State Gambling Laws

Click on the name of a State in the table below to read the excerpted text of its basic gambling laws. Websites containing state statutes are available for all states, although they may be out of date. The excerpts presented here are taken from those websites.  Gambling-Law-US.com also provides hyperlinks to those websites for most of the gambling laws that are excerpted.  It may take a long time before new provisions of state law are incorporated into the online text the state makes available.  Before acting on any information contained in Gambling-Law-US.com you should get up to date and to the point advice from a lawyer.

The excerpts generally include state constitutional provisions specifically about gambling, “aiding and abetting” provisions of the state’s criminal laws, the basic criminal gambling laws and some references to the legalized gaming laws in a few of the states.  Coverage of state charitable gaming laws is provided by links on my Charitable Gaming page.

The conclusions in the chart below are primarily based on the texts of the state criminal anti-gambling laws and thus are only educated guesses in many cases.  There is relatively little decided case law on gambling infractions including the conduct of Texas Holdem poker. I suppose this is because of the seemingly prevalent legislative (and law enforcement?) view that such crimes are pretty small potatoes.  I encourage readers of this website to contact us with corrections, objections and observations.  Before you take any action in reliance on this chart you should get up to date and to the point advice from a local attorney.

Click on the State Name to Jump to its Gambling Statutes
State Dominant Factor Test Applied Social Gambling Allowed Penalty for Simple Gambling Penalty for Aggravated Gambling Express Internet Prohibition
Alabama Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Alaska Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
Arizona No Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
Arkansas No No Petty Misdemeanor No
California Effectively, Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Colorado Questionable Yes Petty Misdemeanor No
Connecticut Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Delaware Questionable Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Dist. of Columbia Yes Probably Felony Felony No
Florida No $10 Limit (1) Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Georgia Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
Hawaii Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
Idaho Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Illinois No No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Yes
Indiana Yes No Misdemeanor Felony Yes
Iowa No No(2) Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Kansas Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
Kentucky Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
Louisiana No Yes Misdemeanor Felony Yes
Maine Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
Maryland No No Misdemeanor Felony No
Massachusetts Yes Unclear Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Michigan Yes No (3) Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No (4)
Minnesota Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Mississippi Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Missouri Yes No Misdemeanor (5) Felony No
Montana Questionable Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Yes
Nebraska Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Nevada Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony Yes
New Hampshire Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
New Jersey Questionable Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No (6)
New Mexico Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
New York Questionsble Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
North Carolina Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
North Dakota Yes Yes (7) Misdemeanor Felony No
Ohio Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
Oklahoma Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
Oregon Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony Yes
Pennsylvania Yes Unclear Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Rhode Island Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
South Carolina Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
South Dakota Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor Yes (8)
Tennessee Questionable No Misdemeanor Felony No
Texas Yes Yes Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Utah Yes No Misdemeanor Felony No
Vermont Questionable Fine Only Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Virginia Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
Washington Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony Yes (9)
West Virginia Yes No Misdemeanor Misdemeanor No
Wisconsin Yes No Misdemeanor Felony Yes
Wyoming Yes Yes Misdemeanor Felony No
Footnotes:
(1)  Florida authorized licensed card rooms to offer poker limits of $2 per bet, with a limit of 3 raises per betting round, effective July 1, 2003.
(2)  Iowa permits social gambling, but only to the the extent that a player may win or lose no more than $50 or other consideration equivalent thereto in all games and activities at any one time during any period of twenty-four consecutive hours or over that entire period.  See Iowa Code 99B.12(1)(g)
(3)  Michigan has exceptions for Senior citizens homes and state fairs.
(4)  In 1999 Michigan adopted SB 562 which added Section 750.145d to the Michigan Compiled laws.  That section made it specifically unlawful to use the Internet to violate certain provisions of Michigan’s anti-gambling laws (Mich. Complied Statutes 750.301 through 750.306 and 750.311.)  In 2000 Michigan adopted Public Act 185 which repealed the references in Section 750.145d to those anti-gambling sections.  Thus, Michigan is not a state that has in effect a specific prohibition against using the Internet to make, offer or accept bets over the Internet.
(5)  Missouri’s felony penalty applies only to a “professional gambler” as defined.
(6)  New Jersey Senate Bill 1013 seeks to clarify definition of illegal gambling to address Internet gambling; void credit card debt incurred through illegal gambling; authorize only the State to recover illegal gambling losses and to outlaw online gambling.  Also introduced in previous legislative session as S2376.  As of July 4, 2005, S1013 has not been reported out of the New Jersey Senate Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee.
(7)  North Dakota has a limitation of $25 per individual hand, game or event.  Betting over $25 is an infraction and it becomes a misdemeanor when the amount exceeds $500.
(8)  South Dakota’s prohibition applies to those in the “gambling business.”
(9)  Prohibition becomes effective June 7, 2006.

The five topics covered on a state-by-state basis in the chart are:

  • Dominant Factor Test Applied:  “Chance” is one of the elements generally required to be present in order for a game to violate a state anti-gambling statute.  Most states have concluded that where the elements of skill, whatever they may be, predominate over the elements of chance, whatever they may be, in determining outcome, then the “chance” element is lacking and the game involved does not violate that state’s anti-gambling law.  This question considers whether the state applies this “dominant factor,” or predominance, test.

  • Social Gambling Allowed:  The question here is whether playing for money in a purely social context is allowed,.  A “social context” usually means that no player or other person, like a bookie or the host of the game, makes or earns anything other than as, and on an equal footing with, a mere player in the contest or game.
  • Misdemeanor vs. Felony:  What constitutes a “misdemeanor” versus a “felony” is not consistent in all states.  Some states distinguish on the basis of the place of possible incarceration.  That is, possible sentencing to a city or county jail versus sentencing to a state penitentiary defines the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony in some jurisdictions.  Most states, however, draw the distinction based on the term of the possible sentence, with a punishment of one year or less being a misdemeanor and a longer possible sentence defining a felony.  The latter approach in the used in compiling the chart.
  • Simple vs. Aggravated:  The distinction between “simple” and “aggravated” gambling is also one that varies from state to state.  That terminology may not be used in a state’s criminal law at all.  It may be phrased as mere “gambling” versus “professional gambling.”  It may come into play only based on second or third violations of a given criminal prohibition.  The approach used in compiling the chart is generally based on the presence of professional gambling, which involves those who make money on the contest or game other than as, and on an equal footing with, a mere player.
  • Express Internet Prohibition:  The response to this question goes to whether a state has adopted a specific law criminalizing the offering of online casinos and/or playing of gambling games offered over the Internet.  The fact that a state has not passed a specific law does not make participation in or offering of gambling over the Internet legal under the laws of that state.  The question is a complex one and is addressed in several of the articles included on this site.

Online gambling and poker legislation in the U.S. is changing on a state by state basis.  New Jersey, for example, legalized online gambling and poker in November 2013, offering some hope to U.S. players in other states for online casinos. Read below for a breakdown of other states to see the latest law updates.

Gambling-Law-us.com focuses primarily on the state laws applicable to lotteries, social gambling and illegal, unlicensed casino-style, or professional, gambling.  Legalized gaming, where dealt with, is covered in a more summary form.

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