If gambling were alcohol, the state could be considered “dry.” Utah is one of only two U.S. states to prohibit gambling. Utah permits no state lottery, tribal gambling, race betting, or nything of the sort. But just because gambling is illegal, does not mean that people don’t gamble. As in probably all other states and places, underground gambling occurs. Individuals and groups have attempted to get around Utah laws by setting up poker rooms and halls for bingo play, but the state has counteracted those attempts. Gambling in the state is outlawed primarily on religious principled grounds. Even though states are bound by the U.S. Constitution and cannot have state theocracies, faith-based principles often influence communities and legislators and therefore affect state law such as is the case with gambling.
Although gambling was a regular past time for people in other western states during the 19th century, Utah was settled by Mormons in the mid-1800s, settling Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Although not Puritans, they brought puritanical (conservative) beliefs with them, including a prohibition of gambling as per the Christian Bible. Despite the staunchness of Mormon convictions in the state, from 1925 to 1927, betting on horse races was legal but shortly thereafter made illegal again.
There is no legal gambling in the state, so it follows that online gambling would also be viewed as being illegal. In 2012 the Utah lawmakers banned any form of gambling online. If online gambling becomes legal on the federal level, Utah is automatically opted out. Almost poker sites have stopped accepting players from Utah, Americas Cardroom is the only poker room allowing new players from Utah.
Occasionally, people and small movements form to legalize gambling in the state. However, since many in the population are Mormon, there tends to be a meeting of minds on the issue and thus opponents overwhelmingly continue to have the support needed to keep the activity illegal. The closest the state came to legalizing gambling was in the 1990s via a public referendum in which there was a 60-40 vote to allow horse race betting again. The proposition failed.
Casinos in Utah
There are absolutely no casinos in the state and there never will be.