North Dakota

north-dakotaUnless you’ve watched the iconic movie Fargo or the great TV series, chances are you do not know much about North Dakota, let alone the legal real money poker gambling situation in ND. One of the least densely populated states in the US, the Peace Garden State is mostly regarded as a center of agriculture, more known for its crops than its major tourist attractions or real cash betting venues.

But what few people realize is that in addition to owning the lowest employment rates in the United States, North Dakota set the precedent for legalized online gambling and lawful Internet poker websites. Not only that – ND houses a relatively healthy gambling and poker betting industry. Who would have thought?

As we’ll soon find out, there’s much more to North Dakota than snow and the word ‘Eh?’

Punters in The Peace Garden State will have absolutely no trouble signing up for an account at our real money US poker sites.

North Dakota Legalizes Online Horse Betting

North Dakota didn’t legalize real money games like Texas Hold’em poker at Internet poker websites, but did make legit online simulcast horse betting.

That makes the state one of only a handful to generate revenue from a legal form of online Internet gambling. North Dakota has licensed four Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) companies to date, which together are projected to handle more than $250 million in legal real cash betting and gambling transactions annually [1].

Prior Attempt At Legalizing Online Poker

North Dakota is probably one of the last states experts think of when asked to list the pioneers of state regulated iGaming and lawful Internet poker gambling for real money. Yet, in 2005 – one year before the passage of the UIGEA – ND State Rep. Jim Kasper pushed a gambling and betting bill that would authorize Internet poker websites. Shockingly, the bill passed the House of Representatives. Unfortunately, the real cash Internet poker bill failed in the Senate, as at the time the Federal government prohibited Internet poker games like Texas Hold’em and online gambling in general.

But if anything, Kasper’s valiant attempt at getting legal real money poker websites up and running proved that North Dakota was willing to take charge of its own Internet poker and online gambling destiny. This bodes well for the future, especially now that states are permitted to enact their own iGaming real cash Internet poker website legislation.

Can Players From North Dakota Play Online Poker?

YesReal money poker players in North Dakota won’t have any problem finding websites that suit their needs, just take a look at our real money page for your options.

North Dakota’s legit live betting rooms are few and far between, and social home games of legal poker, while permitted, are severely restricted under North Dakota law.

So instead of traveling through the frozen tundras of the Peace Garden State in desperate search of some donkey poker gambling action, why not create an Internet poker account on one of our celebrated US-facing poker websites? The registration and depositing process is a cinch and takes less time than brewing a hot cup of coffee.

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Is Online Poker Legal In North Dakota?

MaybeThe good news for poker fans about North Dakota’s gambling statues is that they’re compact – no elongated passages here. The bad news is that they’re quite restrictive, although less so than some other Heartland state Internet poker laws.

One thing you won’t notice about North Dakota’s gambling and betting statues is laws specifically prohibiting online gambling and Internet poker. In fact, the words online, Internet and computer aren’t mentioned whatsoever. Yet, certain sections of the law imply that iGaming gambling activities on real money poker websites in North Dakota would be deemed illegal.

Given the overall vagueness of the ND real cash gambling and betting law, at least in reference to online poker websites, we recommend that you seek the advice of a trained legal professional before playing for high-stakes online at the Internet poker Texas Hold’em tables.

For now, we encourage you to familiarize yourself with the most relevant facets of the ND poker gambling law:

  • North Dakota’s definition of gambling is about as broad as it gets. It reads: Gambling means risking any real 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 of an event, including an election or sporting event, over which the person taking the risk has no control. Section 12.1-28-01
  • The use of the phrase wholly or partially could prove problematic for real cash legal poker players, as poker betting is widely recognized as possessing a chance element.
  • The statues clearly differentiate between poker betting players and poker gambling operators, with operators receiving much harsher penalties for participating in illicit gambling activities in North Dakota. Players who gamble in social settings in things like home real money poker games are exempt from the law, in so long as they wager less than $25 per hand. Wagering between $25 and $500 per bet lands you a slap on the wrist, and over $500 is worthy of a class A misdemeanor.
  • Gambling and poker operators are defined as anyone who
    • Conducts a wagering pool or lottery;
    • Receives wagers for or on behalf of another person;
    • Alone or with others, owns, controls manages, or finances a gambling or betting business;
    • Knowingly leases or otherwise permits a place to be regularly used to carry on a gambling or betting business or maintain a gambling house;
    • By North Dakota law, operators are subject to a class C felony, a very harsh penalty given the non-violent nature of their crimes.

