Each state in the US has its own laws regarding gambling. Some have banned all forms of it outright, while others promote it to enhance revenue intake and tourism. Most, however, have taken the in-between route, whereby they allow gambling in a limited form, mostly for charitable ends.
Montana is a massive state with a sparse population – just over 1 million people are spread out over an impressive 147,000 square miles. It is also one of the most liberal when it comes to social and charity gambling, with loads of gaming options for such a small populace. They also allow tribal casinos, legal sports betting, a lottery and horse racing. That said, Montana’s laws regarding online gambling are decidedly less liberal – in fact, they explicitly prohibit it.
So if you’re a player from Montana, are there any ways you can circumvent this anti-online gambling law? Moreover, are there strict penalties levelled against anyone caught playing online casino games? And what about online gaming like fun play casinos, mobile social casinos, Facebook casinos, free play online casinos, social casino apps, and free fun online slots?
Find out as we take a closer look at the gambling implications for Montanans.
A Brief History of Gambling in Montana
In the 1800s, the early settlers of Montana brought with them an explosion of raffle-type lottery games. However, as had happened in many of the other western states of the US, a crack-down resulted, with a complete ban being implemented in 1910 due to the crooked and unregulated nature of these games. But by the time the Great Depression had ended in the 1930s, the first off-shoots of legalised gambling began – table games became lawful, and small land-based casinos began to pop up over time. There were also a few twists along the way.
Slot machines became incredibly popular, and these too were legalised and taxed, only to be deemed unconstitutional in the 1960s. In 1991, a Federal ban on pro-sports betting was implemented across the United States; however, Montana and three other states – Nevada, Delaware, and Oregon – were grandfathered out of/made exempt from this ruling. Curiously, Montana does not exercise this right, allowing only pari-mutuel betting when it comes to horse racing, as well as fantasy sports and tab games. Montana’s most recent gambling twist arrived in 2015, when the state banned gambling on the Internet, including poker games, serving to undermine the state’s otherwise progressive laws.
What’s Legal and What’s Not
The legal age limit for gambling in Montana is 18. The only exception to this rule is raffles piloted by churches, non-profit organisations and charities – under 18s are allowed to take part in these. Gambling operators are allowed to accept debit cards, but not credit cards, when it comes to the exchanging of cash. As for which gambling options are legal and which are not, here’s a quick rundown:
- Live games: Those legalised include raffles, keno, fantasy sports leagues, sports tab games, panguinge, shake-a-day, and bingo. These are regarded as non-banking games – in other words, players can bet against and settle with each other, as opposed to the house.
- Live poker: The biggest source of legal poker comes from saloons and bars that have gaming licences.
- Charitable games: Accepted charities can offer raffles, keno, bingo and casino nights, as well as selected card games. The caveat here is that 100% of the proceeds go to the charities.
- Tribal casinos: All gambling on Native American/First Nations land is sanctioned by a federal law known as IGRA (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act). Here you can enjoy class 2 and 3 gaming, which includes slots, blackjack, craps, and roulette.
- Casino games: Despite Montana’s small population, there are an incredible 141 licensed brick-and-mortar casinos – these are, however, quite small, containing only a few tables, so not in the same league as casinos in other states.
- Sports betting: Montana is one of only four states that do not ban pro-sports betting. However, they have chosen not to authorise sportsbooks, and this type of betting is restricted to horse racing.
- State lottery: A major source of revenue for Montana, so yes, you can play the lottery – this includes all the main interstate games.
- Online gambling: In 2005, Montana outlawed online gambling and unfortunately, there is little room for interpretation. That said, there is no instance of an online gambler from Montana ever having been arrested or sentenced for simply gambling online. For this reason, you will find selected offshore casino, sports betting and poker sites that do accept players from Montana, including fully licensed and regulated operations like Bovada, 5Dimes, BetOnline, and Lucky Red. If you choose to play online, we do recommend you proceed with caution. However, if you choose to operate an online gambling site yourself, be aware that you can definitely be arrested.
- Free online gaming: Take note that if you do a search for fun play casinos, mobile social casinos, free play online casinos, social casino apps, free fun online slots, and how to play Facebook casinos, you will be fine. These are not considered illegal, as no money can be exchanged and won in return.
Montana has pretty progressive rules regarding land-based gambling, with the widest choice of licensed casinos of any state within its borders. That said, it doesn’t have the mega casinos that you find in other states. There are, however, plenty of opportunities with regards to horse racing, the lottery, charity bingo games, and more. Make sure you’re aware of the caveats, as outlined above.
Online gambling is where you could run into a few snags. While players from Montana are accepted at selected, fully licensed and regulated offshore casino sites, and no-one has ever been arrested for Internet gambling, there is a Montana statute explicitly prohibiting it. If you choose to play online, please be aware of this and make sure you’re of legal age, and that the offshore casino is recommended and licensed. There isn’t much of a push to make online gambling legal in Montana, but seeing as some states have regulated it and seen significant revenue increases generated to its coffers, you never know…Montana could follow suit. Till then, there are still free fun play casinos and more if you want to play it safe. Watch this space!