All in One Minnesota Gambling Guide
Minnesota doesn't have a single commercial casino, but they're still one of the most liberal states in regards to gambling.
They have tribal casinos, widespread charity gambling, legal social gambling, lottery games, poker rooms, racing venues and bar-based video terminals.
Obviously the Land of 10,000 Lakes has plentiful gambling opportunities, but what's their stance on Internet gaming?
This is one of the main things that we'll cover in the next section.
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Online Gambling and Minnesota Law
Like many states, Minnesota hasn't addressed online gambling in their criminal code.
In the absence of this language, numerous off-shore gaming sites continue operating in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.You won't have any trouble finding an online casino, poker site or sportsbook in this state, but does that mean you're in the clear to play?
Let's find out by looking at Minnesota's gambling laws as well as the legal precedent they've set on iGaming matters.
Is Online Gambling Legal in Minnesota?
The Gopher State doesn't specifically address Internet gambling, but like many states, they have vague language that could deem iGaming illegal.
Minnesota's constitution defines a bet in Section 609.75 (Subd. 2) as follows:
"A bet is a bargain whereby the parties mutually agree to a gain or loss by one to the other of specified money, property or benefit dependent upon chance although the chance is accompanied by some element of skill."
This is a broad definition that can include any form of unlicensed gaming. We assume this means that any bet offered or placed over the Internet is also illegal.
On the other hand, we've seen states with far stronger language against online gambling. Louisiana, Oklahoma and Washington explicitly ban Internet gaming.
That said, we don't view Minnesota as being overly concerned with online gaming - especially when their criminal code doesn't mention it.
Can I Get Arrested for Gambling Online in Minnesota?
We'll preface this by saying that nobody has been arrested for online gambling in Minnesota. This doesn't mean that it's totally impossible either.
Section 609.75 (Subd. 2) defines an illegal gambling device as follows:
"... is a contrivance which for a consideration affords the player an opportunity to obtain something of value, other than free plays, automatically from the machine or otherwise, the award of which is determined principally by chance."
Again, this is broad language that could include any number of devices, including smartphones, tablets or computers.
If Minnesota Police caught somebody gambling on a smartphone and wanted to make case of it, they could use Section 609.75 (Subd. 2). But would they go this far?
The odds are highly unlikely that Minnesota would ever take such drastic action. Furthermore, the lack of precedence in prosecuting online gamblers makes us think they won't start at any point in the future.
Still, be aware of the laws if you're going to gamble online within state borders.
Will Minnesota Legalize Online Gambling?
Minnesota is one of the least-active states when it comes to seeking Internet gambling legislation. This doesn't appear likely to change any time soon for three reasons:
- We haven't seen one piece of pro-online gambling legislation discussed in Minnesota.
- With the exception of Iowa, Minnesota doesn't have any neighbors that are serious about regulating the activity.
- They don't have any commercial casinos to push the matter.
Beginning with the first point, Minnesota hasn't seriously discussed legal online casino games and poker. We assume that they will at some point, but that could be years away.
Unlike states such as Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, they don't have neighboring states acting as iGaming influencers.
Minnesota also doesn't have commercial casinos or racinos that'll lobby for online gaming. This has been key towards legalization efforts in Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey.
It's possible that the tribal casinos could lobby politicians to legalize iGaming, but there's been no news on this front either.
Odds are that Minnesota - like most states - will regulate Internet gambling someday. However, they won't be doing it any time soon.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
With no legal Internet casinos or poker rooms, your only option for gambling online in Minnesota is off-shore sites. Which brings us to the question of whether or not these off-shore companies are safe.
The answer varies as you move from site to site.
The key to understand this is that off-shore gaming companies aren't licensed by the government. Instead, they're licensed in the country or territory where they're located.
Common jurisdictions that serve Minnesota include:
- Antigua & Barbuda
- Costa Rica
- Kahnawake Gaming Commission
Safe and unsafe off-shore operators can exist within any of these jurisdictions. That's why it's so important do to your own research before depositing anywhere (discussed next).
