Complete Guide to Gambling in Montana
Montana is known for a few different things, including agriculture, ranching and its national parks (i.e. Yellowstone, Glacier Park). Gambling, however, is not one of the notable aspects about Big Sky Country.
Though gambling is not a notable point in Montana, they do seem to have a thriving charity gambling industry, with over 290 gaming venues spread throughout the state.
Unfortunately, this same acceptance does not extend to online gaming. In fact, Montana has harsh laws against internet gaming, which we'll discuss below.
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Online Gambling and Montana Law
As we'll cover below, Montana is one of the few American states that explicitly bans offshore gaming companies.
Technically, this means that potential operators should steer clear of Montana. But do they?
You'd be surprised at how many offshore casinos, sportsbooks and poker sites ignore the state's legislation. Below, you can see exactly what Montana's criminal code says about internet gaming along with the safety of playing there.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Montana?
No, online gaming operators aren't supposed to offer their services in Montana.Here's an excerpt from section 23-5-112 (21)(a) of their criminal code that explains the matter:
"Internet gambling, by whatever name known, includes but is not limited to the conduct of any legal or illegal gambling enterprise through the use of communications technology that allows a person using money, paper checks, electronic checks, electronic transfers of money, credit cards, debit cards, or any other instrumentality to transmit to a computer information to assist in the placing of a bet or wager and corresponding information related to the display of the game, game outcomes, or other similar information."
Montana makes exceptions for state lottery retailers and licensed simulcast facilities to offer online wagering.
But it's pretty clear from the definition above that offshore operators (i.e. those outside the US) aren't supposed to offer gambling in the state.
Interestingly enough, most major gaming sites ignore section 23-5-112 (21)(a), and continue offering their services in Montana.
Are Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in Montana?
No, the Treasure State also bans daily fantasy sports (DFS) through section23-5-802.While this penal code allows for pari-mutuel and season-long fantasy sports, it closes the door on for-profit leagues over the internet:
"Fantasy sports leagues authorized. It is lawful to conduct or participate in a fantasy sports league, including a fantasy sports league that is operated under a pari-mutuel system of wagering regulated under Title 23, chapter 4. It is unlawful to wager on a fantasy sports league by telephone or by the internet."
State Rep. Forest Mandeville attempted to legalize DFS in 2005. But House bill 181 never garnered any serious attention, and was grounded in a committee hearing.
Unlike offshore gaming sites, leading DFS companies DraftKings and FanDuel stay out of Montana and other taboo markets to keep from jeopardizing their standings in legal markets.
Can I Get Arrested for Gambling Online in Montana?
This is a complex subject. Let's preface it by saying that Montana has never arrested anybody for gambling online.
Theoretically, they could pursue an online gambler under certain statues.One is Article III, Section 9, which covers Montana's definition of illegal gambling:
Another is found in section23-5-112 (14), which discusses an illegal gambling device:
"All forms of gambling, lotteries and gift enterprises are prohibited unless authorized by acts of the legislature or by the people through initiative or referendum."
"[A] mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic device, machine, slot machine, instrument, apparatus, contrivance, scheme, or system used or intended for use in any gambling activity."
Based on these laws, Montana could create a case against an internet gambler. But we've yet to see any state use vague legal language to harass online gamers.
We can't 100% guarantee that you won't be arrested, but the odds of this happening to you or anybody else are extremely slim.
Should I Trust Offshore Gaming Sites?
This is another subject that doesn't have a concrete answer.
But in most cases, yes, you can trust offshore casinos and sports betting sites.
The majority of gaming sites are reputable businesses - otherwise, they wouldn't draw repeat business. Any site that doesn't fit into this category will quickly find themselves without a customer base.
Of course, you'll find a few bad apples that process withdrawals slowly and/or have terrible customer service. Also remember that you can't be totally confident in offshore sites since they don't have any government oversight.
The key is that you do proper research before depositing, which we'll cover next.
How do I Find the Best Offshore Casinos?
Here are a few important things you want to do before signing up and depositing at an offshore gaming site:
- Read Reviews
- Look for Customer Complaints
- Check Deposit Options
- Number of Games
- Bonuses and Promotions
- Restricted States
The more reviews you read on an offshore casino, the better you can compile a good opinion on them.
Are customers complaining about a certain issue over and over again?
Does a particular site have a deposit option you can use? Most Montana-friendly offshore sites at least have Bitcoin, which any player can access.
