Legal Gambling in the State of Oregon

An Overview Of The Gambling Laws In The State Of Oregon

Oregon is tolerant of gambling which takes place under their broad ‘social’ definitions, though come down hard on people taking money for online gambling purposes. This State have 9 class 3 tribal casinos offering the full range of games, and also have some advanced sports betting options. This article gives you a detailed overview of the gambling laws in the State of Oregon.

First up below, Oregon’s gambling history is covered in quick-fire fashion, starting with the first legislation (for horse racing) in 1931. After that you’ll find a game-by-game guide covering the different forms of gambling, along with the current legal status. Next a little more detail on the statutes is provided, including quotations and a legal timeline. Finally you will find a brief summary and a look at possible future scenarios for this State.


Oregon Gambling Laws – A Brief History

Oregon have a long history of sports betting, and are one of only 4 States who were ‘grandfathered’ into an exemption from a Federal ban on betting on pro sports in 1992. They first introduced Pari-Mutuel betting in 1931 for horse racing, with greyhound racing following 2 years later. Nowadays, Oregon offers advanced betting options including internet wagering (for prior deposits) and the ability to accept bets on horse-races from out of state. Their lottery games on pro sports results unfortunately came to an end, as did greyhound racing – which fell victim to changing times and declining popularity.

Social gambling is the big thing in Oregon. Games such as poker are legal here as long as the house or an individual is not directly profiting by running them. This covers home-games easily, though also covers many poker clubs who make their profit by charging a cover (entrance) charge and from food and drink. There are also charity poker tournaments – and full poker rooms at the tribal casinos. Charity gaming also extends to bingo, raffles and ‘casino nights’ – and there is a lottery which also supplies cash for good causes.

1992 saw the negotiation of compacts with the tribes in Oregon and there are now a total of 9 tribal casinos offering the top tier of casino games including table games and slots. There have been more recent moves to license commercial casinos. These were rejected in a 2012 referendum, and plans to expand these are currently on hold.

Oregon is one of the few States to explicitly outlaw online gambling. The crime is accepting money for gambling (which is defined broadly) from Oregon citizens – and so firmly aimed at the operators. There has been no discussion of regulating internet poker games in this state as of 2014.


What Types Of Gambling Are Legal?

Casino Games: Yes, you can play at tribal casinos that have class 3 games, which include slots and casino table games.

Online Casinos: No, this State does have an explicit anti-internet gambling law, which makes it illegal to accept bets from anyone over the internet (making the operators of online casinos the criminals).

Live Poker: Yes, you have 3 options for live poker games in this State. First you can play at the tribal casinos, many of which have card-rooms. Second there are a lot of poker card-rooms which stay legal by returning all the prizes back to the players (not profiting directly from the games). Third, you can play poker home-games under the same social poker rules, as long as nobody is profiting from the games.

Online Poker: No, there is no discussion about carving out or regulating online poker games at this time.

Sports Betting: Yes, Oregon is one of 4 States (along with Nevada, Delaware and Montana) who were exempted from the Federal ban on sports-betting in 1992 due to their existing laws. You can bet on horse racing here, though not professional sports. There are facilities for remote betting and advance deposit betting over the internet or telephone for horse racing fans.

Lottery Betting: Yes, Oregon has a State lottery and participates in inter-State drawing games.

Bingo Games: Yes, there are social gambling laws in this State which include both bingo and raffle type games.


Oregon Gambling Laws – Key Statutes And Legal Timeline

The statutes in Oregon are water-tight compared to the loosely defined laws in many States. There are plenty of carve-outs for different kinds of charity and social gambling (in addition to the Tribal compacts), however the core laws are very strict. Gambling and contest of chance definitions encompass the element of chance / elements of skill definition which is often used as a get-out clause for games like poker. If there was any remaining doubt, Texas Holdem is specifically listed as an illegal casino game. There are also laws making it a felony to accept wagers over the internet from Oregon residents, along with an all-encompassing list of the financial transactions this might involve.

First, here is the list of casino games, please make sure you do not end up in jail for organizing an illegal game of chuck-a-luck!

“Casino game” means any of the traditional gambling-based games commonly known as dice, faro, monte, roulette, fan-tan, twenty-one, blackjack, Texas hold-’em, seven-and-a-half, big injun, klondike, craps, poker, chuck-a-luck, Chinese chuck-a-luck (dai shu), wheel of fortune, chemin de fer, baccarat, pai gow, beat the banker, panquinqui, red dog, acey-deucey, or any other gambling-based game similar in form or content. “ (From 167-116)

This is the Contest of Chance definition:

(6) “Contest of chance” means any contest, game, gaming scheme or gaming device in which the outcome depends in a material degree upon an element of chance, notwithstanding that skill of the contestants may also be a factor therein. (From 167-116)

Finally, here is the wording on accepting money over the internet for the gambling purposes:

(1) A person engaged in an Internet gambling business may not knowingly accept, in connection with the participation of another person in unlawful gambling using the Internet:” (from: 167-109)

Below is the recent legal timeline of changes affecting gamblers in Oregon:

1931: Pari-mutuel betting on horse racing begins, with greyhound betting following in 1933.

1971: Charity gambling legalized, allowing fundraising ‘casino nights’. Bingo and raffles were added to this bill in an amendment in 1976.

1973: Social gaming becomes legal, as long as the house (or an individual) does not profit from running a game, this is considered to be within the law.

1984: Bill passed signing the Oregon State lottery into law, the ‘Oregon Lottery Commission’ also regulate VLT (virtual lottery terminals) which are class 2 gaming machines now found at racetracks and many tribal casinos.

1991: VLTs allowed into bars, where they pushed out the remaining illegally operated video poker machines. This law was later amended, increasing the number of VLTs to 6 per location.

1992: First tribal compacts signed which enabled native tribes to offer class 1 and 2 games. Later 9 casinos would be allowed to offer class 3 gaming, which includes table games, slots and poker card-rooms, 6 were opened in 1996.

1997: Out of State bets on horse races and greyhounds accepted electronically.

2004: Last greyhound races took place after this sport lost its appeal.

2011: Amendment passed making accepting money for gambling online a felony.


Oregon Gambling Laws – Summary And Look To The Future

This State is unique in several aspects. First, their social gambling rules are very relaxed and give scope for a lot of recreational gambling activity. Second, they do explicitly make internet gambling illegal, with laws focusing on the game operators taking wagers from people inside the State. There have been some progressive moves – including a recent attempt to create a non-tribal, State-run casino – this was rejected and there appear to be no further expansion plans.

I do not believe that Oregon is a good candidate for regulated online gambling in the near future, based on their existing anti-internet gambling laws. There is no fundamental reason to rule this out once many other States are involved and the revenue generation potential is established.


Useful Resources:

Wiki History / Overview

Tribal Histories

Gambling Law US Summary Of Statutes:

Interactive Statutes Viewer (Gambling Is Under Chapter 4)

Internet Gambling Amendment