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Gambling law in some states can be tricky and subject to at least some interpretation. Gambling law in Utah is much simpler. It just isn’t allowed, period. Utah is in fact one of only two states in the United States, along with Hawaii, where gambling in any form is illegal. There is no gambling regulation at all in Utah, you can’t bet on anything, including playing the lottery.
Utah has been strictly opposed to gambling ever since it became a state. There was a period of a couple of years back in the 1920’s where Utah residents were allowed to wager on horse racing, but this quickly became removed and this is the only legal gambling that has ever been permitted in the history of the state.
As far as looking at the criminal code here, as it pertains to poker playing, it defines gambling as “risking anything of value for a return or risking anything of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, gaming scheme, or gaming device where the return or outcome (I) is based upon an element of chance, and (ii) is in accordance with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”
So it’s pretty clear that this applies to poker, as all that is required as it at least have some element of chance in it. The very nature of poker does have an element of chance, so this definition clearly includes it.
So this would encompass any poker playing for which something of value would be exchanged, including playing for money, and engaging in this while residing in the State of Utah would fall under the definition of gambling.
Utah Law Targets Online Gambling Specifically
As far as making gambling illegal, Utah does not mess around here at all, and specifically goes after online gambling in fact:
76-10-1102 Gambling: (1) A person is guilty of gambling if the person: (a) participates in gambling, including any internet or online gambling.” (2)
So this serves to remove any doubt as to whether playing online poker is illegal in Utah, it certainly is.
The proceeds of gambling are also subject to being forfeited. 76-10-1108 states: “Any gambling bets or gambling proceeds which are reasonably identifiable as having been used or obtained in violation of this part may be seized and are subject to forfeiture proceedings in accordance with Title 24, Chapter 1, Utah Uniform Forfeiture Procedures Act.” (3)
You have to be arrested for online gambling for funds to be seized and forfeited though and to date that hasn’t happened in Utah or anywhere else in the country, although a Utah bank was at the center of the “Black Friday” proceedings, but it was funds held by poker sites which were seized under federal law, the UIGEA specifically, and not state law.
So residents of Utah looking to play online poker must realize that, as is the case with some other states, it is illegal to do so, and beyond question here, but on the other hand it isn’t a law that they are really enforcing.
Playing Poker In Utah
There’s no gambling in Utah that is permitted at all, so obviously there’s nowhere you can play live poker legally, although you can travel to other states to do so, or look for an underground game. It’s probably a lot safer to play online though than play at a game that might get busted and end up having you charged, something that can happen with live illegal games but hasn’t ever been the case with internet play.
Nevada is just to the west of Utah though, so people really don’t have far to travel to get access to all the gambling and poker they can handle. The government of Utah may be missing out on potential tax revenue here, but you really won’t find a state so hell bent against gambling, and given that attempts in recent years to allow for race tracks have been soundly defeated, it’s not likely that you’ll be playing poker in this state legally anytime soon.
The chances of their putting together a poker bill regulating online poker, as some states have done already and more are considering, is as low as they go, especially since the state has passed a bill recently prohibiting them from entering into interstate compacts with other states to allow this. (4)
They don’t even care if online poker is made legal at the federal level, and the bill states that even if this happened they would exercise their powers to opt out of that. It is hard to imagine their stance changing on any of this in the foreseeable future, perhaps not even in our lifetimes, and we could see every state in the country allowing online poker some day and it still may never happen here.
Online Poker in Utah Today?
As far as the prospects of your playing online poker go, while the strict laws, together with the state’s role in the Black Friday affair, have caused some more conservative online poker rooms that accept Americans generally to turn its back on Utah players, but there is still one very good poker site that Utah players are welcome at.
Ignition Poker is one of the highest-rated online poker cardrooms we recommend to players here in Utah. If you are looking to get into online poker for the first time, or get back into it again, you will find this to be a nice poker site, with good traffic and amazingly juicy cash games.
The new reality after Black Friday is that poker is not dead in the United States, as long as you know where to find it, and Ignition Poker is one of those places. So if you are from Utah and you want to play online poker the only thing stopping you is your not having an account at Ignition.
Check them out and get a FREE $5 casino chip and a 100% bonus up to $1,000 should you decide to make a deposit. This isn’t just my most-recommended poker sites for Utah residents, but for most players in most states here in the USA.