Online Poker and Gambling Laws in Utah
2021 Update: Is Online Poker Legal in Utah?
No, there’s still no regulated online poker in Utah. In fact, if you were going to bet on which state is the least likely to legalize online poker, Utah would be the favorite. Utah is a very strict state when it comes to gambling and is only one of two states that has absolutely no form of gambling out there.
It’s doubtful that online poker will come before they legalize a lottery. A good barometer for states willingness to expand gambling laws is how the state legislature reacted to the 2018 Supreme Court ruling overturning PASPA. PASPA, of course, outlawed sports betting throughout the United States and one of its main architects was Sen. Orrin Hatch from Utah. Not a good start. Secondly, after the ruling, a spokesperson for Gov. Gary Herbert said:
“Governor Herbert appreciates the Supreme Court’s reaffirmation of states rights to regulate gambling within their borders, a right Utah will exercise by continuing to prohibit gambling within our state.”
Utah Gambling Laws and Poker
Utah has strict and extensive laws regulating –well, outlawing and penalizing– gambling. Gambling is outlawed in the state constitution but it’s also covered in the Utah Code. Utah Code Section 76-10 covers every legal aspect of gambling in the state of Utah. The most basic part of any set of laws regulating gambling is defining what gambling actually is. This is the foundation that the rest of the law is built upon.
In Utah, gambling is defined as:
“Risking anything of value upon the outcome of a contest, game, scheme, or gaming device when the return or outcome is based upon an element of chance and is in accord with an agreement or understanding that someone will receive something of value in the event of a certain outcome.”
The key word here is chance, especially when it comes to poker. That’s because Poker was ruled to be a game of skill by a federal judge in 2012. This is what paved the way for Nevada to legalize online poker and then other states followed. What’s interesting here is the qualifier “an element of chance.” While poker is a game of skill, no one could argue that there’s no element of chance involved. Poker definitely falls under the Utah code.
Can I Play Online Poker on PokerStars in Utah?
Nope. Back before Black Friday in 2011 you could play PokerStars in Utah and all over the United States. But after that the site was barred from the United States for years. It’s only recently started making a comeback and is currently in two US states: New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
New Jersey was the first state to allow PokerStars back in and Pennsylvania followed suit in 2019. The site isn’t as big as it used to be though, since each state has segregated player pools. There are some sites that have emerged that take players from all 50 states though. Sites like BetOnline, Bovada and Ignition Poker have turned out to be pretty good PokerStars alternatives for US and Utah poker players. They have great rakeback and signup bonuses as well as great tournament series and guarantees.
If you want to read more about them, check out our full reviews below:
What forms of Legal Gambling are There in Utah?
If you’ve been reading up until this point, you’ve probably guessed the answer: None.
Utah is just one of two states –the other is Hawaii– that doesn’t have any kind of legal gambling in the state. There are no horse tracks, no state lottery and charitable gaming isn’t even allowed in Utah. Gambling is outlawed in the state constitution and the state’s heavily conservative legislature and state government has never made any step towards changing that.
Utah is not a gambling state at all and chances are good that it’ll never be one. The small relief for gamblers is that they’re fairly close to Nevada, a state that’s the nation’s capital when it comes to gambling.
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