Online Gambling For Real Money in Montana

Montana’s have always loved to gamble, whether during the saloon days of its early history, to various periods where it was prohibited, to today’s wide-open scene. Saloon gambling is back in Montana, on a scale that is well beyond anything they had in the old days, with 138 bars in the state that you can gamble at now. Montana now allows them to offer sports betting as well, although you have to be there. We’ll show you how to do this and more without being there.

Montana Online Gambling Overview

Montana gambling hasn’t changed that much since the frontier days, where saloons dominated the gambling landscape. There are a lot more of them now, and instead of just allowing real money poker games, they have been upgraded to 21st century technology and now offer electronic slots and video poker as well.

Montana is far from the only state that has bars that wish to offer real money gambling, and there are some in other states that have had slots at their bars at various times in the past, but this is not only the dominant type of gambling in Montana, it’s the only type of commercial gambling the state has.

You can even place sports bets at them now, although Montana has been reluctant to expand this vision and allow for more traditional casinos yet. However, there is both a lot that you can gamble at in Montana and a whole lot of places to do it at, which you will discover as you allow us to take you on a tour of the state’s gambling industry.

History of Gambling in Montana

Montana Online Casinos and SlotsGambling on the Western frontier was very popular at the time that Montana became a state in 1889, and this was the case in Montana as well. The new state did what a lot of states did when they got statehood and that was to ban gambling. Montana even put gambling prohibition into their state constitution.

The law changing did not change the desire for early Montanans to gamble, and the state just went from a lot of legal gambling to quite a bit of illegal gambling. While opposing forces were able to successfully hold back any reversing of this law to allow any sort of gambling, when Prohibition ended in 1933, this not only quenched the public’s appetite for alcohol, this also had them questioning the ongoing gambling prohibition that had been going on for 44 years.

Illegal gambling picked up once again, with bars selling pull tabs to their patrons. The state of Montana was having some second thoughts about gambling prohibition and passed the Hickey Act in 1937 which turned the decision to license casino games over to the counties, which was the state’s first move to stand down with gambling.

In 1945, the licensing of slot machines, which they called “trade simulators,” was passed, and Montana now had both legal table games and slots. There was only one problem though, and it was that Montana did not bother to amend their state constitution to allow for this.

Opponents of gambling took the matter to the Montana Supreme Court who ruled that these pro gambling laws were indeed unconstitutional. Overturning this required a state-wide referendum, and it turned out that Montanans were not anywhere ready for this as they voted the measure down by a 4-1 margin.

It wasn’t until 1972 that another referendum was held, and this time the opposition toward gambling among the majority of state residents had softened enough to allow for the anti-gambling provision to be removed, allowing the legislature to decide on their own.

The next year, the state passed the Card Game, Raffles, and Sports Pool Act, making certain types of gambling legal in the state again. The Supreme Court was once again asked to rule on gambling issues and they deemed keno to be a form of bingo in 1976, but ruled against video poker machines in 1984. This led to the state specifically legalizing them in 1985.

The people voted on gambling again in 1986 by way of a referendum approving the creation of the Montana Lottery. In 1991, at a time when gambling was starting to really increase in the country, the state raised its limits on both the number of slot machines a bar could have, from 5 to 20, as well as increasing the maximum payout from $100 to $800.

Montana has 7 Indian tribes that were eager to join their brethren in other states and offer casino gambling on their lands, but the state was only able to reach a compact with one of the tribes, which was soon revoked due to non-compliance.

This was eventually worked out in 2012 and now 5 of the state’s tribes now have compact in place, being permitted to offer both slots and electronic table games. Montana’s other two tribes failed to reach an agreement but still offer real money gambling anyway, although it is limited to slots and bingo.

Montana was one of the states that had an exemption from the federal Professional Amateur and Sports Betting Act that kept almost all other states from offering legal sports betting, but Montana decided to hold off on exercising this. Once the bill was struck down and other states started to allow sports betting, in 2019, Montana joined them and passed a bill authorizing it.

In stark contrast to just about every other state in the country, Montana’s gambling is not rolled out at casinos, aside from the Indian casinos, it is instead hosted by bars, 138 of them in fact. The bars who host gambling are also now able to offer their patrons live sports betting as well as offer it through mobile apps, giving Montana its first legal online gambling, although not online in the normal way the term is used.

