Montana Legal Poker Laws

Are Poker Sites Legal in Montana?
Montana Legalized Gambling & Poker Laws

Poker seems like a great cultural fit for the state of Montana, and online poker perhaps even more so.  Poker is an individual game that pits person against person, and each player ultimately rises or falls on the strength of their own work and effort.  While live poker is available in several places across the state, online poker appeals to a greater amount of Montanans thanks to the fact that it can be played virtually anywhere.  How to play it, what Montana law says about poker played online and where gambling sits in the larger picture of the state are all topics we'll cover in this Guide to Montana Online Poker.

Online Poker in Montana

Top Legal Online Poker Sites for Montana

There's a trifecta of qualities that poker players from Montana should look for when choosing an online poker room:  Legal, soft and stable.  Legal refers to the site holding a proper operating license.  Soft refers to the weakness of a typical opponent.  Stable refers to the general reputation of the site and the quality of their software.  Based primarily on those three concerns, here are our top Montana online poker sites:

Can Poker Players From Montana Play Poker Online?

If you're from Montana you should find few obstacles in your path to playing real-money poker online.  In addition to our top picks for Montana poker players above, a wide roster of US-friendly poker sites accepting registrations from Montana.  Creating and funding your account should take no more than five minutes, and you'll be ready to hit the tables right after.

Online Poker Legal in Montana

How do Montana law and online poker intersect?  This page is not a substitute for qualified legal advice, but we can provide you with a short list of some of the critical parts of Montana law regarding gambling.

  • The Montana Constitution forbids every form of gambling, unless a form is specifically approved by the state or by voters.
  • That brings us to the definition of "gambling" under Montana law.  Section 23-5-112 defines gambling as "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 or gambling enterprise."
  • We are then led to the definition of "gambling device," which contains references that could be seen as applicable to online gambling: "a mechanical, electromechanical, or electronic device, machine, slot machine, instrument, apparatus, contrivance, scheme, or system used or intended for use in any gambling activity" (Section 23-5-112(13)).
  • Montana law does specifically identify "internet gambling" as a form of gambling that can qualify as an "illegal gambling enterprise"  (Section 23-5-112(19)).
  • It's also against the law in Montana to "advertise for or solicit" participation in illegal gambling (Section 23-5-154). Obviously that phrase could cover a very wide range of potential activity.

For additional information, refer to the official online version of the Montana code [1].  While we do update our pages regularly, the law can change swiftly and you should rely only on the official version of state code for information about the current law.

Will Montana Regulate Online Poker?

Montana will probably not be among the first tier of US states to regulate online poker, but we also can't see the state holding out very long once a few other states are on board.  In that way, Montana's fate on the issue of regulated online poker is essentially out of the state's hands; if federal regulation progresses, we would expect Montana to opt-in rather quickly, but if the process ends up being state-by-state, it could be some time before Montana gets into the game.

Montana Gambling Facts

History of Gambling in Montana

Gambling itself almost certainly traces back to the earliest days of the state, but the Montana government didn't get into the gambling game until 1889.  That's when the new constitution for Montana proclaimed each and every type of gambling illegal.  Best we can tell, that did little to dampen enthusiasm among gamblers, and the activity persisted underground in the decades that followed. 

Montana diverged from the majority of states in the US by wading into regulated gambling very early on (relative to the rest of the nation).  Licensed gambling introduced by law in 1937 sparked a small boom in the state, one that was quelled by a 1950 state Supreme Court decision ruling all forms of gambling once again illegal.  That stood until the 1970s, when a wave of bills and public votes shifted the law of the land back in favor of regulated gambling.

Regulated Gambling Options in Montana

Virtually all of the major types of regulated gambling are available in Montana.  While no commercial casinos of the traditional sort operate in the state, casino-style gambling is still readily available at tribal facilities (Class II and Class III).  Montana also operates a state lottery and permits pari-mutuel wagering on racing events.  

Does Montana Offer any Regulated Online Gambling?

Right now the state of Montana does not license or regulate online poker, online casino games or any other form of online gambling.  That doesn't suggest all forms are illegal, only that you're not able (for example) to play poker online at a Montana-regulated site.

Montana Gambling Resources

Montana Department of Justice [2].  The Gambling Control Division of the Montana Department of Justice oversees all regulated gambling in the state.  Their official website offers definitive answers regarding the law, regulation and other aspects of Montana's regulated gambling industry.

Montana Council on Problem Gambling [3].  The MCPG provides workshops, literature and other resources for dealing with problem gambling. 

Montana Gaming Group [4].  A non-profit corporation that serves as a trade group for a spectrum of business interests related to regulated gambling.  You'll find Montana gambling news, research and links to additional resources at the Montana Gaming Group website.

Montana's Famous Poker Players

Big Sky Country has produced far more than its fair share of famous poker players.  While the total population of Montana isn't that impressive, the state's roster of well-known poker pros certainly is.  You've got Huck Seed [5], main event winner, multiple WSOP bracelet holder, prop bet legend and the champion of NBC's heads up tournament.  There's also Annie Duke, former lead pro for Ultimate Bet Poker and sister of Howard Lederer, who called Montana home during the 90s.  Todd Brunson, poker player and son of legend Doyle Brunson, spends his days in the state and hosts an annual poker tournamentat the Marina City Lodge.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Montana Online Poker