Legal Colorado Online Gambling

Colorado Legal Gambling LawsNestled amongst the mountainous vistas of Colorado, with the highest altitude of all the states, one can find a pleasing number of licensed gambling venues. The state has a long history of gambling, intertwining back through the days of the Wild West alongside a flourishing mining industry which brought flushes of wealth to the fortunate and the persevering.

Much of this metal money changed ownership soon after coming out of the ground, passing through the hands of poker players and other gamblers in the state, and a fair portion of it landed in the laps of famed professional gamblers of the late 19th century, such as Coloradan legend “Poker Alice”.

Alice joined the poker tables as a young beauty in the 1870s, quickly taking to smoking cigars, she dealt and played at tables all over the state, taking Sundays off for religious reasons, and toting a .38 revolver at all times.

She would roam from one mining camp to another, taking the money from many a gruff miner and surely risking her life many times in the name of the game. Alice was renowned for taking shopping trips to New York with the proceeds of her gambling. She married twice, bore seven children, and continued to play the tables into her seventies.

She was frequently arrested in her later years for drunk and disorderly charges, and for running a house of ill repute. The governor himself pardoned her when she was finally jailed for running a brothel. As an elderly woman she claimed to have won over $250,000 during her life, without ever once cheating.

Colorado Gambling - The letter of the law

For those wishing to follow in Alice’s footsteps, there are a fair few choices open to you within the remit of the law. A state lottery exists, and horse and dog racing is permitted provided it’s done through licensed state facilities, or by simulcast via licensed racecourses in other states.

There are tight controls over licensed premises’ activities, such as strict wagering limits, and these venues are also confined to very specific locales within the state. For a full summary of these laws, consult the Gaming Law Masters document [1] on the subject.

The state uses the dominant test for determining games of skill, meaning that provided chance and factors beyond the player’s control do not dominate any skill considerations, the game will be considered one of skill. “Bona fide contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance” are permitted, according to revised statute 18-10-102(2). Betting between golf players, for example, is allowed under law.

There was a recent setback in efforts to establish poker as firmly in the skill game category (and thus exempt from illegal status even when played as a raked game in unlicensed premised). A Supreme Court judge disallowed expert testimony heard by a district court alleging that poker is a game of skill, on the basis that poker had previously been determined as a game of chance. The court went on to disallow a petition to itself hear further arguments on the subject.

Social gaming is permitted, the test for this being simply that the game be deemed “incidental to a bona fide social relationship” and not a form of professional gambling.

The rulings regarding professional gambling are one of the most confusing aspects of Coloradan law, which defines this as “aiding or inducing another to engage in gambling, with the intent to derive a profit; or participating in gambling and having, other than by virtue of skill or luck, a lesser chance of losing or a greater chance of winning…”

It would seem from this then, that gambling to make a living from a skill edge is not classified as professional gambling under the law, although this would be a standard common sense interpretation of the term’s meaning. Legally, the term rather seems to refer to having an illegitimate edge, perhaps due to cheating, running unlicensed games, running illegal gambling rings and the like.

For a list of frequent questions regarding state gambling law, you can refer to this government FAQ [2].

As far as locations for casino gambling, these are restricted to tribal casinos, and to three other localities, Blackhawk, Central City and Cripple Creek. Limits were severely restricted until 2008 at $5 per bet, for both slots and other games such as poker, but these laws were relaxed recently with the passing of Colorado Amendment 50 [3].

This amendment, a citizen’s initiative passed by popular vote, allowed casinos to extend opening hours up to 24 hours, and increased the range of games and betting limits. It also contained rulings directing most of the tax revenue gained from the casinos to be channeled into Colorado community colleges and into the city infrastructures in the immediate local vicinities of the casinos. 

Betting limits for Coloradan casinos are now capped at $100 per single bet, with increases requiring on a vote taken by the local township. These limits of course attract another class of gamblers, satisfying the wagering desires of all but the biggest Sin City whales. The games of craps and roulette are also now sanctioned under law, and enjoy a busy reception at many state casinos.

What does the Colorado goverment say about legal online gambling?

There is no specific state ruling on online gambling. This does not infer that it is therefore legal, as some sham casino advertising sites might have you believe. In fact, as a matter of general principle, under Coloradan law any form of gambling not explicitly permitted is deemed illegal by default.

The Attorney General has made some comments regarding online gambling [4], stating that since there is no regulation, nor protection for the player, that it occurs beyond the remit of the law. It was also mentioned that there is no state scrutiny of odds or betting limits being offered to players, which is also illegal under state law. No mention of a risk of prosecution to players was made in this document.

Coloradan law also prohibits the transmission of gambling information by any means, another broadly defined ruling which could be subject to a range of interpretations. The Colorado Limited Gaming Commission also forbids people or businesses linked to the casino industry from having any involvement with internet gaming sites.

