead Online isn't available in certain countries which do not allow online betting and gambling. While poker can only be played with RDO$ and not Gold, meaning real money doesn't factor into it in any way, this isn't enough for some countries. The task of untangling the laws of all the places Red Dead Online is available likely took a lot of time, which is why the feature wasn't added before now.
We are sorry to let you know that the availability of Poker in Red Dead Online is dependent on regional laws and regulations and may not be available to all players. In short, poker won’t be available in countries where online gambling is restricted or illegal. We apologize if this had caused any inconvenience. - Rockstar Support
With real money not being involved at all, the question of why the minigame was allowed to be present in the single-player portion of the game is raised. One possible explanation is that the intricacies of the laws in question might allow simulated gambling when it is done alone and without any money involved, but if either of these requirements are not met, it's a no-go.
The way these laws are handled is also an interesting factor, as sometimes it's not just a country that needs to be taken into account, but states or counties, as gambling laws aren't always centralized. Reddit user Igvan points out that poker in Red Dead Online is blocked in Argentina even though real-money online gambling is allowed. However, gambling laws aren't centralized in Argentina, so while some states allow it, others have all forms of online gambling banned. As a result, Rockstar had to disable the feature entirely for all Argentine players.
Rockstar previously faced similar difficulties with the casino in GTA Online. Unlike Red Dead Online, GTA Online doesn't have two separate currencies and players can buy in-game cash with real money, which is the reason most people speculate why the casino never had any gameplay function.