All in One Guide to Gambling in Utah

Utah is one of only two states in the United States that doesn’t have any
form of regulated gambling. In fact, the only types of gaming you might find
there are free-to-play bingo or poker.

This page is meant to be a comprehensive guide to Utah gambling sites.

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Online Gambling and Utah Law

Is Online Gambling Legal in Utah?

No, gambling online is illegal in Utah.

This is what the Utah Constitution says about online gambling:

“If any federal law is enacted that authorizes Internet gambling in the
states and that federal law provides that individual states may opt out of
Internet gambling, this state shall opt out of Internet gambling in the manner
provided by federal law and within the time frame provided by that law.

(5) Whether or not any federal law is enacted that authorizes Internet
gambling in the states, this section acts as this state’s prohibition of any
gambling, including Internet gambling, in this state.”

In most states, there are no laws that specifically mention Internet
gambling. But in 2012, Utah specifically banned Internet gambling of any form.

Besides outlawing online gambling, they also stipulated that if the federal
government legalizes online gambling in the U.S., Utah can still keep Internet
gambling illegal in their state.

Can I Get Arrested For Gambling Online in Utah?

Yes, you could get arrested for gambling online in Utah, but it’s not likely.

Law enforcement is not too interested in online gambling customers. As with
most crimes in the vice category, law enforcement focuses on the businesses
providing the illegal activity, rather than their customers.

Our advice is simple: Obey the laws where you live.

We’re also aware, though, that some readers are interested in more than just
the letter of the law. They’re interested in the risks associated with gambling
online. For them, we’d suggest that playing a slot machine on the Internet is
unlikely to result in an arrest or a conviction.

Here’s what the Utah Constitution says about gambling misdemeanors:

“Gambling is a class B misdemeanor, except that any person who is convicted
two or more times under this section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.

A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor who intentionally provides or
offers to provide any form of Internet or online gambling to any person in this
state.”

Is Utah Going to Legalize Online Gaming?

Unless there’s a major change in the politics, it’s unlikely that Utah is
going to legalize online gaming.

A few states have legalized a regulated form of Internet gaming, and many
more states have shown interest in it.

Utah though, has done the exact opposite by passing a law the strictly
prohibits online gaming–even if it’s legalized in all other states.

This might have something to do with the Mormon, conservative population, but
that’s just speculation on our part.

How Do I Choose a Good Online Gaming Site if I Live in Utah?

We’re aware that some of our readers are going to look for Utah gambling
sites. We offer the following advice to such readers:

  • Read Reviews
  • Search for the name of the site along with the word “review”
    or “complaint.” Reading reviews from past or present members best helps you get
    a better idea about the site and some red flags that other users might have
    found. You might include “Utah” in the search string to get a more specifically
    located result. (Player feedback from someone in Utah might have more relevance
    for you.)

  • Game Selection
  • Make sure the site you’re thinking about signing up for has
    all the games you’re interested in playing. It’s silly to sign up for a site
    that only offers slots and video poker if you’re mostly interested in playing
    baccarat and blackjack.

  • Customer Service
  • Talk to the customer service team to get a feel for how
    professional they are. You want to know how quickly they get back to their
    customers or members. You don’t have to ask something involved. Just a generic
    question about payback percentages on their slots or about the deposit options
    available will give you a feel for the customer service experience there.

Are Offshore Gambling Sites Safe?

Legitimate offshore gambling sites are generally safe.

But how can you tell if the site is legitimate?

The two main factors to look at when checking offshore gambling sites
legitimacy are their licensing and how long they have been in business.

Checking out the site’s licensing helps you in several ways. First, it tells
you what regulations they must follow to be licensed. Some areas have stricter
requirements, and some give a license to practically anyone. A site licensed in
the United Kingdom is more trustworthy than a site licensed by the Canadian
Kahnawake tribe-all other things being equal, anyway.

Second, you should learn the type of fees involved with running the site.
Some sites must charge a certain percentage, and that percentage varies based on
where the offshore site is based. Sites which can afford more expensive licenses
tend to be better run and more reliable.

Some offshore gaming sites are only able to offer gaming to certain states in
the U.S. Researching their licensing can provide you that information also. Most
(but not all) of the sites we recommend on our site welcome real-money gamblers
from Utah.

Checking into how long a site has been in business gives you a good idea
about their legitimacy. If a site has been in business for a long time, it’s
likely that the customers are happy and loyal. Also, if they’ve been in business
for a long time, they are most likely completely legal in the jurisdiction where
they operate.

Are Daily Fantasy Sports Legal in Utah?

Utah doesn’t have any laws that talk about daily fantasy sports. They do
recognize skill versus chance when defining illegal gambling though.

Gambling in Utah is defined as games based on chance, not skill.

If daily fantasy sports are found to be games of skill, then they’re legal in
Utah. To date, there are no court cases to provide a precedent or legal opinion
on the matter.

Utah residents haven’t shown any push to officially legalize daily fantasy
sports. Law enforcement seems uninterested in keeping anyone from playing daily
fantasy sports as well.

More Gambling Laws in Utah

  • Casino Games: Illegal
  • Sports Betting:Illegal
  • Racing Betting:Illegal
  • Lottery: Illegal
  • Bingo: Illegal
  • Social Gambling: Illegal with the Poker Exception

The Utah Constitution defines gambling as the following:

“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.