Montana also has a pari-mutuel horse racetrack, as well as charitable and social gambling. Their “casinos” at bars just host a few slots and video poker machines mostly although there are 17 small licensed poker rooms in the state as well. Table games have not been legal in the state since 1950, and while Montana may one day revisit this, there is a lot to gamble on in the state otherwise and Montana is still one of the most progressive states toward gambling in the country.

Montana Key Facts

  • Abbreviation: MT
  • State Motto: Oro y Plata (Gold and Silver)
  • Capital City: Helena
  • Largest City: Billings
  • Population Estimate: 1.06 Million (43rd)
  • Website: www.mt.gov

Montana Gambling Laws

Montana has had legal gambling continuously since 1972, and although they have legalized just about every form of gambling these days besides casino table gambling, their laws against gambling not authorized by law are very strict.

The goal here is regulation, as expressed clearly in the preamble of the section of state code that deals with gambling law, given that this section of the law is called Parks, Recreation, Sports, and Gambling, this perhaps expresses Montana’s intention with their law better than anything, given that these other areas are matters or regulation as well.

Being deemed regulations does not mean that there are not penalties for breaking their gambling regulations, as there are with other regulations. The law states that the purpose of its gambling laws is to provide a regulatory environment to protect players, and this is therefore far from the goal of just looking to prevent or contain it.

While there are a lot of provisions in Montana’s gambling law, the one that matters is the section called “gambling prohibited,” which states that “except as specifically authorized by statute, all forms of public gambling, lotteries, and gift enterprises are prohibited.” While this only deals with public gambling, private or social gambling is explicitly permitted along with everything else Montana allows.

We might think that this in itself is completely comprehensive, as it just bans public gambling entirely unless authorized, but there is a reason why states provide definitions of terms like gambling because it is not normally enough to use plain language.

It would be exceedingly difficult to try to argue that something like a game of blackjack wouldn’t fall under the umbrella of public gambling, but just in case anyone was wondering, the state Supreme Court has ruled that the courts are to strictly apply state gambling laws, which would make this one provision more than sufficient to do the job of including everything we consider public gambling.

Just in case, Montana does define gambling and does a good job at being inclusive, defining it as wagering on something which relies on chance in whole or in part, or by way of using a gambling device or “gambling enterprise.” This shuts out all commercial gambling in itself completely, as the gambling enterprise inclusion in itself bans unauthorized gambling in the state when the bets are placed with a gambling enterprise, which would include online gambling.

Montana just doesn’t hope that we realize that gambling online involves placing wagers through a gambling enterprise, they also ban the use of unauthorized gambling devices, and their definition includes anything used to gamble, including electronic devices. Just to make sure this is clear, Montana specifically outlaws online gambling as well.

What is legal to gamble on is a long list though, including social gambling, charitable gambling, pari-mutuel racing at the state’s sole remaining horse track, the Montana Lottery, at one of its 7 Indian casinos, and electronic slots and video poker machiens at one of their bars that have a full liquor license, which is all that is needed to qualify for a gambling license. This now includes sports betting.

Land-Based Gambling in Montana

Montana now has almost a full range of land-based gambling options, with only casino table games remaining off the list. There was a recent attempt to try to pass a bill legalizing blackjack that failed to pass, but this is a state that definitely leans towards gambling and the motivation here isn’t so much that the state is opposed to gambling, they just have this one qualm that needs to be overcome and Montana may not be all that far off from allowing all forms of popular gaming.

Montana’s approach, other than their still waiting on legalizing blackjack and other popular casino table games, is delightfully inclusive, where gambling has been integrated into society in the same manner that the serving of alcohol is, with the same level of regulation.

This is not a matter of a few actors lobbying to open up a few casinos, and then the state restricting access to protect them, which is the norm. Montana’s gambling is much more democratic, and as long as an establishment has a full liquor license, they are entitled to offer electronic gambling.

Montana currently has 138 such venues that offers gambling, and when you can just go to a local bar to gamble, there may not even be a need for what we would consider actual casinos because they mostly exist because states limit people to gambling at such venues, to concentrate their gambling at a few specific locations.

This is due to a belief that there is at least something undesirable about public gambling and there is therefore a need to segregate it, as well as it being more difficult to regulate it when it is as widespread as Montana’s is.

The selling of alcohol in public establishments is seen by some as suffering from the same problem, but states have no issue with allowing widespread alcohol consumption, instead of confining it to just a few locations in the state, and regulating gambling should not be much different, especially when limited to electronic gaming machines which can be inspected and monitored.

