Montana is a great state in terms of land, being ranked 4th with 147,000 square miles of area. Known as the Big Sky Country, and though it is one of the largest states in the nation, there are very few residents. In terms of population, the state is all the way at 44th with just over one million people residing there.
Gambling History and Scenario
Montana’s gaming history dates back as far as 1862 with controversy. This was back in the mining days where gold panning wasn’t just done for leisure. In this time frame, a group of three people dealt cards and would take miner’s gold dust when they won the games.
Soon after legislators caught wind of this, the games were outlawed in 1864. Years later, the state allowed gaming for table games and games of chance for $50 per month in 1869. It wasn’t until 1925 that the state finally legalized different gaming types.
Their state fair brought pari-mutuel betting which in most states was the first type of gaming to be found. From there it was more than a decade later when dominoes, bridge, blackjack, and other card games were available in drug stores and other places with a $10 annually for a licensing fee.
With a population of 1 million people, being the lowest population density, it’s surprising that Montana offers 292 gambling venues, being the majority of these slots, or video gaming machines, placed in restaurants and bars.
In terms of revenues, video gaming generates a big number, $60 million yearly, rivaling with the same value generated by the lottery, even if in the lottery’s case it’s the lowest value out of the 45 states offering it, which means $15 million taxes for the Montana state even so.
Such low values for the lottery are unusual, considering the range of lottery products available, which include multi-state lotteries like Mega Millions and Powerball, but also in-state lotteries and scratch-offs. The distance from lottery retailers might be stopping the population from playing more often.
A big casino resort doesn’t exist in Montana, but the Buffalo Rivers casino is under construction. It will have 400 slots, but an average dimension when compared to the largest casinos from other states in the country.
The liberal charitable laws allow that hundreds of businesses can offer to gamble in the format of raffles, bingo, keno, casino nights and dozens of card games, including poker, considering 100% of the revenue goes to the cause.
The bars and saloons that have gaming licenses are where most of the poker action takes place in Montana. Tournaments and poker rooms are offered all over the state, and a couple of examples are the Silver Creek Casino, Crystal Lounge and the Oxford Saloon. Considering that the dimensions of the poker rooms aren’t very big, holding 3 or 4 tables, the best poker games are the ones taking place in bars.
Summing up the Types of Gambling Found in Montana
Montana has a great selection of casinos for such a low-density state. There are 18 in total, and even so, they are a small minority of the state gambling establishments. Players need to be 18 to be allowed to join in on the gaming action. Within the casinos here, just about all forms of gaming are legal.
The casinos have slots, keno, table games like the roulette, card games including blackjack, and specialty games too. Tribal casinos do have some advantage over non-tribal casinos though, namely being exempt from the smoking ban and having no limit on the slot machines. Some of the casinos that are available here include Lucky Lil’s and Sawbuck casino.
Pari-mutuel betting is regulated by the Board of Horse racing and starts for players at 18 and over. The pari-mutuel betting horse racing used to be offered in five different racetracks including Yellowstone Downs, Western Montana Fair, Northwest Montana Fair, but now only Yellowstone Downs is active. Simulcast racing is also offered in multiple off-track locations, one of the few exceptions to online gambling in Montana.
Montana is one of the states which offers a lottery program with several different gaming styles, and here we also find some of the most liberal gaming charitable laws but also sports betting and horse racing, more than enough options considering the size of their population. On the other hand, they do explicitly ban online gambling, unlike many other states.
This ban to online gambling excludes the state lottery tickets and the fully licensed simulcast facilities, so the ban targets gaming operators from operating in the state. At the same time, no online gambler or operator has ever been arrested in Montana, reason why plenty of illegal sites do exist.