Legal Utah Gambling Laws & Poker Sites

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Utah Legal PokerRelevant State Code: 76-10-1101 et seq.; 4-38-1 et seq.

Gamblers headed in the direction of Utah will want to choose a different route.  Utah takes what can be considered the strictest approach of any state to gambling of all types, and boasts possibly the broadest definition of gambling found anywhere in the US:

Section 76-10-1101(2)(a)
"Gambling" means risking anything of value for a return or risking anything of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device when the return or outcome:
(i) is based upon an element of chance; and (ii) is in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.

Since there are not any regulated forms of gambling in the state, things are very simple when it comes to Utah law on gambling: None of it is allowed anywhere.

Penalties are especially harsh for players and operators in Utah.  Players are initially looking at a class C misdemeanor (click here for jail time and fines) for gambling, but will face a class A misdemeanor for the second offense.  Gambling fraud (cheating) is considered a theft offense.  Those who profit from illegal gambling are looking at a range of misdemeanor and felony charges. 

Despite the hyper-strict gambling laws on Utah's books, the state reported only 3 gambling - related arrests in 2010.  This number seems at odds with recent news reports regarding gambling busts in Utah (see here and here); either enforcement of anti-gambling laws has recently become more of a priority for Utah law enforcement or the statistics provided by the state are incomplete.

Legal Gambling Options in Utah

Utah is one of two states - the other being Hawaii - that has no regulated forms of gambling.

When we say no, we mean none.  There is no exception for social gambling, no exception for charitable gambling, no commercial gambling, no state-sponsored gambling - nothing.

Utah Law Regarding Real Money Poker

As poker is pretty clearly based on (at least) "an element of chance," wagering on poker is almost certainly illegal in Utah.  Since the state has no commercial or tribal gambling and permits no charitable or social poker games, it does not seem possible to play poker for real money legally in Utah.

Playing online poker for money is explicitly illegal in Utah as of July 1st, 2012 (more on that in the following section).

Legal Poker Sites in Utah

Utah is the only state we're aware of that has passed a law that specifically forbids the state from participating in any federal online poker regulatory scheme.  That law, passed in early 2012 under the title Internet Gambling, also amends the charge of "gambling" in Utah law to include "any Internet or online gambling" and creates a new charge (Section 76-10-1102(3)) for providing online gambling to anyone in the state.

The law went into effect on July 1st, 2012.  You can view the complete history and full text of the law here.

Will Utah Take Part in Regulating and Legalizing Online Poker?

Utah is absolutely the least likely state in the US to regulate online poker sites.  Expect the state to be a vocal opponent of any related action at the federal level, and to continue their prohibition on all forms of gambling for the foreseeable future.

Written by Christine Davies

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