State-by-State Gambling Laws
Here we summarize gambling laws by state. Click on the name of a State in the table below to learn about each state’s gambling laws. Before acting on any information contained on LetsGambleUSA.com that you think might be questionable, you should seek the advice of a local attorney.
In the United States, gambling is restricted almost everywhere, except in Las Vegas and in Atlantic City, New Jersey. If you do not know this and unwittingly participated in a gambling scheme that turned out to be illegal, you can still be charged with a gambling crime and may be slapped with significant penalties that may result in some serious repercussions. In these kinds of scenarios, knowing your rights and the gambling laws of your state can spell the difference between a safe trip home and a one-way ticket to prison.
State gambling laws prohibit games, wagers, or bets that have outcomes that rely at least partially upon some element of chance. However, if a competition or game rewards prizes to winners based on skill, such as shooting competitions or car racing, then it is not considered gambling. (Some other restrictions in the law may still apply in order for these activities to be considered legal).
How you differentiate a game of chance from a game of skill depends on which of the two elements has the biggest impact on the game’s outcome. If chance is the bigger factor, then it will be referred to as a game of chance, and wagering on games like these will be considered gambling.
And even though some forms of gambling now are considered legal in most states, it is still highly regulated. Therefore, those private betting clubs, though already in wide proliferation, are often still deemed illegal. For example, betting pools, small-time poker clubs, and fantasy football leagues are likely to be seen as technically illegal in a lot of jurisdictions, though enforcement is rather difficult and a bit lax. Some of these small ventures though will go against gambling laws such as the UIGEA should they decide to take their business online, normally because the operators either fail to recognize what constitutes illegal gambling or because they are simply not aware of the legal restrictions when it comes to online gambling.
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 our Charitable Gaming page.
|State||Dominant Factor Test Applied||Social Gambling Allowed||Penalty for Simple Gambling||Penalty for Aggravated Gambling||Express Internet Prohibition|
|Dist. of Columbia||Yes||Probably||Felony||Felony||No|
|Florida||No||$10 Limit (1)||Misdemeanor||Misdemeanor||No|
|Michigan||Yes||No (3)||Misdemeanor||Misdemeanor||No (4)|
|New Jersey||Questionable||Yes||Misdemeanor||Misdemeanor||No (6)|
|North Dakota||Yes||Yes (7)||Misdemeanor||Felony||No|
|South Dakota||Yes||No||Misdemeanor||Misdemeanor||Yes (8)|
|(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.
LetsGambleUSA.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.
The conclusions in the chart above 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.