Montana is home to a large number of gambling options in the real world. The state has a handful of full-fledged casinos and more than 1400 licensed “operators” who are authorized to house up to 20 video poker machines anywhere alcohol is served. The state also issues licenses to those who wish to host public poker games.
Social games of poker (held in private among individuals) are also legal under the condition that the prize for winning does not exceed $800. This piece of law is poorly written and it is unclear how exactly this applies to cash games. Here’s the text of the social poker law in all its glory:
A prize for an individual live card game may not exceed the value of $800. Games may not be combined in any manner so as to increase the value of the ultimate prize awarded. Except during a tournament conducted under 23-5-317, all prizes must be awarded immediately upon completion of each hand.
Where to Place Legal Bets Online in Montana:
In some ways, Montana has a healthy gambling industry. The laws aren’t overly restrictive for real-world gambling provided you go through the Gambling Control Division to get the proper licensing. In other ways, the industry has a lot of room to grow. Montana only has a few actual casinos on tribal ground and is overly restrictive in its treatment of online betting.
There’s nothing to indicate that Montana will be changing its laws any time soon to expand its online gaming options. State lawmakers and media sources have absolutely nothing to say on the topic. Our only hope of seeing more gaming options is the fact that Montana is accepting of gambling in the real world. Hopefully the day will come when MT lawmakers extend their favorable treatment of real-world gambling to the internet.
Online Betting Laws
Montana is one of the few states in the US with gaming laws that specifically mention online gambling. The state updated its gaming laws in 2005 and now includes the term “internet gambling” in section 23-5-112 of the Montana Code. Line 21 on that page explains that it is illegal to run an online gambling operation within the state.
Additionally, Montana is one of just a few states that prohibit online fantasy sports betting. Section 23-5-802 of the Montana Code states that “it is unlawful to wager on a fantasy sports league by telephone or internet.” Large fantasy sites such as FanDuel and DraftKings therefore do not accept real money customers from the state.
The state doesn’t even allow people to wager money on games of skill over the internet. Basically, everything except horse racing betting is illegal in the state. Nobody has ever actually been charged for the crime of placing bets online, but the laws do clearly define online betting as a crime unless it happens at licensed parimutuel horse racing websites.
Daily Fantasy Sports
Montana’s gaming laws actually single out online fantasy sports as a prohibited activity. As such, the major providers of modern daily fantasy contests all restrict residents from participating in real money games. The state legislature has made moves to loosen its fantasy sports laws, but even current efforts would fail to legalize true daily fantasy contests.
Senate Bill 25 first introduced in December of 2016 would ease the restrictions just enough to permit fantasy sports contests that meet several requirements:
- They last for the entire season (i.e. no daily fantasy contests)
- The buyin is no more than $35
- The games are played for minimal, non-monetary prizes such as t-shirts
Determining what sorts of prizes will be classified as “minimal” is a job that will be assigned to the state Department of Justice. Sadly, not even this bill was able to become law. It lasted a few months into 2017 before being allowed to die without any further action.
Horse Racing Betting
Horse racing betting is the only form of legal online betting in Montana. Most of the major horse racing websites accept customers from Montana and the authorities have no problem with this. The state is also home to three racetracks and eight off-track betting (OTB) facilities where people can bet on races without actually attending the track.
You can visit the following pages for full reviews of all three betting sites that operate in Montana.
Sports Betting in Montana
Montana does not permit sports betting except for a limited type of fantasy football offered by the lottery (more on that below under “Montana Lottery”). Aside from that, there are no legal Montana sports betting options. There are also no reports that legislation is imminent.
However, a report from Eilers & Krejcik Gaming published in 2017 placed Montana on the shortlist of 14 states most likely to legalize sports betting within two years of the Supreme Court overturning the federal law that prohibits sports betting.
The Montana Lottery does not sell tickets online in any way, shape or form. The closest the state has to online lotto tickets is a mobile app for the Android or iPhone that you can use to make your picks from home. After you make your picks, your device will show a barcode which you can then bring to any retailer to purchase your tickets.
If you find a website that offers real tickets online, be aware that the site is not authorized in Montana. The state does not permit the purchase or sale of its own tickets online. Also, federal laws make it illegal to purchase tickets across state lines via telephone or internet. Any website offering MT tickets is acting contrary to state and federal laws.
You can’t bet on fantasy sports online in Montana, but the lottery does have an alternative. If you can’t find a live league anywhere, the lottery hosts weekly fantasy football leagues that operate similar to the leagues you find at major fantasy sites. The prizes aren’t nearly as large and you don’t have as many options, but it’s better than nothing.
You can try it by visiting any Montana Sports Action retailer and asking for a roster. There you choose five offensive players and one team’s entire defense. As your players accumulate stats in the real world, your fantasy team accumulates points. At the end of the week, the three teams with the greatest number of points split the total prize pool.
The average prize for first place this year was around the $2500 mark each week. It’s not super high stakes action, but it does add an element of suspense to any games you watch that week. I’d say it’s worth a shot if you’re a big football fan.