Table games do present a bigger challenge on the regulatory side, where the human element comes into play more, the potential of dealers cheating and such. This could be part of the reason why Montana has held off on this, as their focus with gambling regulation is the protection of players, but other states have no issue regulating table games, it’s just that it would take more work on the part of the state to do this with 138 “casinos” rather than just at a handful.

Montana’s gambling scene is as close to gambling in the frontier days as we could probably get, with all these “saloons,” drinking establishments that offer gambling as well, being so ubiquitous. Montana even has a special provision that allows establishments to take bets on who pays for drinks, involving the rolling of dice, to create an even more comprehensive gambling experience for customers.

Montana’s new sports betting legislation is similarly democratic, where the rights to offer this haven’t just been given over to one or a few operators but has instead been spread across the state at bars that currently offer other forms of gambling. While this does involve using an app provided by the Montana Lottery, you have to be physically located at one of these bars to place wagers on sports, which also serves to drive more business toward these “retailers” who will spend money on drinks and other services of the bars.

There are a number of other land-based gambling options besides at the state’s many bars. Yellowstone Downs in Billings offers regular horse racing that you can place bets on. The Montana Lottery might have the lowest revenue of all states that have lotteries, and this is not surprising given how widespread electronic gambling is in the state, but lottery lovers can enjoy a full range of in-state and multi-state lottery games.

Home games are also legal in Montana, as is charitable gambling. Among Montana’s 138 gambling locations are 17 of them that offer small poker rooms, and poker is one of the games that the state does allow at its commercial gambling locations.

There is also 7 Indian casinos in Montana, which aren’t really much different than the gambling at bars, there’s just more of it, as they aren’t just limited to the 20 that bars can have. Gambling is limited to electronic gambling machines, with no physical table games, but you can play electronic versions of these games at some of them. They also offer live poker, bingo, and keno.

  • List of Land Based Casinos in Montana
    CasinoAddressPhone
    Silverwolf Casino300 MT-25, Wolf Point, MT 59201406-653-3475
    Glacier Peaks Hotel & Casino46 Museum Loop, Browning, MT 59417406-338-2274
    Northern Winz Hotel and Casino11275 US-87, Box Elder, MT 59521406-395-5420
    Gray Wolf Peak Casino20750 US-93, Missoula, MT 59808406-726-3778
    KwaTaqNuk Resort Casino49708 US-93, Polson, MT 59860406-883-3636
    Apsaalooke Nights Casino71 Heritage Rd, Crow Agency, MT 59022406-638-4440
    Fort Belknap Casino104 Assinibione Ave , Harlem, MT 59526, Harlem, MT 59526406-353-2235
    Charging Horse Casino & Bingo1/2 US-212, Lame Deer, MT 59043406-477-6677

Montana Online Casinos & Slots Gambling

While Montana has now approved electronic sports betting, this doesn’t quite work the same way as online sports betting in other states does. Where elsewhere, you just have to be physically located in the state to place wagers on sporting events, Montana has figured out a way to confine their sports betting to those physically present at the bars that are licensed to offer it, in a way that uses a private network rather than the internet that online gambling uses.

This cashes out to a glorified version of retail sports betting, where instead of the betting shop using their own terminals, players use their mobile devices instead while present at the retailer’s location. While this is a whole lot better than not allowing for sports betting at all, as was the case before this new law, Montana requires a pretty big step up to actually have legal online gambling at some point.

While people may think that they need to go to a bar to bet on sports, and while they may enjoy that sort of experience, they may just want to bet on some games and not have it involving a night out at a drinking establishment, the truth is that you don’t have to do this to enjoy all the sports betting or other online gambling right from the comfort of your own home, as long as you are in the know.

There is absolutely no question that doing this would be against the law in Montana, and even though Montana is very open to real money gambling generally, they insist on being the ones that regulate gambling among its residents, not some far flung jurisdiction. They reserve the right to define what is legal and what is not as far as gambling in Montana goes, where only gambling that they explicitly define as legal is permitted under the law.

Montana even goes as far as to explicitly deem all online gambling illegal, excluding any online gambling that the state deems permissible, and they have yet to approve any of this type of gambling.

