Utah Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Along with Hawaii, Utah has the most hostile stance towards gambling of all the states in the US, and it’s the only American state that prohibits all forms of gambling. You won’t find a legal tribal and commercial casino, or lottery in the Beehive State. Their laws even forbid private/social gambling in homes.

Considering all of this, it seems that there’s not much to write about Utah gambling laws. However, we feel it’s our responsibility to inform the citizens of Utah about the gambling laws in their state, regardless of how conservative or restrictive they might be.

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Gambling Laws in Utah — The Law Overview

Utah’s restrictive attitude towards gambling is embedded in its constitution that has to do with the state’s history and Mormon’s roots. The only time the state attempted to legalize some forms of gambling was in 1925 when pari-mutuel betting was legalized. Only two years later, that law was repealed, and Utah remained a gambling-free state ever since.

Although Utah is home to eight Indian tribes, it refused to sign compacts with them when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was enacted by Congress in 1988. When other states entered the Multi-State lottery agreement, Utah adamantly declined to establish a state lottery. The state even made substantial efforts to chase out DFS operators and establish tighter regulations for poker.

Utah’s gambling is covered by Utah Code 76-10-1101, et deq (Gambling), and Utah Code 4-38-1, et seq (Utah Horse Regulation Act).

Utah Gambling Statutes

The best way to stay on the legal side of Utah’s gaming laws is to avoid placing any bets. Their strict criminal code makes no exceptions for casinos, bingo, poker, or lottery tickets. Due to these restrictive laws, Utah’s residents visit bordering states to purchase lottery tickets or play casino games.

If you gamble on anything within Utah’s state borders, you will be violating the law. Here’s how Utah defines gambling: “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.”

Gambling is listed separately as an offense and is defined differently when considered in this context:

“(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.”

Gambling is considered a class B misdemeanor if it’s the person’s first conviction of such type. If a person has been convicted two or more times for gambling, then it’s a class A misdemeanor. If you get convicted for a class B misdemeanor, you’ll be faced with a fine of up to $1,000 and up to six months in jail. Class A misdemeanors are considered more severe and can get you up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Are There Any Forms of Gambling Allowed?

Unfortunately, there aren’t. As for casino gambling in particular, Utah doesn’t have any commercial or tribal casinos nor do they have any plans to offer them anytime soon. This means that Utahans must cross the state’s borders if they want to gamble.

Even the strictest gambling laws in the US make exceptions for charitable gambling. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with Utah. Article IV of their constitution addresses charitable gambling: “The Legislature shall not authorize any game of chance, lottery or gift enterprise under any pretense or for any purpose.”

Utah is one of the few states in the US that don’t approve a lottery. According to the lawmakers in the state, “it would pave the way for tribal casinos.”

Even social and home poker games are explicitly forbidden by the state’s laws. In fact, Utah has a long history of busting social poker games, including the ones where the house didn’t collect a rake for hosting the games.

Until recently, the Southgate Social Club was the only venue that offered anything that remotely resembles gambling games — free bingo cards. But the authorities recently permanently closed the establishment.

Utah’s constitution has several sections that talk about how online gaming is illegal. Let’s take a look at their statute 76-10-1102 (4)(5):

“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.”

“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.”

Although we didn’t find any records of players being arrested for playing on offshore sites, that’s mostly because offshore operators don’t operate in Utah.

If you want to bet online as a Utah resident, it’s best that you visit Nevada that has a state-regulated poker market or any neighboring state where online gambling is in a legally grey area.

Where to Gamble in Utah?

Considering that there are no legal gambling options in Utah, Utahans’ only alternative is to visit nearby states. The good news is that Utah borders six states that allow casino gambling. These include Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

FAQ

Is it legal to gamble in Utah?

Unfortunately, it isn’t. All forms of gambling are prohibited in Utah.

Is Utah the only state in the US that forbids all forms of gambling?

Utah is one of the two states where all gambling is illegal and the other is Hawaii.

What is the closest casino to Salt Lake City?

It is located in West Wendover, Nevada, which is two hours’ drive away.

Are daily fantasy sports illegal in Utah?

Yes, they are, like all other forms of gambling.

Has anyone ever been convicted for online gambling in Utah?

We found no cases of arrests for gambling online in Utah.