North Dakota’s law enforcement agencies seem unconcerned about the spread of online gambling and real money Internet poker in ND, evident by the dearth of poker website and gambling arrests made over the past five years.

For more on North Dakota’s gambling and poker betting statues, please visit the “References” section [2].

The Facts

The History Of Gambling In North Dakota

Before North Dakota officially became a state in 1889, gambling and betting real money on games like legal poker was a staple of most saloons, cabarets and other public institutions. This trend continued well into the 1900s. Charitable gambling was eventually added to the mix, and although it wasn’t regulated by state officials, law enforcement agencies rarely interfered, so this kind of poker was considered legal.

As time went on, charitable gambling and betting grew out of control, prompting the state’s Attorney General to take action. In 1976, voters passed the right to govern gambling activities over to the North Dakota state legislators; a move that would prompt the state to legalize bingo, pull tabs and raffles. Casino nights were also approved, albeit with restrictions – most of them pertaining to wagering amounts and charity types but allowing legit games or real money poker to take place.

Pari-mutuel wagering was legalized in 1987, but could only be conducted by or for charitable organizations [3]. Off-track betting was made legal in 1989, but didn’t really prosper until 1999, when the state of NB’s OTB provider started offering real cash rebates. That same provider – Racing Services Inc. – would ultimately come under fire for running an illegal gambling operation, leading to a drastic falloff in OTB real money gambling revenues in 2004.

The North Dakota area’s Indian tribes were granted permission to construct and operate casinos and lawful real cash poker betting cardrooms within their territories by federal law. Today, the Sky Dancer casino [4], among others, boasts table games including Texas Hold’em real money poker, slots and a poker room where you can play almost all popular real cash poker gambling variants.

A constitutional amendment permitting a state lottery was passed in 2002. However, instant real money betting tickets were not included in North Dakota’s lottery rollout.

Regulated Gambling Options In North Dakota

In addition to several Indian casinos and real cash poker venues sprinkled throughout the state, the Peace Garden state boasts the North Dakota Horse Park [5], a thriving charitable gambling industry, pari-mutuel betting and wagering and various forms of the lottery. The one thing noticeably absent is commercial casinos and real money poker rooms.

North Dakota online poker players are active and the state looks to be interested in making Internet-based poker rooms legal.

The Future Of Regulated Online Gambling In North Dakota

North Dakota is clearly not opposed to the prospect of online gambling or Internet poker, seeing as it already allows residents to wager real money on simulcasts. And let’s not forget that an attempt to legalize Internet poker websites was already made by Jim Kasper in 2005.

That said, no iGaming legal real cash Internet poker bill has made its way into ND legislators’ hands since. Shortly after the Department of Justice reversed its stance on the Wire Act [6], Kasper was asked if he would submit another Internet poker proposal, to which he responded: I am not talking about promoting Internet poker, and I have not made any decision to do anything at all. Not exactly the most encouraging words for fans of gambling on lawful real money poker websites in North Dakota.

Fun Fact

The Heartland Poker Tour [7] television broadcast is produced in Fargo, North Dakota.

The Bottom Line

North Dakota is more than likely going to either pass an iGaming Internet poker bill of its own or opt-in to a federal bill legalizing Internet poker websites and making real money Internet poker legal. But unlike in 2005, it won’t be at the forefront of the iGaming Internet poker issue. Expect North Dakota to sit back and bide its time.

The reasoning behind ND’s passive approach – the state already has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation, and given its population of only 700,000, it’s hard to imagine that regulated online poker and lawful real cash poker websites would bring in much revenue without an interstate Internet poker compact in place first.


[1] North Dakota Race and Sports Wagering

[2] North Dakota Constitution – North Dakota Gambling Laws

[3] North Dakota’s unusual, and fascinating, gaming history

[4] Sky Dancer Casino and Resort

[5] North Dakota Horse Park

[6] Department of Justice Flip-Flops on Internet Gambling

[7] Heartland Poker Tour

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