But the actual licensing jurisdiction can also have an impact on the site's reputation. Here are a couple of examples:
- Costa Rica
- Kahnawake Gaming Commission
Costa Rica is one of the least-reputable licensing jurisdictions around the world. In fact, iGaming operators need only meet general business licensing requirements to operate here.
Based in Mohawk territory in Montreal, Quebec, the KGC has fairly strict licensing requirements and provides oversight when necessary.
Again, these sites aren't licensed anywhere in the U.S., so you can never have 100% confidence. But choosing reputable sites in respected jurisdictions is a good way to find quality offshore gaming.
How do I Choose an Online Gaming Site?
Here are steps you should take when looking for the best online casinos, poker rooms and/or sportsbooks:
- Read Reviews
- Customer Complaints
- Game Variety
- Bonus Terms & Conditions
- Deposit Options
This point is obvious, but worth stressing. Look for non-biased reviews to learn about all the important aspects regarding any iGaming site.
Google to find potential customer complaints on a gaming site. You want to avoid any company that processes cash-outs slowly and/or has poor customer service.
This may be covered in the reviews that you're reading, but you should still check out the games/sports lines section for yourself to see if the variety meets your needs.
Visit the site and look at their bonus terms. After all, you don't want to be stuck wagering ridiculous amounts of money just to cash out your welcome/deposit bonus.
Some offshore sites may not have banking methods that you can/want to use. This is why it's important to check out the banking section beforehand.
How long has a gaming site been around? The longer they've been open, the better because it indicates that the site has done well enough to stick around.
Breaking down what exactly is or isn't legal in Minnesota. Gambling Venues in Minnesota
Where to gamble in the state of Minnesota. The History of Gaming Laws in Minnesota
A brief history of Minnesota laws regarding gambling. Minnesota Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in Minnesota Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in Minnesota
What does the future of gambling look like in Minnesota?
More Gambling Laws in Minnesota
Casinos & Bars: Legal
Minnesota may not have commercial casinos, but they do have tribal casinos thanks to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988.
They feature 19 tribal gambling establishments, with most being located in the northern part of the state.
The state's largest casino is Mystic Lake, which has over 4,000 slot machines and 100 table games. Treasure Island Resort & Casino is also sizeable, spanning 116,000 square feet and housing 2,400 gaming machines.
One problem for the state is that they don't earn tax revenue off the casinos. But Gov. Mark Dayton attempted to change this in 2011 while looking for creative ways to cover U.S. Bank Stadium's $975 million cost.
The White Earth Nation offered to pay for half the 66,665-seat stadium if they could build a casino in downtown Minneapolis. From here, White Earth Nation would've continued to pay the state 50% of their profits.
Many local tribes fought against the matter because they didn't want to set the precedent of sharing casino revenue with Minnesota.
Dayton and other politicians eventually abandoned the bill, opting instead to legalize electronic pull-tab machines at bars. For this reason, you'll see numerous pull-tab games at bars across the state.
Charity Gambling: Legal
The Minnesota criminal code exempts charity gaming from illegal gambling. Section 609.75 (Subd. 3-5) explains this as follows:
"A private social bet not part of or incidental to organized, commercialized, or systematic gambling."
Section 609.761 explains that approved charities can offer a number of card games, including bridge, cribbage, euchre, gin, pinochle, Texas hold'em and whist.
Stipulations behind Minnesota charity gaming include the following:
- Individual player winnings can't exceed $200 per event.
- Social dice games can be held in adjoining rooms of a liquor-serving establishment.
- The charitable group/building owner must donate the proceeds.
Minnesota doesn't get any tax revenue from their casinos, but they at least earn a significant amount from charity operations. In 2016, the Gopher State earned over $285 in tax revenue from charity gaming.
This is why they allow charity operators to offer a large variety of games like bingo, lotteries, pull-tabs, raffles and Vegas-style gaming.
Keep in mind that Vegas-style gaming doesn't mean charities can hold casino nights or functions where people play casino games like baccarat, blackjack, craps and roulette.
The state Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement division noted this by stating, "State Attorney General's Office concludes that most casino night activities are generally considered illegal gambling."
