It is estimated that 61% of Utah’s religious inhabitants are Mormons, or Latter-day Saints. LDS members believe that gambling is a sin, so it is no wonder that Utah is one of two states that prohibit all forms of gambling, including state-run lotteries. Gambling from a computer inside state lines also constitutes gambling and is therefore considered illegal. The constitution makes it clear that the Utah legislature should not permit any game of chance, including lotteries or gift enterprise.
Anyone found guilty of gambling in Utah is charged with a class B misdemeanor. If the individual is convicted twice, however, the charge will be upgraded to a class A misdemeanor. The promotion of gambling and possession of gambling devices are also illegal. The county commissioner, in conjunction with the sheriff, can seize any devices or equipment they believe is being used or stored for the purpose of being used for gambling.
Forms of Gambling Still Seen:
Charitable Games of Chance
Although it does not state that charitable games of chance are legal in the state of Utah, there are some that occur. In fact, the LDS state that there idea of illegal gambling carries an exception to the rule when games of chance are organized by a charitable institution. The exception is used only when half the proceeds or more goes to charity.
As of 2005, there were 3 known places to play poker in Utah. They claimed that Texas Hold ‘Em is a game of skill, rather than of chance and that players under these circumstances are playing just to play, with no hope of winning a prize. Chips are not interchangeable for money, but in all honesty most winners are awarded significant prizes in the end. The state has shut some of these establishments down, but they seem to keep popping up in different areas.
According to an article in The Salt Lake Tribune in 2004, several BYU students admitted to participating in private poker parties. Some of these students claimed that they did not play for money, whereas the others stated that there was an entrance fee and winner took all. An article in the Deseret News dated Dec. 28, 2004, stated that one of the hottest items being sold at Christmastime was poker paraphernalia. This article alone implies that there are still illegal poker games being played in the state.
Although Utah does not have a state lottery, Gambling Magazine states that approximately $6 million spent in the Idaho lottery is from Utahns. It is easy for individuals to cross the Utah-Idaho border and purchase a lottery ticket and drive back home without consequence of prosecution.
There is no finite way of knowing how many people from Utah travel to other states to gamble in Casinos, however with Wendover, Nevada located just 90 miles away from Salt Lake City, Utah, the numbers must be high.
Prosecutors, in 2005, argued that a bingo hall needed to be shut down because they believed the meal fee was a cover to pay bingo and that you could go elsewhere and spend less for a meal. The jury stated, however, that this was unfounded since you have the option to play bingo without purchasing the meal.