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Online Gambling in Utah


There are states that are in love with the gaming industry, and others that have a more complex relationship with casinos and lotteries, uncertain of how much expansion they want now, or in the future. In many states that do not have casino gaming at the moment, it’s possible or even likely that it will eventually arrive sometime in the near future.

But Utah is different. If there is one state in the USA that will be the final holdout in allowing gambling to take hold, this is it. Not only is there no way to legally place a bet in the state now, it would be shocking to see that change in 10, 20, or even 50 years, and the state government isn’t any more likely to start regulating Internet gambling in that time.

Religious and Cultural Opposition Reigns

Since 1847, Utah has been inexorably linked with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That’s when Mormon pioneers first came to what would become the Beehive State. From the time the area became a territory, to when it was granted statehood in 1896, through the current day, this has made it a deeply religious and conservative state.

Today, the state is known for many great things: friendly people, beautiful cities, and some of the country’s most picturesque landscapes. But the deeply religious culture has left the state government with a strong anti-gambling sentiment, one that prevents any efforts to develop a gaming industry in Utah from gaining even the slightest foothold.

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Virtually No Activity in State

This backdrop makes Utah one of just two states (along with Hawaii) in the US that has absolutely no form of regulated gambling within its borders. That means no lotteries, no casino resorts, and no horse racing.

That doesn’t mean that nobody has ever placed a bet or gambled a bit during their time in the state. Bingo games have occasionally popped up, and people play in small-stakes poker games pretty regularly. But authorities even try to stamp out this activity from time to time, a sharp reminder that gaming isn’t really at home here.

Perhaps the closest thing that the state had to a period of expansion came in the 2000s, when – like many other states – Utah had a brush with businesses attempting to install video terminals that offered slot machine-like features, but which owners said skirted around state laws. As in many other locations, local authorities eventually shut down a great number of these locations, though some apparently continue to operate to this day.

Online Regulation Won’t Happen

Any thought that Utah’s lawmakers would somehow take a softer stance on Internet gaming is little more than a pipe dream. Beginning in 2008, state legislators began passing laws that would insure that they had the right to determine whether online gambling would be allowed in the state, and in 2012, a bill officially required the state to preemptively opt out of any federal online poker or casino networks.

That’s the kind of thing that might make you wonder whether any Internet gaming sites exist in the state at all. Certainly, those rather strong laws have caused some companies that offer games in other parts of the United States to back out of Utah.

But other firms still allow Utahns to take part in real money casino games over the Internet. These safe and reputable operators offer ways for residents in the state to make deposits and withdrawals, making real money online play a reality.

It is worth noting, however, that Utah’s anti-online gambling laws are unusually strict. This is one of the few states that actually has laws against simply playing such games, as the 2012 law made it a misdemeanor offense to even play at online gaming sites in the state. That said, it is not a felony – and to the best of our knowledge, this law has not been enforced against any individual since it's inception. However, it is still best to know the situation in the state before jumping into playing.

Future Developments Unlikely

While it would be nice to dream of a future where attitudes change dramatically and cracks start to show in Utah’s resistance to the idea, it is extremely unlikely that we’ll see any sort of gaming expansion here in the near or medium-term future. The cultural opposition is simply too strong to make any such outcome realistic, and efforts to change that immediately encounter strong resistance.

That analysis applies perhaps even more to the world of virtual slots and table games. For all these reasons, it’s easy to rate this as the least likely state to regulate Internet casinos in the future.


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