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Montana Poker Laws & Legal Gambling

Montana Gambling & Poker Laws Reviewed
Montana Poker Laws & Legal Gambling
Last Updated April 11, 2021

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.

What Forms of Gambling Are Legal in Montana?

State Code Section(s)23.4; 23.5; 23.7
Definition of GamblingRisking 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.
Definition of Illegal Gambling EnterpriseA gambling enterprise that violates or is not specifically authorized by a statute or a rule of the department. The term includes internet gambling.
Definition of Internet GamblingConduct of any legal or illegal gambling enterprise through 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 and corresponding information related to the display of the game, game outcomes, or other similar information.
Definition of Promotional Game of ChanceA scheme, by whatever name known, for the disposal or distribution of property among persons who have not paid or are not expected to pay any valuable consideration or who have not purchased or are not expected to purchase any goods or services for a chance to obtain the property, a portion of it, or a share in it.
Legal Online Poker / Internet GamblingMontana legislators have not yet considered any proposals to legalize online poker or any type of online gambling. In fact, state laws were updated in 2005 to specifically prohibit internet gambling.
Live PokerPoker is legal in licensed card rooms throughout the state.
CasinosNative American tribes have compacts under IGRA to operate casinos with slot games and various gaming machines, but there are no table games allowed. There are card rooms and poker parlors open throughout Montana, though, which offer non-house-banked games.
Sports BettingThere have been no efforts to legalize and regulate sports betting.
DFSThe Montana Lottery offers a restricted type of fantasy football betting, but broad daily fantasy sports legislation is not under consideration.
Other Forms of GamblingLottery, bingo, on-track pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, charitable gambling, keno and raffles, keno and video poker machines.

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:

Is Online Poker Legal in Montana?

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 in Montana.  Creating and funding your account should take no more than five minutes, and you’ll be ready to hit the tables right after.

What Does the Law Say About Gambling & Poker 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 .  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

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.

Right now the state of Montana does not license or regulate online poker sites, 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.

All Poker and Gambling Laws by State

Montana in the News
  • January 12th, 2015

    Now that the 2014 gaming statistics have been tabulate, it’s clear that video gambling revenues continue to decline in the state of Montana. The numbers declined by 0.2 from 2013 to 2014, according to the Montana Justice Department’s Gambling Control Division. While that might not sound like a major decline,

    Read Full

Montana Gambling Resources

Montana Department of Justice.  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  The MCPG provides workshops, literature and other resources for dealing with problem gambling.

Montana Gaming Group.  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, 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.

About Jennifer Newell

Jennifer began writing about poker while working at the World Poker Tour in the mid-2000s. Since then, her freelance writing career has taken her from Los Angeles to Las Vegas and back to her hometown of St. Louis, where she now lives with her two dogs. She continues to follow the poker world as she also launches a new subscription box company and finishes her first novel. Jennifer has written for numerous publications including PokerStars.com and has followed the US poker and gaming market closely for the last 15 years. Follow Jen on Twitter

Disclaimer: The information on this site is my interpretation of the laws as made available online. It is in no way meant to serve as legal advice or instruction. We recommend that you seek legal advice from a licensed attorney for further or official guidance.

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