Everybody enjoys good game variety, and your casino should offer this.
Bonuses, promotions and loyalty rewards can improve your chances of winning. This is another aspect that any good offshore casino should offer you.
Many Montana-friendly casinos restrict specific states over laws and/or legal incidents. The Treasure State is normally accepted at most casinos, but keep in mind that it can also be on the restricted list due to its strict laws.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Montana. Gambling Venues in Montana
Where to gamble in the state of Montana. The History of Gaming Laws in Montana
A brief history of Montana laws regarding gambling. Montana Gambling FAQ
Taking a look at the questions Montana gamblers have asked. The Furture of Gambling in Montana
What does the future of gambling look like in Montana?
More Gambling Laws in Montana
Sports Betting Legal
Montana is unique in that it's only one of four states that can legally offer sports betting.
Along with Delaware, Nevada, and Oregon, they're exempt from the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) of 1992, which bans sports wagering on a federal level.
If you're expecting to find Nevada-style sportsbooks in Montana - don't. The only sports betting products they offer include fantasy football and racing. Going further, you choose individual players and racecar drivers, much like a DFS game.
Pro sports leagues have fought vehemently trying to prevent sports wagering in fear of point-shaving scandals. Rather than risking lawsuits by trying to expand their betting activities (like Delaware and Oregon) Montana has kept their sports betting limited.
Charity Gaming & Poker Legal
As mentioned earlier, Big Sky Country has a massive charity gambling industry. And they have a separate set of laws that govern these games.
Countless bars and restaurants around the state offer approved charity gaming, including bingo, casino nights, keno and raffles.
The charity gaming laws have been amended to include a number of card games. These include bridge, cribbage, hearts, pinochle, poker, rummy and whist.
Any organization that runs these games must give 100% of the proceeds to their state charity.
Commercial & Tribal Casinos Legal
Montana doesn't allow commercial casinos, but they do have a few tribal casinos around the state.
The tribal casinos are approved to offer electronic games like blackjack, roulette and slot machines. The slots are under the Class II category, meaning their results are determined by virtual bingo drawings rather than a random number generator.
One reason to gamble at the tribal casinos over charity establishments is that they have higher limits. Smokers will also appreciate that these venues are exempt from the state's smoking ban.
Horse Racing Legal
The Treasure State features a very limited pari-mutuel industry with one active racetrack in Yellowstone Downs. This establishment only offers races in the summer.
Racing enthusiasts can also visit the simulcast facilities located around the state.
While Montana is one of 45 states with a lottery, they also have the lowest lottery revenue in the U.S. They make $60 million per year selling scratch-offs, Mega Millions, Powerball and state lottery tickets.
Social Gambling Legal
The Montana constitution excludes social gambling from other forms of illegal gaming. Section 23-5-112 (13)(c) explains this as follows:
"The term does not include social card games of bridge, cribbage, hearts, pinochle, pitch, rummy, solo and whist played solely for prizes of minimal value."
This is similar to charity gaming, where nobody from a social gambling function can take a cut of the action.
Gambling Venues in Montana
If you're looking for major casino resorts, then Montana isn't the place. But, like I said earlier, the Treasure State is full of smaller charity establishments and a few tribal casinos.
We counted over 290 bar, lounges and restaurants that offer Class II charity gaming. Many businesses take advantage of legal charity gambling because it's a great way to attract patrons.
Considering that Montana spans 147,040 square miles, it's a good thing that residents have so many different gaming options.
For the sake of time, we won't list everyplace that you can gamble in Montana. But you can see a few venues below.
Because they have the most options and offer higher limits, the best places to gamble in Montana are the tribal casinos. Here's a list of 6 tribal casinos in the Treasure State.
Best Western & KwaTaqNuk Casino
49708 U.S. 93,
Polson, MT 59860
Buffalo Rivers Casino & Lodge (being built)
US-2 &Bia Rd 150,
Poplar, MT 59255
Charging Horse Casino & Bingo
Lame Deer, MT 59043
Glacier Peaks Hotel & Casino
46 Museum Loop,
Browning, MT 59417
Gray Wolf Peak Casino
Missoula, MT 59808
Silver Wolf Casino
300 Montana 25,
Wolf Point, MT 59201
History of Gambling in Montana
Montana, like many other states, has been slow to embrace gaming.
In the late 1800s, they banned every type of gaming. It wasn't until 1939 that their legislature finally made some headway by allowing counties to offer some forms of gambling.
