North Dakota Gambling Laws

North Dakota Poker Laws

Is Online Poker / Gambling Legal in North Dakota?

North Dakota gambling laws allow for more gaming venues than most states in the United States. Gamblers in North Dakota have their choice from 33 different Indian casinos and 2 horse racing venues. The state has two major gaming authorities, but the gaming authority administers most of the gambling laws. 

North Dakota is a plains state and therefore home to relatively large Native American populations. The territory which became North Dakota was home to Indian tribes like the Dakota Sioux, the Lakota Sioux, Ojibwa, Hidatsa, Mandana, Arikara, and the Assiniboine or Nakoda. Today, North Dakota is home to four federally recognized tribes, including the Spirit Lake Sioux Tribe, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the Three Affiliated Tribes, and the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. These four tribes are important in discussing the many Native American gambling casinos in North Dakota.

North Dakota Poker Law

To appreciate where poker lands from the point of view of North Dakota, it's best to start with the state's definition of gambling. North Dakota has what we can casually refer to as an "any chance" standard for gambling; if the outcome or activity you're betting on depends "wholly or partially" on chance, then you are - at least according to North Dakota - gambling.

So now we know poker counts as gambling. But how does that impact the ability of those in North Dakota to play real-money poker while still complying with the law? As is the case in just about every state (except Utah and Hawaii), all gambling is illegal under North Dakota law, but the law also makes a number of exceptions to the blanket ban.

The most notable exception: Tribal casinos, where North Dakota poker players can take part in real-money games at rooms like the Dakota Magic Poker Room. The charitable gambling exception, as defined in Section 53-06.1 of North Dakota law, allows for certain types of legal poker when conducted in accordance with state regulations.

The last exception is an interesting one. Thanks to a social gambling exception, your home poker game could potentially be legal or illegal in North Dakota, depending on one thing: the stakes. By the letter of the law (see Section 12.1-28-02(1)), the game becomes illegal once anyone bets more than $25 in an "individual hand, game, or event."

North Dakota Gaming Authority

The North Dakota Gaming Authority oversees the two biggest gambling sub-industries: the Native American casinos and the charitable gaming halls. The Gaming Authority issues licenses to employees of the casinos and nonprofit gaming locations and also performs background checks on the same personnel. Citizens with complains about the charitable gaming establishments should contact the same office. This authority is direct in North Dakota for charitable gambling, but not for the Indian casinos.

Because the US Supreme Court recognizes the old 19th century treaties between Indian tribes and the United States government as (albeit one-sided) negotiations between two sovereign powers, the Native American reservations are seen as sovereign territory for the Native American tribes which own them. After a landmark ruling in the late 1980s, the Supreme Court ruled that Native American tribes could open up casino establishments on their lands. The tribes did have to reach arrangements with the state governments whose boundaries the Indian reservations were inside. In many cases across the USA, tribes opened up lucrative casinos on their lands, since they were often the only legal gambling for hundreds of miles.

Indian Casinos Legal in North Dakota

Indian casinos exist throughout North Dakota in cities like Bismarck, Fargo, West Fargo, Grand Forks, St. Michael, Dickenson, Hankinson, Williston, New Town, Fort Yates, and Minot. Many of these cities have multiple Native American gambling establishments.

The arrangement between the state government of North Dakota and its Indian tribes has not always been perfect. To protect the charitable bingo halls, the North Dakota government has worked to keep electronic bingo games out of the Indian casinos. The tribes have argued North Dakota have no legal right to do so, based on how the gaming compacts were written. The tribes have only grumbled so far, but this could be resolved inside a court room.

The North Dakota legislature has shown favor to the two parimutuel horsetrack betting venues, expanding the definition of the word "live" to allow more betting revenues. Both tracks had to eliminate jobs to stay open in past years.

Learn About Other State Laws

North Dakota State Lottery

North Dakota's State Lottery Authority is the other official gaming office in the state. North Dakota has the 49th rated gross domestic product, second only behind Vermont among the 50 U.S. states. North Dakota's state government needs revenues, so it has a state lottery for the sake of education. Its citizens may be catching up, though, because North Dakota led the United States with the highest economic growth in  2011, mainly due to drilling for oil and other mining activity. The North Dakota State Lottery is a member state of the Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries. Citizens of North Dakota who want to play scratch off lottery games have their choice of games like Wildcard 2, Hot Lotto, and 2-by-2 North Dakota.

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