North Dakota Gambling Guide
North Dakota is known for its agriculture, with farms taking up nearly 90% of the state. They're not, however, known for their gambling options.
Nevertheless, the Roughrider State offers plenty of gaming options for their low population (757k residents). North Dakota has even made an effort to legalize online poker.
What happened with this effort? How close are they to legalizing Internet poker now?
These are two questions that we'll answer in this discussion on North Dakota's online gaming scene.
Other topics that we'll cover include their brick and mortar gambling laws, casino options, North Dakota gaming history and FAQs.
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Online Gambling and North Dakota Law
North Dakota doesn't address online gambling in their constitution. We're not surprised either, given that the state has one of the smallest gambling criminal codes we've ever seen.
Numerous offshore gaming sites service this state, but does that mean Internet gambling is legal?
Not necessarily. In fact, we believe that certain legal language makes the activity illegal in North Dakota.
Let's examine some of their laws to explain what we mean.
Is Online Gambling Legal in North Dakota?
The Roughrider State's gambling definition covers many activities, as you can see in code 12.1-28-01 (1):
"... means risking any money, credit, deposit, or other thing of value for gain, contingent, wholly or partially, upon lot, chance, the operation of gambling apparatus, or the happening or outcome of an event, including an election or sporting event, over which the person taking the risk has no control."
The only exceptions include charity gambling, lotteries, business transactions and sporting events where only participants are given prizes.
Unlicensed gaming sites don't fall within these exceptions.
What's more is that section 12.1-28-02 (3) states that illegal gambling businesses are subject to a class C felony. These businesses include the following unlicensed activities:
- Lottery or wagering pool.
- Receiving wagers for or on behalf of another person.
- Leasing or otherwise permitting a place to be used for gaming.
- Owning, controlling, managing or financing an illegal gambling business.
The last point could easily be applied to an offshore operator because they're unlicensed in North Dakota, yet still offer gambling to their residents.
Long story short, online gaming isn't explicitly illegal in North Dakota, but state prosecutors could use the laws we've discussed to formulate a case.
Why hasn't North Dakota Busted Illegal Gambling Sites?
In most cases, states only crack down on Internet gambling sites when some or all of the owners live on U.S. soil. We've seen multiple California and New York residents busted for being involved in an offshore site.
It takes far more manpower and resources to go after an offshore gaming company when all the owners live outside the U.S.
The most famous instance of this occurring happened when the U.S. Department of Justice indicted the world's four largest online poker sites.
Dubbed Black Friday, this legal action was led by Preet Bharara, a former federal attorney based in the Southern District of New York.
North Dakota doesn't have the resources to carry out a case on this level. Moreover, their taxpayers wouldn't be happy about pouring resources into chasing offshore gambling sites.
Add in the fact that the Roughrider State doesn't have a thriving gambling industry to protect, and you'll probably never see them pursue offshore gaming companies.
Can I Get Arrested for Gambling Online in North Dakota?
Referring back to section 12.1-28-01 (1) in the criminal code, illegal gambling includes "risking any money, credit, deposit or other thing of value for gain."
Again, Internet gambling isn't given an exception anywhere in North Dakota's gambling section. Therefore, it's possible that you could get arrested for this activity.
the odds of this happening, though, are nearly zero.
Very few states have taken legal action against somebody for gambling online. North Dakota seems generally tolerant of the activity.
This means that there's almost no chance they would break the mold and arrest you or anybody else for playing at an offshore site.
Nevertheless, it's good to be aware of North Dakota's gambling laws.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
You can never be 100% sure that an offshore gaming site is safe. After all, they aren't licensed on U.S. soil, and thus, aren't subject to American laws.
But generally speaking, most offshore gambling companies are safe.
The key is to do research beforehand to make sure that you're signing up at the best possible site. Here are steps you can take to choose quality gambling sites:
- Read Multiple Reviews
- Check the Site's Launch Date
- Bonus Terms & Conditions
- See if You can Use a Deposit Option
- Check the Game Variety
- Contact Customer Service
The best and quickest way to find out about an online casino, poker site or sportsbook is by reading reviews. Use your intuition to make sure that each review is non-biased.
Longevity is an easy way to figure out if a gaming site is legitimate. After all, it takes good service to stay in the iGaming business for a long time.
The less wagering you have to do to earn a bonus, the better. The industry standard on bonus wagering requirements is 20x the bonus, plus deposit amount.
Some offshore gaming sites don't offer many deposit options. Make sure you can use one of the deposit methods offered at any site you're interested in.
More games/sportslines makes a gambling site more fun. That's why it's important to check out a site's gaming variety before depositing.
If you take a few moments to contact customer support through live chat, you can gauge how friendly/knowledgeable they are.
Breaking down what is or isn't legal in North Dakota. Gambling Venues in North Dakota
Where to gamble in the state of North Dakota. The History of Gaming Laws in North Dakota
A brief history of North Dakota laws regarding gambling. North Dakota Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in North Dakota Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in North Dakota
What does the future of gambling look like in North Dakota?