From a practical standpoint, we need to not only look at the legality of an act, we also need to look at the consequences of not obeying the law. Among those who have a preference to ignore it, it is rational to look at the potential costs of doing so, which involves looking at both the probability of prosecution and the consequences of it.

When we deconstruct the practicality of Montana’s banning online gambling, this merely cashes out to expressing a preference by the state that its people refrain, because if there are no possible consequences involved, laws completely lose their power. Laws that cannot be enforced are reduced to the level of rhetoric, and relies on the “honor system” to enforce.

When the preferences of the state toward how we spend our own money and our own collide, and there is no way that the state can enforce their preferences, the matter becomes left to individuals to decide, in spite of the state of Montana preferring you not be aware of this.

The future of state regulated real money online gambling in Montana is indeed down the road, but the ability to gamble online all you want in Montana is not. It is not just that people aren’t being arrested in Montana or anywhere for this, it’s the fact that this is not even possible that conveys this power to decide to the people.

Among those who have made the decision to choose these things for themselves, we are happy to provide our top recommendations on the best real money online casino sites, real money online poker sites, and even online sports betting sites for Montanans that don’t just want to bet on sports at bars.

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Future of Gambling in Montana

Some might think that Montana’s lack of real casinos might indicate a lack of sorts, but in some important ways, Montana’s gambling scene may be more evolved than in in a lot of states that do have real casinos. Casinos evolved due to segregation, an artificial situation created when offering gambling is limited to a few select locations.

Montana does not have this problem, and if gambling can be offered anywhere in the state where there is a demand, there may not be much of a need for these larger gambling venues, at least as far as the basics are concerned, people having access to gambling. This is also more efficient, just like neighborhood supermarkets are versus having to drive a long way to a regional one.

The one thing that larger casinos do offer is the casino experience, a big step up in entertainment from your local bar to be sure. You can’t set up very many of these in a state such as Montana with such a small population, with its biggest city having 180,000 people, and that’s the metro area.

If Montana did not have any options for casino gambling, there may be a market for a few medium-sized casinos, but that’s actually far from the case. It’s not that people would not travel to these larger places to gamble, but they would have to wow enough people with their splendor, like the top Vegas casinos do, and Montana is simply too small for such a casino.

There really isn’t much of a need for Montana’s land-based gambling scene to be expanded, although there is surely a demand for casino table games like blackjack, craps, and roulette. The state of Montana still needs to address this, perhaps starting with blackjack which is at least a card game, and Montana is partial to card games and already allow real money live poker.

Montana could also benefit from extending their current limit of slot machines per location beyond 20. Perhaps it makes sense for them to spread it around to allow for more establishments to benefit, but interfering with the market is not something we see in other industries, and economic efficiency depends on our not looking to interfere with this with command style economic rules, which never work well.

We don’t limit places that we can buy groceries to small locations or impose any square footage limits on them, like only permitting small ones. There would be a lot more of them if we did this but this would not be efficient at all. Letting the bars at least grow a little more would be progress, although these restrictions need to be eliminated altogether to solve the problem.

The way that Montana just rolled out their “online” sports betting clearly shows their current preferences for favoring these small gambling enterprises. Approving real money online gambling sites would take these retailers right out of the picture, and this concern may serve to hold up progress for at least a while longer.

What the state of Montana has to realize is that there is no reason why the gambling that their bars offer cannot co-exist with online gambling, just like states do not see their larger land-based casinos suffer when online gambling gets added. They are different experiences essentially, just like drinking at home alone and drinking at a bar is.

States will often give over the control of online gambling to their casinos, but this only works if you have a few of them and they are big enough to be up to the task. This is made far more challenging when you have 138 very small ones. The manner in which sports betting was rolled out in Montana is pretty instructive, and the lesson is that it is not as simple as the state adopting the will to approve online gambling, as there are some real practical concerns that go along with this.

The tendency toward protecting existing land-based gambling operations is commonplace, and states have typically been accommodating this by giving over the operation of online gambling to the existing gambling interests, even the Indians if there are no non-tribal competitors.

Giving this to local bars is another matter though, and if Montana hands this over to someone else, they may fear that the bars will be negatively impacted by people being able to gamble from home instead, valid or not. While we might see a bit of that in this case, governments in free societies are supposed to serve the people, not narrow commercial interests.

While there is plenty left to be sorted out before Montana approves real online gambling, Montanans do not need the approval of their state to gamble online all they wish now. The state only pretends to have a say in this matter, and those who understand that Montana has no way of enforcing their preferences toward online gambling understand that they are simply free to do so at will.

