Montana Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Gambling existed in Montana long before it became known under that name. It was used as a solution for making decisions that were considered difficult. For example, the head of a Native American tribe would turn to stick games to decide who would get a piece of land or animals like horses and cattle.

This eventually led to the beginning of gambling in Montana, as the tribes started betting on horse races among themselves. Additionally, they started organizing archery contests and placing wagers on them as well. At that time, the term gambling wasn’t in use at all.

When conquerors from Europe arrived in the US, they continued the practices of Native Americans. But, for them, this was not the first time to participate in gambling activities. Moreover, they were already familiar with some advanced forms of gambling with cards that they shared with the tribes.

In 1889, gambling got its official name which started a series of events both for and against the activity.

In this text, you will find a thorough description of Montana gambling laws and legal gambling options available today. Without further ado, we will start from the year when the story officially began.

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Gambling Laws in Montana — The Law Overview

Although gambling was widely practiced in Montana, it wasn’t legal at the very beginning. What is more, in 1889, the state decided to make it officially illegal. The new constitution banned gambling entirely throughout the state. Yet, people didn’t seem to pay attention to the new law and gambling continued to live illegally.

In 1910, the other Western states followed the lead and prohibited gambling as well, but it was still secretly present. Finally, the ban on gambling activities was repealed in 1933, and all the bars and gambling establishments started working again. Also, a new form of gambling called pull-tabs was introduced and was instantly favored.

The first law that dealt with table games was passed in Montana in 1937. It was the Hickey Act, and it was meant to regulate table games like blackjack, bridge, dominoes, and others. Only the establishments that were legalized by the state could offer these games, provided that they paid the annual tax.

Several years later, the state decided to put gambling under control by restricting allowed games of chance to be offered by “fraternal, charitable, and nonprofit organizations” only. However, bar owners didn’t find it hard to register their establishments as nonprofit organizations and go around the law again. The gambling situation went on like this until 1949 when the state decided to put a stop to it and fix the legislation cracks.

In 1973, the Card Game, Bingo, Raffles and Sports Pool Act was accepted in Montana, followed by a type of a live bingo game called video kino.

The 1980s were all about video poker games that had a love-hate relationship with the legislature. First, everyone was totally against it, and the Montana Supreme Court compared them with slots and declared illegal in 1984. Then, only a year later, the legislature had a change of heart and passed the Video Poker Machine Act, thus allowing bars to offer five video poker machines. Soon after, the Montana Lottery was regulated as well.

During the 1990s, many bills were proposed, accepted, and rejected. The state managed to sign casino compacts with Native American tribes and change a few things to finalize the list of allowed gambling forms. In 2005, the Treasure State officially banned online gambling, which was very unpleasant to hear.

Nevertheless, the laws have constantly been changing until the present day, meaning that Montana might change the decision regarding online gambling as well.

What Forms of Gambling Are Allowed in Montana?

Montana is one of the states with the most permissive laws related to gambling. Charity gambling is the oldest gambling variation in Montana that had its ups and downs but managed to stay present in the state’s gambling picture.

Bingo, raffles, keno, and casino nights were the games initially offered by the charities. Later on, the list got updated, and now they also provide games like bridge, cribbage, hearts, panguingue, pinochle, poker, rummy, solo, and whist. Charity gaming brings along some terms that need to be met so that this type of gambling could be treated as legal.

Pari-mutuel betting on horse races is legal in Montana, as well as off-track betting from bars and casinos that have a license to offer this activity. The Montana Lottery is also permitted and includes in-state lotteries, scratch-offs, and multi-state games such as Powerball and Mega Millions. Yet, Montana is the least successful out of all 45 states in terms of lottery revenue.

One thing that Montana allows and most other states don’t is social gambling. Therefore, if you want to host a poker night at your house or organize office betting pools, you can do so, but only if no one is funding or profiting from those private activities.

Sports betting is officially legal in Montana, but at the moment, there are no sportsbooks available in this state. It is announced that the residents of Montana will be able to place bets on sports in March 2020.

Lastly, there are two types of casinos in Montana: bars and taverns and tribal casinos. In bars and taverns, you can find up to 20 video gaming devices for video poker, video bingo, and video keno. These casinos don’t pay in cash but print out a receipt that you take to the cashier in order to get your money. On the other hand, tribal casinos offer only class II video gaming.

Montana is not against gambling in general, but it is one of the few states in the US that strictly prohibits online gambling. They explicitly mentioned the ban on internet gambling in their legislation from 2005, and they did it in such a way that there is no space for any compromises. Even Daily Fantasy Sports fall under this category and are considered illegal in Montana.

The only allowed form of online betting is the off-track betting on horse races from bars and casinos.

Although Montana law specifically targets online gambling operators, some of them do offer online games to the residents of this state. Until this day, there has been no evidence that an online gambler in Montana suffered any consequences for visiting offshore online casinos.

Where to Gamble in Montana?

While it frowns upon online gambling, Montana, on the other hand, offers plenty of brick-and-mortar establishments where you can have a good time playing your favorite games. We have mentioned only a few, but you are invited to explore all the options you can find.

Gray Wolf Peak Casino

The Gray Wolf Peak Casino works from 8 AM until 3 AM from Sunday to Wednesday,  while it is open for 24 hours on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. It is located at 20750 US-93, Missoula, MT 59808, and offers something for everyone. There are casino games, various dining options, as well as entertainment shows. If you don’t trust us, feel free to visit their site where you can go on a virtual tour of the whole place and all it has to offer.

The Warden’s Grand Casino

The motto of The Warden’s Grand Casino is that “you need a casino with lots of different game options under one roof.“ For this reason, the mentioned gambling establishment offers the machines that feature over 150 games to choose from, including Poker, Keno and Reel game options. They regularly update the game offer, and currently have twenty new machines with the latest games. They provide food and drinks too, so you won’t need to worry about that either. Therefore, don’t waste any more time and go to 1720 Grand Ave, Billings, MT 59102. Make sure to visit it during working hours, as it opens at 8 AM and closes at 2 AM.

Crystal Lounge Casino

The Crystal Lounge Casino offers poker and keno machines, as well as live poker. Additionally, this relaxed bar organizes karaoke every night where the best performers get a free drink. It offers a variety of events while Happy Hour is their trademark. You can enjoy their amazing offers at 101 N Broadway, Billings, MT 59101, from 9.30 AM until 2 AM every day.

FAQ

Are casinos legal in Montana?

Yes, two types of casinos can legally operate in Montana. There are bars and taverns that offer video gaming devices, and tribal casinos where you can find class II video gaming.

Is online gambling legal in Montana?

No, online gambling is not legal in Montana. Moreover, the law explicitly prohibits internet gambling, including Daily Fantasy Sports.

What games can you gamble on in Montana?

Montana offers gambling in the form of charity and horse racing, lottery, social gambling, legal sports betting, and numerous gambling establishments such as bars, taverns, and tribal casinos.

What is the legal gambling age for players in Montana?

To be allowed to gamble in Montana, you must be 18 or older. The only exception is the raffles conducted by churches, schools, charitable and nonprofit organizations, that accept players under 18.

Who regulates legal forms of gambling in Montana?

Gambling in Montana is regulated by the Montana Gaming Control Division.