In a pre-emptive move against the possibility of legalized online gambling at the federal level, Utah has become the first state to legally opt out. Yesterday, Governor Gary Herbert signed into law bill HB108. This bill excludes all Utah residents from gambling online should it ever become legalized through bill HR1174 or any other federal legislation.
Other states currently have laws against online poker/gambling, but they are worded in such a way that they may change their stance in the future. Should online poker become legalized, it is likely that some of these current anti-online gambling states may change their tune and license online gambling operators to service their own residents. But Utah will not be among them.
Bill HB108 is unique in that it is worded in such a way that, unless repealed, residents of Utah will be permanently opted out from being able to gamble online legally. Even in the event that federal legislation passes allowing for operators to be licensed by the United States government, Utah players would still be unable to play.
While it is a small blow to the push for legalized online gambling, it comes as no surprise that Utah has taken this course of action. Utah has a long history of prohibiting gambling whenever possible. The HB108 anti-gambling bill did not take long to become law either. In fact it took just 8 weeks from the time it was introduced by Utah Rep. Stephen Sandstorm to the time that it was signed into law.
The only other state that currently prohibits gambling of all sorts is Hawaii. But even Hawaii is currently looking at the potential benefits that allowing online gambling within their state could allow. Despite their own pro-poker proposal (bill HB2422) being shelved earlier this week, there is still a chance that residents of Hawaii could be playing online poker legally in the future.