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Colorado Poker Laws

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Maroon-BellsColorado is another state that starts its section on gambling laws off with a legislative declaration to set forth how the following laws pertaining to gambling are to be interpreted by the courts. It reads as follows:

“(1) It is declared to be the policy of the general assembly, recognizing the close relationship between professional gambling and other organized crime, to restrain all persons from seeking profit from gambling activities in this state; to restrain all persons from patronizing such activities when conducted for the profit of any person; to safeguard the public against the evils induced by common gamblers and common gambling houses; and at the same time to preserve the freedom of the press and to avoid restricting participation by individuals in sport and social pastimes which are not for profit, do not affect the public, and do not breach the peace.

(2) All the provisions of this article shall be liberally construed to achieve these ends and administered and enforced with a view to carrying out the declaration of policy stated in subsection (1) of this section.” (1)

So in addition to seeking a broad interpretation of the laws here, the goal is expressed as focusing on those profiting from gambling and not the act of gambling itself. It is worth mentioning at this point that Colorado law has a unique definition of “professional gambling,” which means the following:

“(a) Aiding or inducing another to engage in gambling, with the intent to derive a profit therefrom; or
(b) Participating in gambling and having, other than by virtue of skill or luck, a lesser chance of losing or a greater chance of winning than one or more of the other participants.” (2)

So this does not mean deriving one’s income from gambling, it means either running a gambling operation and profiting from that or cheating at gambling.

The most significant part of this directive in reference to poker playing is their seeking to “avoid restricting participation by individuals in sport and social pastimes which are not for profit, do not affect the public, and do not breach the peace.”

This in itself lends itself strongly to not prohibiting gambling which falls in this category, which notably would at least seem to include both social gambling in private games and internet gambling as well, as this could easily be seen as a social pastime in the manner described.

The Actual Gambling Law Itself In Colorado

So let’s look at the actual law in Colorado as far as gambling offenses are concerned. As we look at this, we need to bear in mind the directive of not looking to interfere with social gambling.

Before we can look at the law against gambling we need to look at how gambling is defined in this state:

“”Gambling” means risking any money, credit, deposit, or other thing of value for gain contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, the operation of a gambling device, or the happening or outcome of an event, including a sporting event, over which the person taking a risk has no control…” (3)

This is a pretty standard definition and is set up so that betting on poker is clearly included, since poker hands are contingent at least in part upon chance.

So here’s how the law against gambling in Colorado reads:

“(1) A person who engages in gambling commits a class 1 petty offense.
(2) A person who engages in professional gambling commits a class 1 misdemeanor. If he is a repeating gambling offender, it is a class 5 felony.” (4)

Once again, keep in mind that “professional gambling” means deriving profit apart from the honest play of a player who gains through the means of luck and skill, so that would fall under (1) and would be classified as the offense of gambling and not professional gambling.

A petty offense in Colorado is the least serious of offenses, although it is still a criminal offense.

Playing Poker In Colorado

There does seem to be some conflict here when we look at the actual law and compare it with the legislative directive we begun this discussion looking at. This directive comprises a significant and binding part of the state’s overall gambling law though and is not just there for judges to refer to when the law is unclear.

So looking at the law itself and how it reads then this would seem to make all gambling in Colorado illegal. We do know that there is legal gambling in Colorado though so this section is certainly not the last word, and is subject to modification by other provisions in the law, such as the legislative directive.

So we really need to look at both of these together to determine what forms of gambling are prohibited, and we know that the directive prescribes that we not limit social gambling, so that would presumably not be included, and social gambling may be seen as not just home games but the playing of online poker as well.

You never know how courts will actually interpret laws in practice though, as there was a case in Colorado where persons were charged with running a poker tournament, and the judge found them not guilty because poker was found to be a game of skill and therefore not gambling. (5) It is very difficult to imagine how the judge came to this conclusion as this would require there to not be any element of chance at all in it, but at least it was a friendly one to poker players.

Colorado also has provisions to regulate live poker rooms and there are a total of 10 live poker rooms in the state, in the areas of Black Hawk, Cripple Creek, Central City, and Ignacio. Many of these poker rooms are within easy driving distance from major population centers such as Denver and Colorado Springs and feature a wide variety of stakes to suit the needs of a wide variety of players. (6)

Whether or not online poker is ever found to be illegal or not, and there has not ever been anyone charged with this, players from Colorado continue to play it, and there is at least some leaning toward regulating it down the road. For the time being, there IS legal sports betting in Colorado, as it was just legalized fully back in 2020.

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(1) Colorado Revised Statutes, 18-10-101, Legislative Declaration – Construction

(2) Colorado Revised Statutes, 18-10-102 Definitions

(3) ibid.

(4) Colorado Revised Statutes, 10-10-103, Gambling

(5) Poker Deemed Not Gambling In Colorado Criminal Case

(6) All Live And Online Poker Rooms In Colorado

About the Author

Sadonna Price
Author Sadonna is a mom of two and an avid poker player who also enjoys online casino games. She has been part of the online gambling industry for over a decade, working as a news and blog writer. Sadonna still plays Texas hold’em in her free time while her daily job revolves around providing insights into the online gambling world using her creativity and writing skills.