Montana Legal Poker Sites

Montana StateMontana is best describes as a real mixed bag when it comes to gambling and poker games. On one hand there are a staggering 141 casinos in this State, that’s more per head of population than anywhere else in the US. At the same time, Montana has already outlawed online poker and do not take advantage of the fact that they are grandfathered out of the Federal ban on betting on pro sports either.

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Live Poker Games In Montana

Most of the casinos in Montana are small local affairs, with only a handful offering poker – with just a small number of tables in each. There are no venues big enough to host large scale regional or national tournament events – with the one exception being the Todd Brunson Montana Challenge in Big Fork, MT.

Otherwise the best you can really hope for is some lower stakes cash game action and the occasional sub-$100 tournament. Surrounding States and the large distances involved unfortunately offer little in the way of alternate destinations. The best bet for most Montana live poker fans is to head for Washington State or take a short flight to Las Vegas.

Are Home Games Legal In Montana?

Yes, you can enjoy home games in Montana. The usual rules defining home game must be rake or entry free-free with nobody profiting from running the games applies here. You will also find an additional ‘small stakes only’ stipulation in the MT laws on poker home games. Interestingly there is no actual definition on the books as to what small stakes means. We can only assume that defining this is up to the individual judge on a case-by-case basis.

There do not appear to be free to enter bar poker leagues in Montana. Charity poker tournaments do run under this State’s good causes legislation, though since the aim is to raise money for good causes, the prize pool structure might not be quite what you expected.

Online Poker Games In Montana

In 2005, an amendment was passed by the Montana Senate which made all internet gambling activity, including online poker, illegal. This pre-dated the UIGEA – the federal act which outlawed many of the financial transactions between US banks and gambling sites. This limits the number of the legal offshore sites which Montana residents can access, though there are still some opportunities available.

At the time of writing, no individual poker player has ever been arrested (let alone charged) with illegal online gambling activity. If you do wish to play from Montana, then please check with a lawyer familiar with this State’s Statutes first.

In general, Montana is not an anti-gambling State. This leads some commentators to believe that there is still a possibility of regulated online poker here at some point. With only just over 1 million residents, Montana would need to join other States in some liquidity sharing deal to make online poker sites viable here.

What Do The Montana Gambling Statutes Say?

It is the ‘element of chance’ which makes betting on a game illegal under Montanan law. This effectively rules out the poker skill argument, since you do have to bet and there is an element of chance – at least in the short term. Like in many States, what you’ll find here is that Montana use a very broad definition of gambling to make everything possible illegal – and then have individual clauses which carve-out the legal gambling games which they regulate.

There are two interesting parts of the law books from the perspective of poker players, first of all the definition of gambling, and second of all the definition of internet gambling activity.

Here is the definition of gambling from Section 23-5-112

…risking any money, credit, deposit, check, property, or other thing of value for a gain that is contingent in whole or in part upon lot, chance, or the operation of a gambling device…

Here is the definition of illegal internet gambling:

…the use of communications technology that allows a person using money, paper checks, electronic checks, electronic transfers of money, credit cards, debit cards, or any other instrumentality to transmit to a computer information to assist in the placing of a bet or wager…

Note that it is using a computer to deposit and bet that is illegal. Both of these are activities that the player makes – so they are covered as well as the operators of these games.

Montana Poker – Summing It Up

With so many casinos, it is a shame that there are not more card rooms in Montana offering a decent spread of live games. With the exception of the Todd Brunson Challenge, this State lacks serious activity in any of its 141 casinos. Home-games thrive here, and you probably already know if your game is breaking the ‘small stakes only’ carve-out from the gambling laws.

Internet gambling and poker games have been banned here since 2005. There are still some offshore poker sites welcoming MT residents. Many commentators believe that once online poker is established around the US, Montana will follow – only time will tell whether this will happen.