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Utah Governor Signs Bill to Ban Online Gaming

State Will Opt Out if Federal Bill Ever Comes to Fruition


After less than two months on the table, a bill aimed to preemptively ban online gaming in the state of Utah was signed into law on Monday by the governor.

The ball got rolling shortly after the Department of Justice clarified the Wire Act, which effectively made the statute an inadequate tool in stopping intrastate wagering on the web.

Republican lawmaker Stephen Sandstrom reacted quickly, announcing a few days before 2012 that he would draft a proposal to thwart what he labeled a “desperate attempt” to help the economy by some in the U.S. government.

Sandstrom wrote at the time that “many gambling critics see the DOJ’s recent interpretation as another major crack in America’s moral foundation.”

Although many in gaming see an interstate federal bill drawing dead for 2012, and perhaps forever, such legislation from Capitol Hill would likely allow states to opt in or out. Thanks to Sandstrom, Utah is ready if such a situation arises.

According to Utah’s bill, any person who gambles on the Internet is guilty of a class B misdemeanor.

The maximum penalty for a class B misdemeanor is six months in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to the Utah State Courts website. Other crimes that fall into the category include assault, resisting arrest, DUI, reckless driving, possession of marijuana under one ounce, possession of drug paraphernalia, shoplifting (under $300), trespass of a dwelling, public nuisance, concealed weapon and many traffic offenses.

Utah and Hawaii are the only two states in the country without legalized gambling of any kind. However, some in the Pacific have been trying to get Hawaii involved with the industry.

While Utah has finalized a measure to shield itself from a rapidly changing gaming world, neighboring Nevada is on the verge of flipping on the switch for Internet poker.

The Silver State legalized the activity last summer, put rules into place right before the new year and made a giant leap forward on Thursday by figuring out who will test the technology of the sites.

Follow Brian Pempus on Twitter — @brianpempus