Things really heated up in the 1990s, when the state government negotiated casino pacts with three different tribes. This paved the way for casino gaming in the state.
Unfortunately, Montana became one of the few places to ban online gaming in 2005. But as we discussed before, the language only covers operators.
Montana's Constitution bans every form of gaming.
Voters reject legislation to allow casino gaming.
Montana Supreme Court rules that slot machines are legal.
Card Game, Bingo, Raffles and Sports Pool Act legalized.
State congress passes Video Poker Machine Act, which allows liquor venues to offer video poker and keno.
State government negotiates casino pact with Crow, Fork Peck, Northern Cheyenne, and Rocky Boy Tribes.
DFS bill fails to advance past committee level.
State senate approves season-long DFS bill.
Pari-mutuel betting begins without being legalized.
Hickey Act allows counties to legalize certain table games.
Voters approve measure to allow both residents and congress to decide gambling matters.
Montana Supreme Court rules that video poker machines are illegal.
Voters approve Montana Lottery.
Legislature bans online gambling
Montana Gambling FAQ
The gambling section of Montana's gaming laws is pretty straightforward. The main questions that players have revolves around online gaming, because you'll still find offshore sites operating here.
That said, let's clear up the confusion by discussing some FAQs about Montana's gaming market.
Offshore casinos and poker sites avoid certain states for the following reasons:
- The state has taken legal action against online gaming sites before.
- The state has a licensed and regulated legal gaming environment.
If a state doesn't fall into one of these two categories, chances are that an offshore casino will offer services to their residents.
Obviously, Montana's criminal code serves as a deterrent to some companies because it clearly states that internet gaming is illegal. But without any legal action backing the ban, most gaming sites aren't scared to serve Montanans.
It takes resources and manpower to pursue legal action against an offshore gaming company. Most states don't see prosecuting internet gaming sites as a good use of their resources.
In 2011, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York prosecuted some of the world's largest online poker sites, but this was a federal attorney's office acting out of one of America's largest states.
The odds that a state Montana's size (1.04m people) would launch a major online gaming case are slim to none.
For one thing, there's little precedent for prosecuting online gamers.
In fact, the only case we can find where somebody was arrested solely for internet gaming is Roland Benavides, an Oklahoma City police officer, and this case had just as much to do with Benavides' job performance as it did internet gaming.
Montana doesn't seem too concerned about people gambling online. In fact, they don't specifically address their citizens playing online casino games at any point in the constitution.
As we covered before, there's broader language that could be applied against internet gamers. Chances are extremely low that the state would take such a hardline stance against players.
The only serious move that Montana has made towards legalizing online gaming includes the HB 81 fantasy sports legislation that drew a vote. Other than this, they've never seriously discussed the matter.
Montana is likely to stay in a grey area for quite some time for two reasons:
- They aren't actively pursuing legal action against online gaming sites.
- They're not in serious discussion to launch their own iGaming market.
The first point means that offshore casinos will continue operating in Big Sky Country for the foreseeable future. The second point means that it'll be years before Montana seriously considers their own market.
Montana has two main sources that you can reference for additional information on their gaming laws:
- Montana Gambling Control Division
- Montana State Constitution
The Gambling Control Division site is located at the Department of Justice, and they regulate most forms of gaming in the state. The only gaming that the Control Division doesn't regulate includes horse racing and the Montana Lottery. Here, you can find FAQs and other info on the state's land-based forms of gaming.
This site covers the gambling section in Montana's constitution. Specifically, you'll find info on the bingo & raffles, Card Games Act, casino nights, fantasy sports leagues, state lottery and the Video Gaming Machine Control Law.
The Future & Your Views
When it comes to tolerating online gaming, Montana is in the bottom half of American states. They specifically mention that "illegal gambling enterprises" can't offer internet gaming to their residents.
Montana closes any loopholes by discussing how it's illegal for companies to accept any manner of payment for online gaming services.
We're not sure why Montana was so quick to ban iGaming operators in 2005. The unfortunate part is that they aren't even close to offering regulated online gaming in the future.
At the time of this writing, the state senate approved a season-long DFS bill for contest entries under $35, but this is hardly what anybody envisions when they think of regulated iGaming.
The reality is that Montana isn't a very big state, and they don't stand to gain much from legal online gaming. Moreover, the status quo will likely remain for years.
The good news is that numerous offshore sites are still serving Montanans. As long as you do proper research, you should be able to find good offshore casinos and sports betting sites.