More Gambling Laws in North Dakota
North Dakota doesn't have any commercial casinos, but they do have six tribal casinos.
The state doesn't draw any revenue from these casinos. Therefore, politicians are currently discussing legislation that would legalize commercial gambling venues.
House Majority Leader Al Carson has introduced House Bill 3033, which would allow for six state owned casinos.
Not surprisingly, the state's five tribes are in opposition to HB 3033. They don't think that the state's small market can support up to 12 total casinos.
We have to agree with them because North Dakota has the nation's fourth lowest population density.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
The Roughrider State has another area of their constitution that specifically covers charity gambling.
According to code 53-06.1-01, the following groups can apply for a charity gaming license:
- Civic groups like Jaycee, Kiwanis, Lion, Rotary and Sertoma.
- Collegiate and public school groups that are fundraising for worthy causes.
- Veteran and fraternal organizations.
- Charities dedicated to helping the abused, diseased, elderly or underprivileged.
Approved charity gambling games include bingo, poker, punchboards and sports pools.
Any charity that runs a poker tournament must follow code 53-06.1-03, which states that individual prizes can't exceed $2,500, and total prize pools can't exceed $12,000.
It's also worth noting that North Dakota only earned 1% of charity gambling revenue. This, combined with the lack of tribal gaming revenue, means that the state doesn't take in much from gambling.
The North Dakota Lottery sells fewer tickets than all other 44 states with an active lottery. The sell $28 million annually, which is only $38 per resident - lowest in the U.S.
The biggest reason why their lottery struggles so badly is because they don't sell scratch off/instant tickets.
North Dakota only legalized their lottery in 2004. Perhaps they'll add scratch offs in the future, especially since they're not doing so hot.
Both charity groups and tribal casinos can offer legal poker.
North Dakota doesn't have the biggest poker scene, but then again, few states allow their charities to offer tournament prize pools worth up to $12,000.
Charities do have notable poker restrictions, though, including the following:
- The same charity can only hold 2 poker events per year.
- Max single bets are $1.
- Only 3 raises can be made in a round.
- Tournament non-entry fees are $2 max (ex. $20 + $2 entry fee).
- Tournament prize pools can only be 90% or less than gross proceeds.
These stipulations almost create a different type of poker game. Nevertheless, the $12k max tournament prize pool will appeal to many charities and players.
The only pari-mutuel betting facility in the state is the North Dakota Horse Park. This venue offers both live and simulcast racing betting.
At the time of this writing, legislation has been introduced that would allow for up to 10 racinos. Senate Bill 2211 incudes a stipulation that all slot machines must determine results through algorithms based on horseracing (i.e. Class II gaming).
These wouldn't be real racinos, though, because they won't have tracks. Instead, the venues would feature slot machines and simulcast racing in bars & restaurants.
So far, SB 2211 has passed the State Senate. It must still pass the State House and be approved by Governor Doug Burgum.
Social Gambling: Legal
Social gaming is legal in North Dakota, but we suggest you take this with a grain of salt.
Section 12.1.28-02 places heavy restrictions on social gambling, which you can see below:
(1) "It is an infraction to engage in gambling on private premises where the total amount wagered by an individual player exceeds twenty five dollars per individual hand, game, or event."
(c) "Engage in gambling on private premises where the total amount wagered by an individual player exceeds five hundred dollars per individual hand, game, or event."
Felony for betting over $500 per round.
The only arrest record we've found for a pure social gambling affair in North Dakota happened over 50 years ago.
This means that you likely won't be arrested for exceeding the limits discussed above. The important thing is that you keep the game quiet, and the host doesn't charge players fees or sell alcohol/food.
Gambling Venues in North Dakota
Aside from their six tribal casinos, North Dakota also has over two dozen charity gambling establishments.
The largest concentration of gambling venues is in Fargo, while Grand Forks and Williston also have several gaming spots.
HHankinson's Dakota Magic Casino Resort is the state's biggest casino with 1,000 slot machines and 20 table games. Belcourt's Sky Dancer Casino & Resort is the next largest with 800 slots and 10 table games.
You can see these venues along with several others below.
4 Bears Casino & Lounge
202 Frontage Road, New Town, ND 58763
Blue Wolf Casino
3402 Interstate Boulevard South, Fargo, ND 58103
Dakota Magic Casino Resort
16849 102nd Street Southeast, Hankinson, ND 58041
Grand Treasure Casino
4418 147th Ave NW, Williston, ND 58801
North Dakota Horse Park
Address: 5180 19th Ave N, Fargo, ND 58102
Prairie Knights Casino & Resort
7932 North Dakota 24, Fort Yates, ND 58538, USA
Sky Dancer Casino & Resort
North Dakota 5, Belcourt, ND 58316
Southgate Casino Bar & Grill
2525 S Washington St, Grand Forks, ND 58201
Spirit Lake Casino and Resort
7889 North Dakota 57, Saint Michael, ND 58370
3150 39th St S, Fargo, ND 58104
History of Gambling in North Dakota
As mentioned in the intro, North Dakota doesn't have a big gambling reputation. Their history shows this is because they didn't approve any forms of legal gaming until 1976.
