Utah Gambling Laws

Utah Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in Utah?

The state legislature of Utah has outlawed all forms of gambling in Utah. When I state that Utah has no gambling, I mean they literally have no legalized gambling of any kind.

That doesn't mean Utah outlaws online gaming and live casino gambling, but has a state-run official lottery. That doesn't mean Utah outlaws slot machines and video poker machines, but allows horse races or parimutuel betting because it's somehow more respectable. It doesn't mean that sports betting is illegal, but charitable gaming for nonprofits is allowed, because it might help out the needy. Utah makes all forms of gambling 100% illegal--with no qualifications and no questions asked.

Legal Real-Money Poker in Utah

There are some states, such as Texas, that are fairly strict when it comes to gambling and poker. Then there are other states, such as South Carolina, that are very strict when it comes to the ways to legally play poker.
And then there's Utah.

It should be already clear that Utah has one of the least forgiving attitudes toward gambling. So it should be little surprise that the state's definition of gambling seems to very obviously encompass poker. Per Section 76-10-1101, state law requires nothing more than an "element" of luck or chance to be present for an activity to meet the definition of gambling, and poker certainly has at least that minimum amount of "some" chance.
Readers who have perused our other state guides, such as California, know that the typical approach of American states is to outlaw all gambling and then selectively permit certain forms (like commercial casinos or lotteries) by law. Utah law does the former, but not the latter.

And with no regulated or legal ways to gamble in Utah, poker players are left empty-handed. No live poker rooms, no ways to play charitable-based poker and no exception for social games of poker. In Utah, if the game involves real money and some luck, it's basically illegal - no exceptions.

Why Does Utah Have No Gambling?

For the people of Utah, their anti-gambling laws are affected by their deep religious beliefs. Sixty percent of the people living in Utah in 2012 are members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, better known as Mormons. The Mormon religion avoids a number of activities that most Americans find standard and normal. Mormons treat their body like a temple and try to avoid anything which might harm that body, such as coffee and tea. It goes without saying that beer, alcohol, drugs, and tobacco are also discouraged. Mormons cite Daniel 1:8 as an admonition to avoid defiling ones body with food and drink.

Latter Day Saints also take a dim view of playing cards. In fact, talk to a Latter Day Saint or former LDS and they'll probably tell you that most any form of card playing was not allowed in their homes. Even games where you don't gamble money are considered time wasters which could act as gateway games to a gambling lifestyle. If people can't play poker, spades, or rummy at their dinner tables, you can imagine what a state with a Mormon majority is going to think about casinos, parimutuel race tracks, off-track betting, lotto games, or even charitable bingo halls. The LDS lifestyle doesn't allow games of chance. Utah isn't likely to allow them anytime soon.

Learn About Other State Laws

You have to give the people from Utah credit for having no hypocrisy in their gambling laws. It's always struck me as a little disingenuous to state gambling is immoral in banning certain types of gaming, but allowing others because they are considered "beneficial" or "socially acceptable". Whether an education lottery or a charitable bingo hall raises funds for the needy, these games still encourage other people to gamble on games of chance. If you think betting on probability is bad, no form of gambling should be acceptable. So give Utah's stance on legalized gambling points for being consistent, at least.

Enforcing and Prosecuting Utah Gambling Laws

The state agency given the duty of enforcing Utah anti-gambling laws is the Utah Police Corps. Local and county law enforcement personnel would said the Utah Police Corps in spotting gambling activities and enforcing these laws. If a gambling case went to court, the Utah Department of Justice would handle prosecution for breaking Utah's gambling laws.

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