Illegally gambling is a class 1 petty offence, not attracting heavy penalties under the law, whilst promoting or providing gambling to others are far more serious offences.

A detailed debate on the gambling laws in Colorado took place on twoplustwo back in 2008 [5].

Plans have been drafted [6] to introduce a bill legalizing online gaming in Colorado, but without any specified plans to do so in a particular legislative session. Lawmakers are watching the progression of gambling law change in several other states, and the bill is believed to be closely modeled after that which recently passed in New Jersey.

Read More State Laws

Are land based casinos legal in Colorado?

Not only does the local government sanction and legislate for casino gambling, but they provide a helpful guide to all licensed venues. Updated in July 2013, this list features mention of exactly how many slots and other forms of gambling are available within each premises, listing slots, poker, roulette, blackjack and craps tables.

A friendly guide to the over 40 casino options dotted across the state can be glanced over in this guide which features discount offers and bonuses for readers. For these, just look under the “special offers” tab. The 500 nations website offers its own guide here [7].

One of the best casinos in Colorado is the Century Casino in Central City, catering for a wide range of gambling needs and featuring numerous slot machines and table games. There is a bad beat jackpot currently standing at $39,000, and poker games run Thursday through Sunday from 10am until close.

There are regular applications for new casinos across the state, such as these two proposals [8] put forward in 2012. This article offers detail on planning applications, and expected revenue from new venues.

A comprehensive guide to the numerous poker tournaments running each week across the state can be found here, courtesy of cardplayer.com. 2011 saw the first tournament with a prize pool of more than $1 million in Colorado, won by the aptly named Craig Casino who took down a 668 player field for a cool $293,270, not a bad return for his $1,500 outlay.

Busts and Arrests

Illegal games are busted with some regularity in this mountain state, including a bust in 2013 which saw marijuana, pills, bootleg movies, cash and gambling apparatus seized in a raid in Jackson County [9]. The participants will nonetheless face only misdemeanor charges.

Periodically, venues are busted seemingly to send a message to the business community about doing things by the book. Back in 2008 a small venue shut down for a “friendly” poker game in Denver complained in this press release about being singled out and made an example over [10], stating that similar games were going on all over Denver. A similar pattern of unease over state laws can be seen repeated in minor busts across the US in recent years.

However, there have been some more significant and high profile busts.

In 2011 a bar taking huge sports bets was busted, which had apparently been taking wagers for decades, from lawyers, celebrities and even businesses, and giving lines of credit into five and six figures.

Since sports betting is just a petty offence in Colorado, prosecutors deemed it not the “best use of resources” to attempt to charge individual players. The long-time owner of the bar, Daniel Dinner, had $1.2 million seized from his two homes by investigators, despite having only declared $36,000 per year on his IRS returns.

In a grislier turn of events, Jeffrey Castardi ran an illegal gambling operation for many years from his Gin Rummy Club. Known to host celebrity gamblers including several Broncos’ players, the club allegedly pursued those who could not pay up their credit lines with threats of violence.

At least two suicides are known to have occurred seemingly in direct response to these threats, and the owner Castardi was eventually jailed for 16 years on a count of violating the Colorado Organized Crime Act, to which he pleaded guilty. 
A pretty lucid argument for making Coloradan gambling laws more liberal and gambling activities more widely licensed is made in this journal, in direct response to these suicides, arguing that with proper licensing laws these deaths could have been avoided.

Summary

If you’re looking for some gambling in this fair mountain state, you sure have plenty of fine options to choose from. You can buy a lottery ticket, take part in any verifiable game of skill you wish and wager on it, run home games with impunity provided no consideration is taken by the house, or wager on dog and horse racing.

If you’d rather a more sophisticated experience, head over to one of over forty casinos spread out across the state, and partake in licensed slots, craps, roulette, blackjack and poker play with single bets of up to $100. Spend time in the tribal casinos, or in one of the three licensed gambling regions located on non-tribal land.

If you choose to do anything else, be it betting on sports, playing in unlicensed raked poker games, on venturing online for some real money gambling, know that you are breaking the law, and committing an act what Coloradan state law is likely to view as at least a petty offence.

Sources for this article

  1. Gaminglawmasters.com: Colorado
  2. Coloradoattorneygeneral.gov: Common Legal Questions
  3. Wikipedia.org: Colorado Amendment 50
  4. Colorado.gov: Attorney General Suthers and Gaming Commission Caution Against Illegal Gambling Activities
  5. Twoplustwo.com: colorado online gambling law?
  6. 500nations.com: Colorado Casinos
  7. Denverpost.com: Two proposed casinos in northwest Colorado promise economic spark
  8. Wlox.com: Gambling bust in Jackson county
  9. Thedenverchannel.com: Poker game bust may lead to more crackdowns
  10. Freecolorado.com: Colorados gambling problem