Vermont’s Online Gambling Laws

What are the Gambling Laws In The State Of Vermont?

Vermont like to keep it simple with their gambling, it is either for charity (through their lottery or charity gambling nights) or you can’t play it. Ironically there are also legal provisions for pari-mutuel wagering on horse races, however there are no longer any racetracks to bet at, making this meaningless. The view from the Vermont press is that this State is happy to keep their quiet approach to the subject of gambling. This article gives you an overview of the gambling laws in the State of Vermont.

First of all below you will find a quick-fire gamblers history of Vermont, covering all the major games. Next a run-through of the game types one-by-one, along with a legal status of each. After that I have gotten more detailed, with some excerpts from the statute books and a short legal timeline. Finally you will find a summary and an optimistic look at possible future scenarios.


Vermont Gambling Laws – A Brief History

With so few options for gamblers, the history of gambling laws in Vermont is a short one. There used to be a horse-racing industry in this State and pari-mutuel betting was made legal at racetracks and on races at county fairs in 1959. This law still stands, though the races have since left.

Lottery and charity games is where all the action is at in Vermont, and 1976 saw an act passed which put these to a referendum. The first games took place 2 years later, and after this trial approval was given for the lottery to continue. Proceeds for this are directed directly to the Education Fund in this State since 1998.

Charity games are wider-ranging than just the bingo and raffles allowed in many other States. This includes Poker Tournaments, Casino nights and pull-tab type games. Licensing is required and there are restrictions on the number of nights games can be run and the size of the prizes on offer.

Poker home games are not separately carved out under any ‘social’ gambling laws. While the penalties for being caught playing in these games are small, you can be in worse legal shape as the host. There are no Casinos, tribal or otherwise. Many Vermont residents travel south to Connecticut to enjoy the casino resorts of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun.

With no interest in for-profit gambling it looks unlikely that Vermont would join any legal online poker States in offering this kind of game to residents. While some commentators feel that looking at online purchases of lottery tickets is a ‘good sign’, this is well within the charity remit and does not break with the tradition of ‘no commercial gambling allowed’ in this state.


What Kinds Of Gambling Are Currently Legal?

Casino Gaming: No, there are no State-licensed or tribal casinos in Vermont.

Online Casinos: No, there is nothing specifically making playing of online games against the law, however the wide ranging definition of gambling on the statute books is assumed to cover this.

Live Poker: Only charity poker games are permitted. While home games are tolerated, they are not strictly speaking within the Vermont law.

Online Poker: No, there are no current acts or debates concerning regulating online poker games.

Sports Betting: No, there are no racetracks and no remote betting (for example on Simulcasts) either. If a racetrack were to open, then pari-mutuel betting would be legal.

Lottery Betting: Yes, this is the main form of gambling which is permitted in Vermont, this includes scratch-cards and inter-State games like the PowerBall and Mega Millions.

Bingo Games: Yes, this comes under the wide ranging allowance for charity gaming which also includes pull-tab type games, raffles, casino nights and poker nights.


Vermont Gambling Laws – Timeline And Key Statutes

With so many restrictions on gambling in place, you might expect the definitions on the statute books for this State to be strong and the penalties to be strict. In fact, neither of those things is true. The core definition of gambling revolves around wagering and the maximum fine for players is a mere $200 – which might have been more significant at the time the laws were put into place. There are separate entries concerning promoting and hosting of gambling games.

Here is the core definition of gambling, though the term ‘hazard’ is not separately defined.

“A person who wins or loses money or other valuable thing by play or hazard at any game, or by betting on such play or hazard, or sharing in a stake wagered by others on such play or hazard, shall be fined not more than $200.00 nor less than $10.00.” (From: § 2141. Winning or losing by gambling)

Whether poker could have an exemption based on being a skill game is unclear from this, however it is currently assumed to be illegal in this State.

Here is the definition and (harsher) penalties for keeping a gambling house:

“A person who plays at cards, dice, tables or other game for money or other valuable in a common gaming or gambling house that is maintained for lucre and gain, shall be fined not more than $200.00 or imprisoned not more than sixty days, or both. “

There has not been too much action on the legal front in Vermont aside from these core statutes, below are the main events:

1960: Referendum ratifies Act 259, which allows for pari-mutuel betting on horse races at agricultural fairs. There are currently no horse races to bet on in this State, making this law all but useless.

1978: The first lottery game occurred, 2 years after a referendum voted for its establishment.  A clause in the act meant that there would have to be a separate validation in 1979 for the lottery to continue. This was given and the games continue to this day.

1998: New mandate for the lottery means that all profits from the games now go to the Education fund.

2011: Attempt to legislate for a State casino does not make it out of committee.

2012: Commission established to look into accepting lottery ticket sales online, which will report in 2013, there was no sign of any changes coming from this at the time of writing in 2014.


Vermont Gambling Laws – Summary And A Look To The Future

There are very few States who restrict gambling as much as Vermont do, with only Utah, Hawaii, Tennessee and South Carolina more controlling of their resident’s freedom to gamble. Fortunately there are many surrounding States offering horse racing, casinos and poker which are only a short drive away. The recent drive to license casinos in upstate New York in 2014 could also give more opportunities.

It is hard to make a case for Vermont regulating online poker at the moment – since this falls well outside of their ‘charity only’ remit.


Useful Resources:

Attorney General Q&A On Gambling

Vermont Statutes

Racing Archives (History)