Montana has gone back and forth on legalizing gambling and making it illegal throughout the years. Gambling was very prevalent in Montana in the 1800s in saloons in almost every county. Poker was a very popular game, and it is still popular today. Poker players in Montana currently have some legal venues to play at including Tribal Casinos and home poker games. Many Montana residents also enjoy playing poker online, but the legality of that is still questionable in the state.
Can Players From Montana Play Poker Online?
Yes! Montana has not made any moves to block online poker from their state. Therefore, all US real money poker sites will happily accept players from Montana. Playing real money poker games online has become a very popular pastime for many Americans. For some, it has even become their profession. Some notable players from Montana include Annie Duke and Doyle Brunson.
Doyle Brunson has a summer home in Montana that he uses to take a break from the fast life of Vegas. He is a 10-time gold bracelet winner at the WSOP. He is one of the most respected poker players in the history of poker.
Annie Duke is one of the most noted women poker players. She was living in Billings, Montana and traveling back and forth to Vegas to play poker. She finally decided to make the move to Vegas. She won her first gold bracelet at the WSOP in 2004. She has placed in many big tournaments at the WSOP and has made a career of playing poker professionally.
Is it Legal to Play Online Poker in Montana?
Montana has a long list of laws pertaining to gambling. It is one of the few states that have actually made some kind of stand on gambling online, but the laws are still a bit unclear. In 2005, the state actually passed a bill to prohibit online gambling, including poker, within the state, but they have made no effort to block poker sites. It is unclear what the punishment is for gambling online in Montana. To date, we have found no instances where anyone in the state of Montana has been charged with gambling online.
We have found some interesting laws pertaining to gambling in Montana below:
- Montana defines gambling as
“Gambling” or “gambling activity” means 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.(Section 23-5-112)
- The law goes on to define a gambling device as
“Gambling device” means 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) 
- Social poker games appear to be legal under class I gaming as follows
The term “class I gaming” means social games solely for prizes of minimal value or traditional forms of Indian gaming engaged in by individuals as a part of, or in connection with, tribal ceremonies or celebrations.
- We did not find any reference as to the amount that was considered minimal value in social poker games.
- Charitable bingo, keno, and casino nights are legal in Montana. Poker games can be played at charitable casino nights. (Section 23-5-311)
Please consult an attorney if you are concerned about the legality of playing poker online in Montana. We do not know of anyone that has ever been charged for playing poker online in the state, but that doesn’t mean that Montana can’t charge someone if they decide to. We are in no way an authority on Montana’s law code.
Montana Gambling History
Gambling was very common in Montana in the 19th century. It was common to go to a saloon and play poker. Gambling was not exactly legal at this time, but it was widely accepted for many years. This was up until 1889 when the new constitution of Montana made all gambling illegal. It took a while before the lawmakers were forced to shut gambling down, but they eventually had to take action.
We are sure there was still some illegal gambling going on in the state after this, but it wasn’t widely talked about since it wasn’t legal. Then in 1933 prohibition was appealed. The bars opening back up brought gambling with them. Pull tabs became very popular during this time.
The Hickey Act was passed in 1937 which enabled card games to be legalized on a county by county basis. The legalization of card games brought more and more gambling to the state. The state authorized licensing of certain
trade stimulators for nonprofit organizations in 1945. This prompted many establishments to install illegal slot machines and refer to them as
In 1949, the state once again decided to crack down on the illegal gambling. They allocated $40,000 to enforce gambling laws, and many illegal gambling operations were shut down. Their slot machines were seized.
In 1972 voters approved a referendum that allowed the Legislature and the people authority to approve or disapprove gambling. The Card Game, Bingo, Raffles and Sports Pool Act was passed in 1973. This Act enabled charitable gambling games in the state of Montana.
In 1984, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that video poker machines were illegal slot machines. This ruling was changed in 1985 when the legislature passed the Video Poker Machine Act which allowed businesses holding a liquor license to have up to 5 video poker machines and unlimited keno machines. The state collected money on these machines through taxes and licensing fees. The state issued 2,887 licenses immediately following the passage of this Act.
The lottery was approved by voters in 1986. Then in 1994 four Indian Tribes negotiated compacts with the state to open casinos. However, 3 of these tribes did not follow through with the paperwork and their compacts were abolished at the time.  Today 5 Indian Tribes have compacts with the state of Montana, and all 5 of these are operating casinos.
The state also legalized pari-mutuel wagering on horse races in 1997. For most states this type of betting was one of the first forms of legalized gambling within the state, but for Montana it is one of the last forms of gambling legalized.
Legalized Gambling Options in Montana
Montana has plenty of legal gambling opportunities. The state lottery tickets are sold around the state. Video poker and keno machines can be played in almost every county. There is a limit of $800 that can be won on these machines, but they are still very popular. You can also play charitable bingo games legally in Montana. Casino nights for charity are legal. Pari-mutuel betting on horse races is legal, and the state has Tribal Casinos. You can also have a home poker game in Montana as long as the stakes are low and no one is taking a rake.
Will Montana Legalize Online Poker in the Future?
At this time, Montana has prohibited online gambling. It is unclear what the penalties are for breaking this prohibition. It does not look like Montana will legalize online gambling any time in the near future. It is unclear whether or not the state will opt-out of any federal legislation to legalize online poker if it is federally regulated.