Colorado State Flag iconYou have accessed our guide to Colorado gambling laws. It is meant to serve as a resource for players who are looking for clarification as to the legality of both Colorado online gambling and land-based gambling opportunities. We address gambling laws that affect Colorado players both on a state and a federal level, and discuss legal options for players. You’ll find information concerning brick and mortar gambling establishments as well as the current status of legal Colorado online casinos, poker, and sports betting, as well as a look into the history of the state’s gambling laws and how they have evolved. We strongly adhere to the school of thought that a successful experience with legally sanctioned gambling entertainment is completely dependent on an individual making informed decisions. Only then can one’s gambling entertainment result in an enjoyable, rewarding experience that is compatible with their individual needs and preferences.

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Colorado Gambling Law Definitions

Under Colorado gambling law, gambling is defined as the risking of money, deposit, credit or anything of value for gain contingent wholly or partly on chance, lot, the operation of a gambling device or the outcome or happening of an event over which the person who is risking the money, deposit, credit or anything of value has no control. Event includes sporting events. Colorado gambling law makes exceptions for authorized forms of gambling including social gambling. Those who engage in an illegal gambling activity as mere players will be subject to a fine if caught and convicted. Gambling is a Class 1 petty offense. Those convicted of operating or promoting illegal gambling will be subject to far stricter penalties.

Knowingly receiving or transmitting gambling information by telephone, radio, telegraph, semaphore or other means or knowingly maintaining or installing equipment for transmission of gambling information is a crime in Colorado. It is a Class 3 misdemeanor.

Colorado Gambling Laws Concerning Professional Gamblers

The gambling law in Colorado makes a reference to professional gambling. Under Colorado gambling law, those who operate or profit from an illegal gambling activity will be charged with professional gambling. The Colorado code directs the state officially to interpret the gambling laws liberally. So the officials can apply the law broadly to assume any activity that is not specifically listed in the law but similar to the activities listed to be illegal.

Colorado Online Gambling Laws

While Colorado law does not directly address the issue of online gambling, playing online poker or casino games can run afoul of Colorado gambling law since knowingly transmitting or receiving gambling information by telephone, radio, telegraph, semaphore or other means or knowingly installing or maintaining equipment for transmission of gambling information is a crime. Thus far, this definition has never been applied to offshore gambling, and there are no documented cases of anyone being investigated or arrested for gambling online at legally licensed offshore destinations.  State and federal laws that seek to restrict online and offline gambling come at this from an operational standpoint rather than an individual player approach, which means they are interested in criminalizing the act of providing illegal gambling entertainment rather than the act of participating as a bettor.

Playing online poker or casino games does not violate existing US Federal gambling laws. The restrictions present from the Federal Wire Act apply only to US-based sports betting. Players living in or visiting Colorado should restrict their participation to legally licensed and regulated gambling sites which are located within a jurisdiction that has specifically legalized online gambling within their territories. This could include the offshore sites that provide Colorado online sports betting, poker or casino games, or even online bingo sites accepting Colorado players.

History of Colorado Gambling Laws

Gambling was very popular and rampant in Colorado in the 1800s and early 1900s. Many consider Brown’s Saloon which opened in 1822 to be the first American casino. The new settlers, as well as traveling gold miners, indulged in gambling. There were laws that made gambling illegal but they were not enforced during the 1800s and the early 1900s. Subsequently like all other states, Colorado began to enforce laws against gambling and all forms of gambling were outlawed in the state. Today, certain forms of gambling are legal in Colorado.

Colorado Social Gambling Laws

Colorado gambling law makes an exception for social gambling. A home game of poker will be legal if no party profits from running the game, all participants have a valid social relationship and no businesses or non-persons are involved. All poker games except those permitted by law are illegal. In fact, in 2010 the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal challenging a lower court order that declared poker constituted gambling. Players can opt for legally licensed and regulated Colorado online poker sites that are located outside of the US to legally participate in online poker gambling.

Colorado Pari-Mutuel Gambling Laws

In 1948 pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in the state. There are many pari-mutuel greyhound racing and horse racing facilities across the state. The state also has two off-track betting facilities.

