In 2005 Montana amended its gambling laws to make clear that anyone engaging in “Internet gambling” was engaging in an illegal gambling enterprise. As far as state laws on internet gambling go, this one is pretty cut and dried. Poker definitely falls under the state’s definition of gambling, and the definition of internet gambling (found at MCA §23-5-112(20)) leaves little wiggle room.
According to the Gambling Control Division, the intent of the change was to “clearly prohibit internet gambling” in Montana.
In Montana, approved forms of gambling must be explicitly authorized by the legislature. In the absence of such explicit authorization, Article III, Section 9 of the state constitution prohibits all forms of gambling. And while Section 23-5-112 of the Montana Code Annotated defines “gambling” broadly enough to include poker, Section 23-5-311 specifically permits poker as an authorized game. The permitted variants are found at Administrative Rules of Montana §23.16.1202.
Unfortunately, §23-5-312 caps the prizes for “an individual live card game” at $300, though that amount is scheduled to be increased to $800 on October 1, 2013. Operators are allowed to offer up to 12 tournaments per year at buy-ins of up to $2,500. On October 1, 2013, that maximum buy-in amount will decrease to $1,875 but daily tournaments of up to $80 will be permitted.
The Gambling Control Division of the Montana Department of Justice maintains a list of establishments licensed to offer live card games. The list is updated monthly and is typically 10-12 pages long. Most licensed establishments are bars.
The Montana code doesn’t seem to make any exception for home games, but given the number of licensed live-game operators, home games probably aren’t a cause for alarm.