Instead, people can participate in skill-based tournaments for darts, poker and pool tournaments.
The Minnesota Lottery offers a large range of games, including All or Nothing, Daily 3, Gopher 5, Hot Lotto, Lucky for Life, Mega Millions, Powerball, Raffle and Print-N-Play. These games combine to earn over $500 million for the state annually.
The Land of 10,000 Lakes has poker rooms at tribal casinos and both racetracks, including Running Aces and Canterbury Park. Charity organizations are also allowed to offer poker tournaments, provided they meet the stipulations covered above.
The Minnesota Racing Commission oversees the state's quarter and thoroughbred racing industry. Minnesota has two active tracks in the Columbus-based Running Aces and Shakopee-based Canterbury Park.
Social Gambling: Legal
Minnesota specifically exempts social gambling from illegal gaming. This means that players can hold poker tournaments and other social gaming functions as long as the host isn't profiting in any way.
The latter means no taking rake from poker games, or selling food or alcohol at a social function. Just like with charity gambling, Minnesota also applies a prize cap of $200 per day to private gambling.
We're unclear if bars can hold free poker tournaments. After all, they'd technically be profiting off the increased customers who come to play.
Bars can allow social dice games as long as they don't organize the game or stipulate that players buy drinks/food from them. Also, players aren't allowed to bet cash, but rather food and drinks.
Accepted bar-based dice games include:
- 3 - 2 - 1
- 6 - 5 - 4
- Last Chance
- Liar's Poker
- Who Buys
Gambling Venues in Minnesota
Minnesota may not have giant commercial casinos like other states, but they do offer more than enough tribal casinos spread throughout the state.
This gives Minnesota residents and visitors access to a total of more than 21,000 gaming machines and almost 300 table games. You can make bets for as little as one cent (slots) and as much as $1,000.
As mentioned earlier, Mystic Lake Casino (Prior Lake) and Treasure Island Resort (Welch) are the state's two largest casinos. They both offer thousands of gaming machines, large hotels, and multiple amenities.
Based in Morton, Jackpot Junction is also a big casino with more than 1,600 gaming machines and 30 table games. Below you can find more info on these casinos, as well as a few others in Minnesota.
1- Black Bear Casino Resort
1785 Minnesota 210, Cromwell, MN 55726
2- Canterbury Park and Card Casino
1100 Canterbury Rd S, Shakopee, MN 55379
3- Grand Casino Hinckley
777 Lady Luck Dr, Hinckley, MN 55037
4- Jackpot Junction Casino
39375 County Rd 24, Morton, MN 56270
5- Mystic Lake Casino Hotel
2400 Mystic Lake Boulevard Northwest, Prior Lake, MN 55372
6- Northern Lights Casino - Leech Lake
6800 Y Frontage Rd NW, Walker, MN 56484
7-Palace Lake Casino & Hotel
16599 69th Ave NW, Cass Lake, MN 56633
8- Running Aces Casino & Racetrack
15201 Zurich St, Columbus, MN 55025
9- Seven Clans Red Lake Casino
10200 MN-89, Puposky, MN 56667
10- Shooting Star Casino Bagley
340th Street, Bagley, MN 56621
11- Treasure Island Casino
5734 Sturgeon Lake Rd, Welch, MN 55089
History of Gambling in Minnesota
Minnesota's legal gambling history begins in the mid-1800s, when they banned lotteries. The government didn't approve any form of gambling until 1945, when they legalized charity bingo.
This opened them up to what has today becoming a very successful charity gaming industry.
Other notable landmarks include voters legalizing pari-mutuel betting in 1982 and voters approving a lottery in 1988.
Below you can take a closer look at some legal gaming milestones in Minnesota:
Minnesota bans lotteries.
State Legislature bans slot machines.
Exemption added to state constitution for social gambling.
State Legislature approves pull-tabs for charity purposes.
Voters pass pari-mutuel betting through referendum.
Minnesota Racing Commission opens.
Minnesota signs pact with 7 Native-American tribes for video gambling.
Minnesota signs compact with tribes to allow blackjack and other table games.