Charitable Gambling Laws in Colorado

Colorado gambling law makes an exception for charitable gambling in the form of bingo, pull-tab games, and raffles. Qualified organizations can apply for a license to hold charitable gambling events. Qualified organizations include charitable, religious, labor, educational, fraternal, voluntary firefighters or veterans organizations operating on nonprofit basis. The organization must be in existence for a continuous period of five years. The Secretary of State regulates charitable gambling in Colorado. Poker tournaments and casino nights are legal if at least one of the three elements associated with such events – payment, luck, and prize are absent. For example, if there is no entry fee or there is no prizes given to the winner. When the prize is disconnected from the risk element of poker or casino night, the activity will not meet the legal definition of gambling.

Colorado State Lottery Laws

In 1982 the Colorado State Assembly passed S.B. 11 authorizing the creation of a state lottery. The first ticket was sold in January 1983. The Colorado state lottery is a member of the Multi-State Lottery Association.

Indian Tribe Gambling Laws In Colorado

When the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed by Congress in 1988, many states including Colorado began negotiating gaming compacts with Indian tribes. The Colorado Limited Gaming Act of 1990 allowed casinos to offer live poker, slot machines, and blackjack. The first casino opened in 1992 but the betting ranges were severely limited. In 2008 these restrictions were lifted. It is legal to play poker at casinos in the state that offers poker. There are over 40 casinos in Colorado.

Federal Gambling Laws

Some players are under the misconception that the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act that was passed in 2006 prohibits US players from participating in online gambling. This is not the case at all, in fact, the UIGEA does not address players at all. It places regulatory oversight on how online gambling transactions can be processed. It targets online gambling site operators and payment processors. There are no federal laws criminalizing or prohibiting players from participating in legally licensed and regulated gambling sites.

Colorado State Gambling Laws

Players who would like to review Colorado gambling laws and statutes in their entirety can visit the State of Colorado Department of Revenue Division of Gaming where you will find access to the official documentation.

Colorado Gambling Laws FAQs

What Is “Social Gambling”?

The social gambling laws in Colorado make an exception in existing gambling laws for residents that want to host a poker night among friends. No parties must profit from the game outside of any potential winnings and all relationships must be purely social.

What Will Happen If I Am Caught Illegally Gambling?

Merely as players, any residents of Colorado that are caught gambling will be subject to a fine and a Class 1 petty offense of gambling. A class 1 petty offense under Colorado state law has no minimum penalty but holds a maximum penalty of up to six months in jail and a $500 dollar fine. Knowingly transmitting information related to gambling by phone, telegraph, radio, or any other means or even installing the equipment used in such a transmission results in a class 3 misdemeanor. A class 3 misdemeanor is the least serious misdemeanor in the state of Colorado and holds a penalty of up to six months in jail and a fine ranging from $50 to $750 dollars.

Is Online Gambling Legal In The State Of Colorado?

Technically it can get tricky because the legal code defines the transmission of gambling information and the installation of equipment that is used in gambling activities to be a part of the offense. As of yet, this definition has never been interpreted to include offshore online gambling entertainment but rather is focused on gambling operations taking place within state lines. There have not been any cases documented in which the state applied the above-mentioned definition to any individual using their computer to gamble online at legally sanctioned offshore gambling sites. In addition, there are no federal laws that restrict the use of legally regulated offshore gambling sites in any sub-genre of gambling.

What Is Pari-Mutuel Gambling?

This is the primary form of gambling that has been widely legalized in the United States at horse and dog racing tracks. It comes from a French word meaning “mutual betting” and can be defined as “a form of betting in which those backing the first three places divide the losers’ stakes.” It’s like social betting in that all participants bet against each other instead of the “house” which only takes a small fee.

What Is Charitable Gambling?

In the state of Colorado, charitable organizations include religious organizations, labor organizations, Frats, Educational, or volunteer firefighters or veterans that operate in a non-profit basis. These organizations have been given the express privilege of providing legal Bingo, pull-tab games and raffles to generate revenue for charitable causes.

Are There Any Legal Gambling Options In Colorado Outside Of The Internet?

In 1992, the first Indian casino opened up despite the heavy regulations on the types of gambling activities they were allowed to provide. Since then, the regulations have relaxed quite a bit and now there are over 40 casinos in the state of Colorado that offer a wide variety of gambling entertainment options.


**This site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to serve as or substitute for professional legal services in any way. If you are seeking professional legal services, we suggest that you contact an attorney.