(b) "Gambling"; includes a lottery and fringe gambling”

The Utah Constitution says this about determining if someone is guilty of
gambling:

“1) A person is guilty of gambling if the person:

(a) participates in gambling, including any Internet or online gambling;

(b) knowingly permits any gambling to be played, conducted, or dealt upon or
in any real or personal property owned, rented, or under the control of the
actor, whether in whole or in part; or

(c) knowingly allows the use of any video gaming device that is:

(i) in any business establishment or public place; and

(ii) accessible for use by any person within the establishment or public
place.”

Thus, practically all forms of gambling are illegal in Utah.

Casino games: Illegal


It has been long argued that poker is a game of skill and not chance. The
Utah laws don’t define the difference; they just say that any gambling game of
chance is illegal.

The Wasatch Poker Tour hosts poker tournaments in pubs and sports bars
throughout the state. These tournaments cost no money to enter and offer cash
prizes.

They get away with offering this type of gambling because the players don’t
risk any of their own money or property to play. Another point they push is that
poker is a game of skill, not chance–so it doesn’t fall under Utah’s definition
of gambling.

In 2007, a state rep of Utah tried to outlaw any gambling-like activities.
The goal was to end these bar poker games, but the rep’s attempts failed.

Other than these poker bar games, you won’t find any type of casino games in
Utah. Craps, roulette, slot machines–they’re all outlawed in Utah.

Luckily for Utah residents that do want to gamble, Nevada is a neighboring
state.

Sports and race betting: Illegal


Greyhound racing is both illegal to run and wager on in Utah.

Horse racing is regulated and legal in Utah, but any form of wagering on it
is illegal. Pari-mutuel wagering on horse races was once legal in Utah, but only
for two years. It’s common to find horse races at county fairs for
entertainment.

Lottery: Illegal


The Utah Constitution defines lottery as the following:

“any scheme for the disposal or distribution of property by chance among
persons who have paid or promised to pay any valuable consideration for the
chance of obtaining property, or portion of it, or for any share or any interest
in property, upon any agreement, understanding, or expectation that it is to be
distributed or disposed of by lot or chance, whether called a lottery, raffle,
or gift enterprise, or by whatever name it is known.”

A Utah lottery isn’t something that’ being heavily pushed for. A Facebook
page promoting a Utah lottery and a website selling t-shirts with phrases about
the Utah lottery is the closest thing the state has seen.

Bingo: Illegal


Some states allow bingo games for profit. Others allow bingo games for
charitable reasons only.

Utah doesn’t allow either.

Under Utah law, bingo is defined as a game of chance, which makes it clearly
illegal.

But some restaurants in Utah have found a loophole that allows them to get by
with offering bingo.

In these restaurants, you buy a meal and receive free bingo cards with it.
Although some legal actions have been taken against restaurants like this in
Utah, they didn’t accomplish much.

The result of the legal actions included three main points.

  1. These restaurants can’t have the word bingo in the name of their
    restaurants.
  2. Each customer that makes a purchase must be asked if they wish to play
    bingo also. The restaurant can’t assume they want to.
  3. All snacks sold at the restaurants must be at a state regulated cost.

Restaurant owners have justified this by saying it’s just free bingo that
customers pay nothing extra for. It’s no different from when kids go to an
arcade restaurant and get free tokens for buying a pizza.

Social gambling: Illegal with the poker exception


Utah would like to prevent home poker games, but if the house isn’t making
any profit, law enforcement doesn’t act against them.

One case where law enforcement did take action was when a man was renting an
apartment for the sole purpose of hosting poker games. The man charged $5 a
hand, and profited around $350 each night. The man tried to justify this by
saying he was unemployed and that this was his only income. The officers shut
down the operation.

Casino style games like poker, blackjack or roulette are legal at home if no
money is spent to enter. If money is wagered, these games are illegal in a home
environment.

Gambling Venues in Utah

Other than restaurants that offer free bingo and the poker tournaments hosted
in bars with free buy-ins, no gambling venues in Utah exist.

The following link leads to the Wasatch Poker Tour website that has weekly schedules
and locations of where they host their poker games.

These poker games are free to enter, and players can win both cash and point
prizes.

History of Gambling in Utah

1875

Utah declares that all forms of gambling are illegal. This law doesn’t get rewritten for another 98 years.

1925

Pari-mutuel betting is legalized. Pari-mutuel gambling becomes the only legal type of gambling in Utah history.

1927

Pari-mutuel betting becomes illegal again.

1973

The Utah code is completely rewritten.

2012

Utah bans online gambling.

Additional Resources


  • Deseret News
    – This link is to a news article discussing Utah gambling laws and interviews
    with some business owners from Utah.

  • Utah Horse Racing Commission
    – This link is to the Utah Horse Racing Commission where you can find
    information on horse racing and laws in relation to horse racing.

  • Utah State Legislature
    – The Utah State Legislature Page has information about their gambling laws.

The Future & Your Views

We can’t see much progress happening with Utah’s gambling laws in the future.
We’re guessing games of skill like poker and daily fantasy sports will
eventually be outlawed, too.

Legal, regulated Utah gambling sites online are unlikely. Internet gambling
laws in Utah are clearly written and very strict.

No one really knows what the future holds though. Demographics in the state
might change, and if they do, attitudes about what constitutes a vice and what
doesn’t will likely change, too.