Voter referendum rejects off-tracking wagering.
Canterbury Park approved to offer card games.
Electronic pull-tab machines legalized.
State Senate defeats daily fantasy sports bill.
Charity bingo approved.
State lottery bill fails to pass.
Minnesota legalizes paddlewheels, raffles, and tip boards for charity groups.
Canterbury Downs opens.
Voter referendum legalizes lottery.
State bans video gambling machines outside of tribal reservations.
Off-track horse betting banned.
Voters approve poker tournaments at bars and restaurants.
Legislation passed to ban sale of online scratch tickets.
Minnesota Gambling FAQs
Many players have questions about Minnesota's online gaming market because it's a grey area.
We've covered some of these questions in the online gambling section, but here are a few more common inquiries regarding Minnesota iGaming.
The Gopher State hasn't done anything to block daily fantasy sports (DFS). In fact, they've introduced legislative efforts to approve the activity.
The bills that have been introduced so far aren't seeking a regulated market, but rather clarification that DFS is a legal skill game.
The first bill died in the Senate Taxes Committee because it didn't have enough safeguards to prevent underage players.
State Rep. Tony Albright introduced another piece of legislation in 2017 that included stronger safeguards. This legislation is still being reviewed at the time of this writing.
In the meantime, DFS sites continue operating in Minnesota because there's no law that prevents them from doing so.
No. Minnesota hasn't taken any direct action against offshore casinos, poker rooms, or sports betting sites.
But in 2009, the state Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division sent letters to 11 ISPs attempting to block 200 offshore gaming sites. They eventually dropped the request after the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association iMEGA) launched a lawsuit.
With no legal action against offshore companies, these sites continue serving Minnesota players. Their iGaming market will likely remain in a grey area until either legislation or legal action happens.
According to the MinnPost, the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division argued that all Internet gambling is illegal. They made no distinction between games of skill (poker) and chance when trying to block the sites.
They also cited the Wire Act of 1961, which allegedly bans interstate gambling, but this was before 2011, when the U.S. Department of Justice ruled that the Wire Act only applies to sports betting.
After Alcohol and Gambling withdraw their request, they indicated a desire to continue trying to block gaming sites from Minnesotans. But no serious efforts have arisen since 2009.
Only a handful of states have legalized and regulated iGaming, while a few others are seriously considering the activity.
Minnesota doesn't fall into this select group, meaning they won't be among the first states with regulated online gaming.
The problem is that most states just don't see Internet gambling as a priority right now.
This is especially the case for Minnesota, which doesn't receive direct tax revenue from its tribal casinos.
Plus, legalizing iGaming opens up more issues.
Regulated states have required that online gaming sites partner with land-based casinos. Given that Minnesota wouldn't see any/much revenue under this model, they're not overly concerned about the activity.
Minnesota features three important gaming regulatory bodies, including the Gambling Control Board, Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement and the Lottery commission. Here's a closer look at each organization.
The Gambling Control Board regulated the charity gambling industry and ensures that all approved establishments are following the laws.
The Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement department monitors the state's tribal casinos, ensures fair gaming and takes larger actions if necessary. Regarding the latter, this division once tried to block 200 offshore gaming sites under grounds that they're illegal.
The Minnesota Lottery runs 10 different games, and works to ensure that all winners are properly compensated.
The Future & Your Views
Minnesota is yet another state that stands in middle ground with regard to online gaming.
They haven't made any serious efforts to legalize the activity, and no bills are on the horizon either.
If the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement division had their way, Minnesota would've blocked 200 gaming sites. This would've put them in line with Kentucky and Maryland as one of the few states to take legal action in the iGaming sector.
But it didn't happen, and Minnesotans are still free to play at offshore casino, poker and sports betting sites.
We don't see the status quo changing any time soon. This is especially the case with the 2011 U.S. Department of Justice opinion on the Wire Act.
The one area where Minnesota is making iGaming inlets is daily fantasy sports. People can already play at DFS sites, and the state is discussing legislation to ensure it's completely legal.
Perhaps if the Gopher State goes through with this, they'll begin warming up to regulated online gambling.