Utah and gambling only enter the same sentence when the words “doesn’t have” appear between them. Few states have been as consistent in their refusal to entertain gambling in any form.
The Beehive State has no legalized gambling whatsoever – not even a lottery. In fact, the law covering this activity is in a chapter of the criminal code entitled “Offenses Against Public Health, Safety, Welfare, and Morals.”
Absolutely not. It is explicitly banned in the state criminal code. In fact, the law goes so far as to state that even if online gambling is legalized on the federal level (or delegated to the states), it will remain illegal in Utah. Basically, it is difficult to find a more hostile environment for online gambling than Utah.
Social casino options
All of the typical social casino options are available in Utah. Zynga, Slotomania, Double Down Casino, and Big Fish are all playable through mobile devices and Facebook.
However, exercise extreme caution playing these games in Utah. Its law against gambling is so comprehensive, definitive, and restrictive that even playing these types of games could be construed as a violation – particularly if players use MyVegas or any other site that has a real-world reward component.
State casino operator history
Utah’s history as the stronghold of the Mormon faith is well-documented. Part of that faith entails living vice-free – gambling, alcohol, and even caffeine are forbidden under the tenets of the belief system.
To that end, the sum total of anything that could be called gambling in the state occurred between 1925 and 1927, when pari-mutuel wagering was legalized, and then quickly repealed. Since then, voters have roundly rejected any move in that direction, with the exception of bingo – bingo halls are mildly acceptable, although even in those cases, the operators have to use a convoluted scheme where they charge for food and bingo is technically free.
It is also important to realize Utah’s population is severely clustered in the northern and northwestern portions of the state. The seven most populous cities fall within 80 miles of each other in a roughly north-south line along Interstate 15, with Salt Lake City as the hub. The opportunities that might exist in places like Durango, Colorado, Northern Arizona, or even Las Vegas (which is easily accessible from the southwestern corner of Utah) are simply not feasible for the vast majority of the state.
Many Utah residents travel north to Idaho if they want to play the lottery. As far as casinos go, the most likely destination is West Wendover, Nevada, which is contiguous with its Wendover, Utah counterpart, and is only 125 miles from Salt Lake City. (All the casinos listed in the table below are located in West Wendover, Nevada.)
As evidence of the demand in Utah, this small town of roughly 5,000 residents manages to support five casinos – and not small ones either. All five boast more than 10,000 square feet of gaming space, and three of them pushing past 40,000 square feet, and each offers 4,000 rooms.
In other words, as in many states with similar situations, in-state money flows like a river across the border into the open arms of neighboring states. However, the state’s lawmakers have shown no sign of wavering. They have even called for greater enforcement and crackdowns on illegal poker games.
So things are pretty bleak for Utah residents who want to gamble, and it would be hard to believe things are going to change anytime soon.
Nearby land-based casinos
|Property||Gaming Space (in sq. ft.)||Games Offered*|
|Red Garter||12,500||S, BJ, R, C, 3C|
|Wendover Nugget||47,500||S, K, P, SB, BJ, R, C, PGP, LR, 3C|
|Rainbow||45,624||S, P, SB, BJ, C, R, PGP, LR, 3C**|
*Slots (S), Craps (C), Blackjack (BJ), Roulette (R), Baccarat (B), Poker (P), Mini-Baccarat (MBac), Pai Gow Poker (PGP), Pai Gow Tiles (PGT), Let It Ride (LR), Caribbean Stud Poker (CS), Crazy 4 Poker (C4), 3 Card Poker (3C), 4 Card Poker (4C), Ultimate Texas Hold’em (UTH), High Card Flush (HCF), Mississippi Stud (MS), Texas Hold’em Bonus (THB), Big Six Wheel (B6), Bingo (BI), Keno (K), Off-track Betting (OTB), Casino War (CW), Money Wheel (MW), Spanish 21 (S21), Sic Bo (SB), Wheel of Fortune (WF), Sports Betting (SB)
**(All of these casinos are owned by Peppermill, and the separation of games cannot be determined – their websites are combined)
State legal environment
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Land-based Gambling||No||Just no.|
|Online Gambling||No||Don’t even use social sites.|
|Charitable or House-based Gambling||Not really||Bingo halls exist, but have to convolute themselves to remain in compliance with the law|
|Minimum Gambling Age||n/a|