North Dakota was also late in regards to legalizing pari-mutuel betting, doing so in 1987.
They didn't even legalize a state lottery until 2002.
These instances show that North Dakota doesn't put much stock into gambling. The good news is that they've legalized plenty of gaming options in recent years.
You can take a closer look at North Dakota's gambling milestones below.
State Legislature approves charity gambling through constitutional amendment.
Voter referendum adds state lottery.
House Rep. James Kasper introduces legislation to regulate online poker; the bill never receives a vote.
Bill introduced to create six commercial racinos in the state.
North Dakota legalizes pari-mutuel betting for charitble purposes.
North Dakota lottery is launched.
North Dakota Horse Park races reinstated after being canceled the pervious year.
North Dakota FAQs
Many North Dakota gamblers have iGaming questions since the state doesn't cover the activity in their constitution. Below, you can see FAQs that we've received on the state's online gambling market.
The Peace Garden State's daily fantasy sports (DFS) market is a grey area right now. This means that industry leaders DraftKings and FanDuel are still serving them without licensing.
North Dakota's legal history with fantasy sports begins with former Attorney General Heidi Heitkamp. In 1994, Heitkamp wrote that fantasy football might constitute an illegal sports pool.
But Heitkamp's dated opinion doesn't cover daily fantasy sports, which are offered in a different format.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem offered a different take in 2015: "If [DFS is] a game of chance, it's not likely legal," he said."And if it's a game of skill, then it would likely be legal."
Stenehjem has yet to make a definitive ruling, leaving DFS in the aforementioned grey area.
DFS contains both elements of skill and chance, which makes it hard for an attorney general to rule on it. Only 1.3% of DFS football players make a profit, showing that skill plays a large part in the results.
As of now, no legislative efforts have been made to legalize and regulate the activity.
Section 12.1-28-01 of North Dakota's criminal code state's the following about illegal gambling devices:
"...means any device, machine, paraphernalia, or equipment that is used or usable in the playing phases of any gambling activity, whether that activity consists of gambling between persons, or gambling by a person involving the playing of a machine. Gambling apparatus does not include an amusement game or device as defined in section 53-04-01."
This concrete definition sums up smartphones, tablets, computers and any other wireless capable product.
As we covered earlier, North Dakota is unlikely to arrest any mobile gambler.
Like other states, they don't see the justification in setting up stings for online gamblers. This means that you have almost no chance of being arrested for smartphone gambling in North Dakota.
North Dakota was one of the earliest to introduce iGaming legislation. House Rep. Jim Kasper drafted an online poker bill in 2005.
His proposal called on the Attorney General's Office to oversee the iPoker industry. Other stipulations included a $50,000 application fee and an annual $20,000 licensing fee.
Kasper's legislation never made it to a vote, and quickly died at the committee level.
The good news is that Kasper is still in office, provided he ever feels like making a second run at this.
North Dakota has several factors working against them in regard to legal online gambling:
- They're a sparsely populated state.
- They have no commercial gaming industry to push for iGaming.
- Their neighbors - Minnesota, Montana & South Dakota - haven't legalized online gambling.
- Few politicians care about the matter.
The fact that North Dakota doesn't have a commercial casino industry to begin with is damning. After all, these interests would likely push for iGaming as an extra revenue source.
The fact that their neighbors don't care either reflects the values of the region.
While it's good that Kasper got the ball rolling over a decade ago, North Dakota hasn't made any serious progress towards legal Internet gambling.
The Roughrider State has two main branches that handle their gaming, including the State Gaming Commission and North Dakota Lottery. Here's a closer look at resources for these agencies.
- North Dakota Legislative Branch Website:
- The North Dakota Lottery
North Dakota is one of the few states that doesn't have a website dedicated to their gaming commission. The legislative branch site offers both info on the State Gaming Commission meetings, and all of the gambling laws.
handles available games, including 2by2, Hot Lotto, Mega Millions, Powerball and Wild Card 2.
The Future & Your Views
North Dakota is a conservative farming state, surrounded by other agricultural states. This means that neither North Dakota nor its neighbors are likely to regulate online gambling at any point in the future.
Many online gamblers in the state could care less because they have many offshore casinos, poker rooms or sports betting sites to choose from. Even still, it would be nice to have a regulated market that offers assurances of top qualify operators.
So, why isn't this happening?
Outside of Rep. Kasper's push in 2005, North Dakota has ignored Internet gambling. Their attorney general hasn't even made a ruling on DFS, which many states rushed to do when the industry hit full steam in 2015/16.
Right now, North Dakota is discussing adding six racinos.
We don't think that their state is big enough to support these along with the six tribal casinos. The good news is that commercial gambling interests could increase support for iGaming.
Even if this happens, though, it'll take years before the racinos are up and running. In the meantime, North Dakota residents can continue enjoying offshore gambling.