The United States is frequently considered the “land of the free.” And with freedom usually comes the freedom to choose certain activities. But did you know that there are two states in the US that have completely outlawed any type of gambling? These two states are Utah and Hawaii.
On this page, I will be talking about the state of Utah, its history, and why this makes sense for the local culture. You’ll find out more about why gambling in Utah is prohibited and what you can do as a resident of the state.
Keep reading below to learn why Utah doesn’t take any bets.
Why Is There No Gambling in Utah?
The Mormon Church of Latter-Day Saints, also referred to as LDS, does not condone any type of sinful activity. This includes the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and partaking in real money gambling.
But why am I pointing this out? Well, the LDS Church has heavy influences on the state of Utah’s culture and politics. Therefore, Utah has outlawed all forms of gambling for anything of value.
And this makes sense because it’s simply a part of their established culture. With a large Mormon population in Utah, it’s only natural that the community’s majority affects local regulations.
Church of Latter-Day Saints
Utah actually has the highest Mormon population in the world. Let’s break this down into some numbers:
- Total Worldwide Mormon Population – 15,000,000
- Total United States Mormon Population – 6,592,195
- Utah Mormon Population – 1,400,000 (This is more than the next largest population of LDS members by country)
As you can see, the state of Utah has a large LDS population. Like most states, culture influences beliefs and politics.
Gambling (all forms for money) is illegal. The first variation of the Church was founded by Joseph Smith in 1830. It was called the Church of Christ, located in Ohio. A lot of people don’t know that this misunderstood religion wasn’t founded in Utah. Early Mormons carried their beliefs west with the Western Expansion of the 1800s. They ended up in Utah after many banishments and finally found their Holy Land.
Mormonism flourished in this beautiful landscape and grew to be the home state of the LDS Church. Salt Lake City is the capital of Utah. It is in a valley surrounded by the Wasatch Mountains to the east and north and the Oquirhh (pronounced “oaker”) to the West. What you’ll notice after you catch your breath from the landscape is Temple Square.
Temple Square is the World Head Quarters of The Church of Latter-Day Saints, the modern Mormon church. This should give you an idea of how prominent the LDS church is in Utah. Temple Square is a huge tourist attraction and religious journey for LDS members and non-Mormon visitors alike. The actual temple is a feat of physics, with its towers projecting into the sky.
Like I mentioned, LDS members don’t gamble according to their religious beliefs. It is considered a lesser transgression. Here is the exact wording about gambling from the LDS Church’s website:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is opposed to gambling, including lotteries sponsored by governments. Church leaders have encouraged Church members to join with others in opposing the legalization and government sponsorship of any form of gambling.
Gambling is motivated by a desire to get something for nothing. This desire is spiritually destructive. It leads participants away from the Savior’s teachings of love and service and toward the selfishness of the adversary. It undermines the virtues of work and thrift and the desire to give honest effort in all we do.”
So, you can now probably understand the issue with legalized gambling within a predominantly Mormon state. As I said, it’s part of their culture.
The Utah population is more than 60% Mormon. This bleeds over into their politics as well. Let’s talk about that for a second.
LDS Church Influence on Utah Politics
In a state whose constituents are 62% LDS members, you would expect they would elect members to their local and state legislatures that hold the same beliefs as themselves. That would be the most basic description of democracy.
But what about the separation of church and state? This just isn’t so in Utah. It may be true on paper, but where is there a true separation of the two anywhere in our country? As evidenced in its laws, Utah voters overwhelmingly support the LDS values being reflected in their state legislation.
Is All Gambling Illegal in Utah?
Simply put, yes. It is illegal in the State of Utah to do the following activities:
- Run a casino
- Gamble for money
- Play the lottery
- Bet on horses
- Place wagers on any event’s outcome
- Play at a real money online casino
- Run an online casino website
- Play a card game for any value
- Host a casino night in your home where bets with real money
- Any dice game with bets for real money are also outlawed
Residents have never really tried to legalize gambling in Utah, and this is what the overwhelming majority supports. It’s just not going to be a gambling state.
But what if you’re a Utah resident and want to gamble? Don’t worry! You’ve got some options.
Where Can Utah Residents Gamble?
There are some loopholes in the law for Utah residents who want to gamble. They’re not going to be for money, but you can bet in your home state at a charity event for fake money. You can also go to a card room and play cards for phony money… That’s probably not what you’re looking for, huh?
Theoretically, you could also go online and play some of the free play-money games there, too. It’s similar to playing for Monopoly money.
Well, below, you’ll find a list of the closest places where you can gamble legally.
Casino, Horse Racing, and Lottery Gambling Closest to Utah
Luckily, Utah’s neighbor is the gambling mecca—Nevada. Depending on where you live in Utah will depend on where the closest gambling establishment is.
- Southern Utah residents can make the drive to Mesquite, NV.
- Don’t forget that Las Vegas is always a short drive away and an even shorter flight.
- SLC residents can drive to Wyoming and visit any of the Native casinos right over the border.
- Live close to Colorado? You can drive over the border to visit one of CO’s Native casinos, too.
- Except for Nevada, the states surrounding Utah have legal state lotteries.
Visiting Utah and Looking for Something to Do?
Utah is a beautiful state. It has more natural attractions than I can list. It also has lots of non-gambling options for visitors.
Here’s a list of my favorite places and things to do in Utah:
- Visit Arches, Bryce Canyon, or Zion National Parks. You’ll thank me later!
- Whitewater rafting
- Glamping (camping with indoor amenities)
- Visit award-winning breweries in Utah. My favorite is Epic Brewing in SLC.
- Visit Salt Lake City, its capital.
- Sundance Film Fest is held annually in Sundance, UT.
This is just a shortlist. As I said, Utah is beautiful and so are its residents. There’s plenty to do, and the only real downside is that casinos are prohibited here.
It’s clear that Utah is not looking to change its gambling laws anytime soon. But as a tip, just don’t visit Utah if you’re looking to have a gambling vacation. That’s what Vegas and Atlantic City are for!
I personally love gambling, but it’s not something I have to do every time I go on vacation. Utah is a fantastic place to take a road trip, turn off your phone, and just enjoy the world for what it is.
I hope you enjoyed this post! I would love to hear your thoughts and questions about gambling in the US. Please leave a comment below!