Colorado Legal Poker Laws

A Guide to Poker in the State of Colorado

Colorado Gambling Laws

First up in this guide to poker in Colorado you can find a brief summary of the recent changes to the gambling laws. The question of whether or not poker is legal is then asked before going over the options players have to compete live. Finally the status of online poker in Colorado is covered.

A Brief History of Gambling in Colorado

Gambling laws in Colorado have seen some major changes in recent years. The first recorded casino opened in 1822, to capitalize on growing demand for gambling which accompanied the Gold Rush. It was going to be another 169 years before gambling was properly regulated.

State operated casinos started opening in 1991, initially at only three locations – Black Hawk, Cripple Creek and Central City. There were strict limits in place with maximum stakes of $5, 2am curfews and Roulette and Craps were excluded. Over the following years more casinos began to appear, including those operating on Tribal land.

It was 2008 where the rules were eventually loosened, where the local towns who hosted casinos could vote on whether or not to relax the rules. Now stakes are permitted up to $100, 24 hour gambling is available and casinos now offer a full range of games.

Is Poker Legal in Colorado?

Poker classed as either gambling or social gaming in Colorado and is legal providing it is played in a licensed venue or complies with social gaming rules.

Gambling is defined in Colorado’s Statute Section 18-10-102, which covers games that are "contingent" on chance, be it "whole or in part". Poker’s classification of a gambling game has been supported by the Colorado Supreme Court in 2010, when it refused to hear an appeal which centered on poker being a game of skill.

Those operating or caught competing in small illegal games in Colorado are rarely given more than a slap on the wrist.  This State chooses instead to focus enforcement on the operators of larger games, particularly those believed to be connected to other illegal activities.

Live Poker Options for Colorado Players

With plenty of live opportunities to play poker in Colorado, there is no obvious reason to seek out illegal games. Currently 11 out of the 40 state operated casinos in Colorado provide licensed poker rooms. In addition to hosting plenty of cash action and daily tournaments the State has its own Colorado Championship and the World Series of Poker has visited the Black Hawke Lodge Casino with their Circuit events.

Home poker games are completely legal and classed as social games providing the host does not charge a rake or fee for participation. Using the same social classification, free to enter bar leagues are allowed, providing no fee or purchase is required.

Charity tournaments are subject to less favorable. In theory while it is fine to run a tournament, if a fee or donation is charged then the tournament can only provide prizes at random, not based on anything a player has influence on.  This essentially means a charity tournament would be a nothing more than a raffle, with the poker playing accounting for nothing.

Colorado’s View on Online Poker

There are currently no regulated online poker games within Colorado. Although there is no law specifically naming online gambling the CO attorney general has stated that existing laws cover internet gambling and as such this activity would be illegal gambling. 

Now that Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey leading the way with regulated online games, Colorado lawmakers are watching to see how this progresses. Draft legislation has already been attempted in the State and although those efforts came to nothing future drafts are expected.

With industry insiders believing regulate online poker in Colorado could potentially generate $30.4 million to $37.8 million in annual revenue within five years, it is easy to see why there are encouraging signs the issue will be addressed sooner rather than later.

Until any regulation comes into place the only option for residents is to play on the offshore sites providing games for US players. These sites operate legally from outside of the US, normally from the Caribbean islands from where they use free-trade laws to argue their ability to provide games to US players.

While no federal law exists preventing players competing on these sites, in theory you could technically be in breach of Colorado state law. This has yet to be enforced by the authorities, let alone tested in a court of law and no one has yet been indicted for playing online.

In Summary – Colorado Poker

Since 2008 Colorado has offered a wide range of choices for poker players looking to play live. The state now has a number of card rooms operating perfectly legally and players have the ability to run social home games at their home.

At present the law is not friendly to online poker, with existing laws classing it as illegal gambling. This may well change in the future as Colorado observes what happens in the already regulated States with the view of introducing their own regulation.