Montana Online Poker Laws
A 2005 law specifically states that online gambling of any kind is illegal. The government of Montana tried to make all forms of gambling illegal in 1889, but gambling simply went underground. As prohibition was repealed in the 1930s and bars reopened, more gambling took place, so the state legislature passed the Hickey Act in 1937 to legalize licensed table games in some establishments. Trade stimulators were legalized in 1945, which seemed to include slot machines, but then slot machines were made illegal in 1950. That same year, voters decided not to legalize a broad range of gambling by a landslide.
Times began to change, and the Montana legislature approved a number of games – card games, bingo, raffles, and sports pools – in 1973. And a Montana Supreme Court ruling in 1976 legalized video keno as a form of bingo, which was allowed in the state as well.
The 1980s brought the Video Poker Machine Act, which allowed every establishment with a liquor license to offer unlimited numbers of keno machines and five poker machines. The lottery was approved the following year, and all gambling matters became more centralized at the state level of the government.
In 1991, businesses with liquor licenses were allowed up to 20 video gambling machines, though payouts remained limited to $100 or less for a number of years.
After the 1988 federal passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act giving Native American tribes the right to petition state governments for the right to offer gambling on their reservations, four tribes did so in Montana. The Crow, Northern Cheyenne, Fort Peck, and Rocky Boy tribes entered into state compacts and began to offer gambling soon after. The Crow ended up losing their compact, but the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes finalized theirs.
The rest of the 1990s saw video poker machine payouts raised to $800 maximums, but the following decade saw the legislature voting down a proposal to create full-fledged casino resorts in Butte to attract more tourists.
In 2005, the Montana legislature approved a bill that strictly prohibited online gambling.
Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Montana
Since the mid-2000s, there have been no real developments or advancements in the world of gambling in Montana. And the state has not considered any type of online poker or internet gambling, not even in proposal form and certainly not in the legislature.
Montana did legalize fantasy sports but not via any operators outside the state. In fact, the only fantasy sports allowed must be played through the Montana Lottery. Fantasy football and racing can be played via wagers at participating retailers. Any type of traditional DFS with larger operators is strictly prohibited.
Montana Laws Pertinent to Online Poker
The Montana Code puts gambling in Title 23, along with parks, recreation, and sports. Chapter 5 deals with gambling, under which it states its public policy with regard to gambling. The tenets of that policy are:
- To create and maintain a uniform regulatory climate that is fair and not influenced by corruption.
- To protect legal public gambling activities.
- To protect the public from unscrupulous proprietors and operators.
- To protect the state and local governments from illegal gambling that deprives of tax revenue.
- To protect the health, safety, and welfare of all citizens.
- To promote programs for those adversely affected by legalized gambling.
The definitions of several terms are pertinent to poker. First, gambling or gambling activities are defined 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.”
It does not include promotional games of chance, or social card games for prizes of minimal value.
An illegal gambling device is one
“not specifically authorized by statute or by the rules of the department.” One of the included items in this definition is “an apparatus, implement, or device, by whatever name known, specifically designated to be used in conducting an illegal gambling enterprise.”
It then goes on to define said enterprise as including “credit gambling” and “internet gambling.”
Internet gambling is defined as:
“by whatever name known, includes but is not limited to the conduct 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.”
To add to that, card game table is defined specifically as a “live card game table authorized by permit and made available to the public on the premises of a licensed gambling operator.” And a card game tournament is “a gambling activity for which a permit has been issued involving participants who pay valuable consideration for the opportunity to compete against each other in a series of live card games conducted over a designated period of time.”
This all but clarifies that online poker and gambling is not legal, but other sections of the chapter go even further to talk about the types of card games that are legal or prohibited.
Poker is listed as an authorized card game but must be “in a live card game for public play” and “specifically authorized by this part and described by department rules.” And further, requirements for conducting card games names “live card games” that “must be played on a live card game table for which a permit has been issued and on the premises of a licensed operator. In addition, “a live card game of poker must be played in the presence and under the control of a licensed dealer.”
And if that wasn’t clear enough, a Montana Supreme Court case – Haman v. State – ruled that gambling activity must be “specifically and clearly authorized” and “the statutes must be strictly construed.”
Since all of online gambling came under such scrutiny in the 2000s, Montana did everything possible to label its live poker games as legal and under what circumstances, while specifically denoting that online gambling of any kind is illegal.
Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Can I play online poker from Montana?
Answer: The sites we list on OnlinePoker.net do accept players from the state of Montana. However, we cannot recommend playing, nor do we discourage playing from Montana. The laws are very specific that online poker is not legal, so every player must decide whether or not to accept the risk.
Question: Does Montana prosecute online gamers and players?
Answer: To date, they have not. There is no record of online poker players or operators being pursued or prosecuted. However, the specificity of the law makes it a possibility that law enforcement could if they choose to. Again, this makes it a player’s personal decision about that risk.
Question: Why do poker sites accept players from Montana but not some other states?
Answer: Each online poker operator obtains legal advice from attorneys who examine the laws of every state, province, and country in which the operator wants to offer games. The lawyers for the sites listed on this page have determined that there is no danger to players or sites when operating in Montana.
Montana Gaming Resources