From a sports standpoint, Utah is similar to Oklahoma: They don’t traffic in a proliferate of franchises and collegiate juggernauts, but they support the heck out of the big-time teams they do house—namely BYU’s Basketball program and the Utah Jazz. But unlike Oklahoma, along with pretty much every other state in the country, Utah has assumed an extreme stance against sports betting and all other forms of gambling.
Utah Sports Betting Law
Forget about gambling on sports in Utah. Not just now, but for the foreseeable future. They do not have any casinos, and they are hell-bent on blocking any laws and proposals and loopholes that might allow for the existence of sportsbooks or online sports gambling within their state lines. They are, quite simply, anti-wagering in every way imaginable.
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Keeping in theme with their “No gambling whatsoever” stance, Utah does not have any casinos within its region, tribal or otherwise. Residents will basically need to take a trip to Las Vegas, Nevada, to get their fix. It’s a reasonable length’s drive, which is fortunate, but it’s nonetheless inconvenient, and yet another obstacle Utahns face in their quest to experience activities melded with skill and chance.
Daily Fantasy Sports Don’t Exist
Daily fantasy sports are non-existent in Utah. Sure, citizens know about them. And obviously, the state government knows about them, too. But they don’t acknowledge them. They are illegal, just like everything else. No bill has been introduced to change that because Utah, as a whole, isn’t interested in changing any of its stances. If they ever do—and that’s a big if—daily fantasy sports are bound to be near the bottom on their list of priorities.
If You Even Have to Ask, It’s Illegal
Yes, your football pool is illegal. And yes, your weekly poker game is illegal. Wagering of any kind in Utah is illegal. It doesn’t matter if it’s corporate, social or even charitable. It’s illegal. Period. End of story. Even the smallest-scale games are taboo.
Tales are littered throughout Utah news archives about apartment poker games being raided by confidential informants. It’s true. The hosts are typically turning a profit, even if they’re only charging a small entry free, so they’re a bit different from having a group of friends over to watch the Denver Broncos game and play cards. But, technically speaking, if the police wanted to, they could bust up that innocuous football card party, too. You probably won’t be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, but you will be arrested and then fined.
The Search for Loopholes
Plenty of establishments are trying to skirt around Utah’s stubborn laws. Back in the mid-2000s, for instance, quasi-poker rooms kept popping up everywhere. The emphasis was on video poker, and the businesses argued they were within their rights to operate these machines because the letter of the law didn’t specify digital gaming. That has since changed.
Nowadays, some of the more daring places offer “free” bingo and poker tournaments. Participants are able to compete for a cash prize, but only because they’ve paid for the set price of dinner, an open bar or entry into the place that serves food and liquor. The local government has cracked down on many of these businesses, but a few remain. Their argument, after all, exploits a gray area: If you’re technically paying for a different service and simply leaving with extra money the business can deem as a redistributed donation, you’re not, in theory, doing anything wrong.
Bank on Utah continuing their attempts to eradicate these places of operation. Also count on them to try blocking online gambling. International wagering isn’t something they can monitor or really stop, but they have passed a law that allows them to opt out of domestic pro-gambling policies that may be passed in the near future at the federal level.
Utah Gambling Law Overview
Please see below for a more specific breakdown of what betting types are and aren’t allowed in Utah at this time.
- Casino Gambling: Not legal
- Tribal Gambling: Not legal
- Poker: Not legal
- Horse-Race Betting: Not legal
- Dog-Race Betting: Not legal
- Lottery: Not legal
- Daily Fantasy Betting: Not legal
- Social Gambling: Not legal
- Charitable Gambling: Not legal
- Online Gambling: Not specified
Utah Sports Teams
Due to the absence of enough noteworthy teams in Utah, we will split our focus between in-house squads and the most popular professional factions that are located outside state lines.
Brigham Young Cougars (College Basketball)
Here lies the house that Jimmer Fredette built. Sort of.
The Brigham Young Cougars were big throughout the state long before Fredette came along. But he helped them become a more recognized national staple during his time there. He broke scoring records and drained shots with enviable, if unprecedented, efficiency. And while he never panned out at the NBA level, he is a legend overseas, and BYU continues to capitalize on some of the momentum he left behind more than a half-decade ago.
In broader terms, the Cougars have made 11 appearances in the NCAA Tournament since 2001. Most of these have ended in a first-round exit, but the exposure they get simply for earning a bid is a big deal for a small-market program like this one.
Utah Jazz (NBA)
John Stockton and Karl Malone all but made the Utah Jazz, yet the franchise, despite never winning a championship, has found ways to remain relevant without them. They have made 26 playoff appearances over their 43-year existence, and up until recently, they appeared ready to enter the upper echelon of the NBA. And then it all came crashing down.
All-Star forward Gordon Hayward, who is without question the third-best player in Jazz history behind Malone and Stockton, bolted for the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2017.
Utah still has Rudy Gobert, a defensive superstar and viable building block in his own right, along with loads of other quality talents, but it once again looks like it’ll have a slow, gradual, arduous trek back to championship contention—if the framework of this team ever gets there at all.
Denver Broncos (NFL)
Absent a major football team of their own—though the Utah Utes’ program comes pretty close—Utah invests a lot of time and fandom energy in the Denver Broncos.
Colorado is within reasonable proximity of Utah, which lays the groundwork for these ties. But the relationship is driven home by the Broncos’ storied accomplishments. Their defense is forever pesky, mimicking a conservative style that mirrors many of the things Utahns stand for, and they’ve posted just two sub-.500 records since the 2000 campain.
Oh! They’ve also made two Super Bowl appearances over the last five years, emerging from one of them with a victory. Though the Jazz may still be the more popular team overall, Utah comes pretty freaking close to supporting the Broncos with equal dedication.
Utah’s Biggest Sporting Event of the Year
Utah Weekly MTB Racing Series
Utah claims to offer some of the best mountain biking settings in the world. This, naturally, paves the way for widespread competitions that occur with regularity.
This particular series runs basically all year, though races are fewer and far between during the winter months, during which time the number of participants tends to decline as well.
Once late April rolls around, all systems are a go. Races take place just about every week through October into early and mid-November, with courses and trails virtually never once being repeated.