Utah Legal Poker Sites

Utah StateMany people see Utah as the ultimate anti-gambling State. While there is a lot of truth to this Statement, this is certainly not the very worst place to live if you enjoy the occasional gamble. I would argue that South Carolina is worse (due to their distance from any gambling-friendly States) and Hawaii equally as restrictive. You can enjoy bar league poker games inside Utah, and with Nevada next door – poker is not too distant. Utah have made online gambling illegal, and preempted any Federal legislation with a built-in opt-out.

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This page takes you through all the options open for playing poker from the State of Utah. First of all you will find options for live casino poker rooms – which involve leaving the State. Next one area where there are some opportunities to play is covered, in my coverage of social poker games. Online poker comes under the spotlight next. After this a look at the Utah Statute books for passages which relate to poker games can be found – before a quick-fire summary at the end.

Utah Live Poker Games

You will not find any casinos or poker rooms in Utah itself. By driving west from the Salt Lake City area for just 2 hours, you will reach the Nevada town of Wendover. This town has grown from a truck-stop to a complex of casinos and entertainment venues – and poker games can be found here. The success of Wendover is a clear demonstration that Utah residents have an appetite for both casinos and poker games. Colorado to the east also provides plenty of casino action, though nothing as immediately accessible as Wendover.

Are Home Games Legal In Utah?

No forms of real money gambling or poker are legal inside Utah, and this includes social home-games – which are prohibited. Enforcement of this law does occur, though the headlines about raids are usually for underground games rather than genuine social poker between friends or colleagues. Charity poker does not run in this State either.

Free to enter bar poker tournaments are the only legal poker games with prizes in the entire State. The prizes are usually very small (for example dinner vouchers for the tournament winners or entry into a bigger prize ‘finals’ tournament). There are examples from bingo where prizes are bigger and the participants buy expensive meals and drinks by way of ‘payment’. These have come under the scrutiny of law enforcement agencies, so it is best to stick to the completely free games if you want to stay completely within the law.

Utah Online Poker Games

Utah strengthened what was probably the strictest anti-gambling code back in 2012. The new addition to the law specifically outlaws gambling and poker over the internet. It also contained wording which would exempt Utah from any legal Federal regulated gambling setup.

Some offshore poker sites do offer games to residents of Utah, who have never prosecuted any individual player for enjoying those games. It is not known how many accounts from this State are active at these poker sites – which operate from the Caribbean. If you do choose join the tens of thousands of Americans enjoying these games every week, then you need to do your own research into the legal risks first.

What Do The Utah Gambling Statutes Say?

For something to be considered as illegal gambling in Utah, three things must be true. The risk of something of value (bet or buy-in), the game of chance or chance elements, and the ability to win something of value in return. Without any one of these, it can be argued that an activity does not count as gambling at all. It is this logic which allows the free poker leagues to run – since there is no risking something of value involved.

Arguing that poker should be exempted as a game of skill is not really possible in this State. This is covered by the ‘element of chance’ wording in the main gambling definition. Here is the relevant passage, from Chapter 76, 1-1101 of the Utah code:

…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:

(i) is based upon an element of chance; and

(ii) is in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome…

Utah Poker – Summing It Up

As long as residents can get to Nevada without too many problems, things will never be that bad in Utah. Freeroll poker leagues are just about the only form of the game you can enjoy in this State. Some offshore poker sites do welcome residents of Utah to their tables, though the State itself has expressly made internet poker games illegal. It is vanishingly unlikely that Utah will ever regulate online poker games.