Those who choose to exercise this freedom need to know where the best sites that offer play to Montanans are located. This is what we do, and we are more than happy to show you the way so that you can join all the others at these virtual bars, with everyone enjoying all the real money online gambling they wish whenever they wish.

Montana Online Slots & Casinos FAQs
  • How opposed to gambling was Montana in its early days as a state?

    Montana started out its life as a frontier settlement with public gambling playing a significant role, although when Montana became a state, they immediately distanced themselves from this frontier lifestyle and sought to be perceived as more proper by banning all forms of gambling in the state. While the scope of these laws may have been set at the maximum, the depth of opposition also needs to be measured, and Montana’s was never really that deep.

  • When did gambling start its comeback in Montana?

    It wasn’t that gambling in Montana disappeared once it was made illegal, and far from it, as it remained widespread in the prohibition years. Once the national prohibition against alcohol was repealed in 1933, Montana began to rethink its own gambling prohibition. This also served to really inspire illegal gambling to pick up. In 1937, the state of Montana passed its first bill permitting gambling.

  • How did bars figure in so prominently in Montana’s gambling landscape?

    Bars have been at the heart of Montana gambling ever since it was settled, with many partial to the lures of the saloon, which includes both drinking and gambling. Gambling continued at bars during the years it was illegal, in spite of the law, and bars were ready to adopt the new gambling rules once the state finally allowed it. Bars continue to dominate Montana’s gambling scene today.

  • What gambling does current Montana law ban?

    The goal generally with state gambling law is to seek to ban all gambling that they do not specifically approve. Some laws do better at doing this than others. Montana’s laws completely succeed at doing this, and even banning it with certainty isn’t enough, as they layer on several other provisions to make sure that this is all made perfectly clear. If the state doesn’t tell you that a certain form of gambling is legal, it isn’t.

  • What forms of gambling does Montana allow?

    Montana was among only a very few states that offered legal casino gambling in the 1930’s, so the state has a long history of being permissive toward gambling in general, and allow people to gamble at just about everything. You can play the lottery, play at home games, engage in charitable gambling, bet on the horses, as well as play slot machines, video poker, and bet on sports at one of 138 different locations. Some even have live poker. There are also 7 Indian casinos featuring electronic slots and table games.

  • Why doesn’t Montana allow casino table games?

    If you want to play casino table games, you are limited to playing them at one of Montana’s Indian casinos, but even the Indians don’t offer the actual tables, which was part of the compact that the tribes reached with the state. Outside of tribal lands, Montana does not allow these games to be offered in any form, but we need to keep in mind that their limiting their casinos to just 20 machines with strict limits shows they really don’t have all that big of an appetite toward gambling by way of these limitations.

  • What are the chances of Montana getting full casinos soon?

    Montana is one of the least populous states in the country and could not support all that much as far as casino gambling goes even if they didn’t have 145 different small venues that you can gamble at now. Montana could probably support a little more, but the state would have to deal with the issue of these new casinos cannibalizing business from their current operators. This could happen at some point but isn’t in the cards at the present time.

  • Does Montana have legal real money online gambling?

    Montana does allow its licensed gambling establishments to offer online sports betting of sorts, although placing bets are limited to being physically at one of these places and cannot be accessed generally. If Montana was not able to open this up to the whole state as has been the case with other states that have permitted real money online gambling, this shows that the state is still a good way away from allowing any form of real money online gambling.

  • How may Montana come to realize it is to their benefit to allow online gambling?

    The goal of state regulation is to allow for the orderly conduct of business among market participants, like having health standards for the storage and sale of food products. Protecting certain commercial interests like bar owners at the expense of the people, and especially using this as an excuse to deny access to people, does not further this mandate, it opposes it. Many states need to get over this idea and realize their role is to serve their electorate as a whole.

  • Can Montanans enjoy real money online gambling now?

    While the state of Montana may not have approved real money online gambling yet, and this remains against state law, this does not mean that it is not available, or that people even need to care about what the law says about this given there isn’t any way that the state can enforce laws against online gambling. We can show you the best real money online sports betting, online casinos, and online poker rooms that accept players from Montana.

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Chief Editor: Mike leverages his true passion for online gambling to create a uniquely informative site that takes players well beyond the standard fare in the industry.