As the second least populated state in the nation and home to exactly zero commercial or tribal casinos, Vermont is not exactly high on the list of states looking to expand into the regulated online poker market. Yet, pre-Black Friday it was the state with the eighth highest online poker participation rate in the United States . Of course that could have something to do with its exceedingly harsh winters, but even still, players from Vermont clearly love their poker.
Unfortunately, right now residents of Vermont will have a much easier time finding a ski slope than they will a poker game, or any other form of gambling outside the lottery for that matter. That could very well change someday, especially as other northeastern states such as Massachusetts and New York take the iGaming plunge. Just don’t trade in your ski boots for a new laptop just yet.
Can Players from Vermont Play Real-Money Online Poker?
Regulated online poker is not authorized by the state of Vermont, although it’s difficult to envision a scenario where players would be prosecuted for wagering money at a virtual poker room. And even then the penalty for participating in an unauthorized game caps out at $200.
Players from European nations hardly have the same concerns as those from Vermont. In the past several years online poker has boomed in Europe, largely thanks to its more relaxed regulations and the rise of several of the best poker sites.
Is Online Poker Legal in Vermont?
Vermont’s gambling statutes are more cryptic and antiquated than most, with no mention of online poker and no straightforward definition of gambling. The best we can hope to do is deduce a definition from the
Winning of losing by gambling charge:
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. Section 2141
By logically deduction, we can conclude that Vermont defines gambling as the act of winning or losing money by placing a bet. The elements of chance and skill are notably absent from our makeshift definition, leading us to believe that playing poker would be a prosecutable crime. Luckily, the penalty for doing so equates to a light slap on the wrist.
Those who play
at cards, dice, tables or other game[s] for money…in a common gaming or gambling house that is maintained for lucre and gain face slightly harsher penalties; up to a $200 fine and/or 60 days behind bars.
For all intents and purposes, these two passages criminalize the act of playing poker in a social environment, whether the house charges a rake or not.
Illicit gaming operators can face charges up to $10,000 and/or one year imprisonment – hefty, but still below average relative to the rest of the United States. Vermont’s gambling statutes also indicate a specific fine for those who lottery off property, with first offenders receiving up to one year in jail, and repeat offenders three.
Limited charitable gambling is permitted under certain conditions. Namely, the organization hosting the event must be qualified. There is also a restriction on the number of events a venue can hold each year. Permissible games include raffles, bingo and card games such as poker. Unfortunately, from what we can tell, that’s about the extent in which players from the state can legally partake in Hold’em or other poker variants, online included – although no mention of online poker is made in the statutes.
For more on this, please refer to Vermont’s state code .
Vermont Gambling History
If one were to write a book on Vermont’s gambling history, it would likely be a novella. Pre-Revolution settlers partook in a variety of wagering activities, ranging from betting on races to playing card games of chance and holding lotteries. But due to the state’s paltry population, gambling was never as widespread as it was in other parts of New England and the Mid-Atlantic.
By the early 1900s, lawmakers began enacting stricter anti-gambling provisions, and within mere decades all forms of gambling were banned from Vermont.
Needing an additional source of tax revenue, Vermont legalized an intrastate lottery in 1976. Two years later, the first tickets were sold by the mid-1980s, the Green Mountain State joined in a compact with two of its closest neighbors – Maine and New Hampshire – in a tri-state lottery arrangement.
In 1998, it was decided that all profits generated form the lottery would go to the state’s Educational Fund, as opposed to its general fund. In 2012 alone the lottery raised $22.3 for the fund.
More recently, Vermont opted into multi-jurisdiction lotteries such as Powerball and Mega Millions.
In 2012, the lottery commission was tasked with studying the option of selling lottery tickets online . Its findings were to be reported in January 2013, although to date the lottery is still not online.
Regulated Gambling Options in Vermont
There isn’t many. Besides the lottery, Vermont’s faithful can participate in a smattering of charitable gambling events each year. There are no horse racing track, no casinos, and no social gambling exception.
The Future of Regulated Online Gambling in Vermont
For a state that has yet to build a single casino or racetrack, Vermont appears fairly open to the idea of online wagering. Currently, the main hurdle blocking Vermont’s path towards gambling expansion is a lack of demand due to its small population.
Should Vermont participate in an iGaming rollout, it will likely be as part of an interstate compact, as its 626,000 residents could hardly sustain a healthy poker community – one needn’t look further than Delaware’s abysmal start in the industry to realize that .
And because there are no casinos in the state, one would assume that the lottery commission would be in charge of regulations and oversight – again, similar to Delaware. But considering the rate of gambling expansion in the northeast, the odds of Vermont eventually joining the mix are better than one would initially think.