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Gambling in North Dakota: Laws, Live Venues & Top Sites

North Dakota is the last place you’d expect to have much of a gambling presence. After all, they have less than 740,000 residents, low population density, and a frigid climate.

But despite all this, the Roughrider State has become a large gambling hub with 27 gaming establishments.

Most of the gaming action centers on 6 tribal casinos and nearly two dozen charitable businesses.

But they offer just about everything else too, including charitable gambling, social gaming, pari-mutuel wagering, and a lottery. Bars and restaurants can also offer video lottery games.

Let’s continue discussing the North Dakota gambling scene by looking at key stats, laws, where you can gamble in the Peace State, and their stance on internet gaming.

The lion’s share of North Dakota’s gambling revenue comes from charitable establishments, which generate close to $200 million annually. Their charity gaming revenue ranks among the highest in America.

The catch is that much of this goes to charity, their employees, and operational costs. North Dakota only taxes charity casinos at a rate of 1%, meaning just $2 million goes towards the state.

The Peace State is last among per-capita lottery sales in states that offer a lottery, selling $38 in tickets sales per resident. This works out to roughly $28 million in total sales, and 22% of this ($6.2m) goes towards the state’s General Fund.

A big reason why North Dakota’s lottery sales are lower than fellow US states is because they don’t offer scratch-off tickets.They’re also unique in that they don’t sell in-state tickets, instead offering multi-state jackpot lotteries (i.e. Mega Millions, Powerball).

Another hit against North Dakota’s gambling revenue is that they don’t tax tribal casinos. Instead, these casinos only cover their regulatory fees, which amount to just over $260,000 collectively.

As you can see, gambling isn’t a huge boon for North Dakota, despite all the betting that goes on in their state. But at least the numerous gaming establishments provide employment for many residents.

North Dakota Gambling Stats & Key Info
Age Requirements
18 for lottery; 19 for bingo; 21 for casinos
Approximate Annual Gambling Revenue
$460 million
Approximate Annual Gambling Taxes
$20 million
Number of Commercial Casinos
0
Number of Racinos
0
Number of Tribal Casinos
21
Casino Regulatory Body
North Dakota Gaming Division
Lottery National Rankings
44th

North Dakota features 27 gaming establishments, 11 of which are located in the Fargo area. Other areas of the state with large casino concentrations include Grand Forks (Minnesota border), Williston (Montana border), and a rural area on the Canadian border.

The state’s largest casino is the Dakota Magic Casino Resort (Hankinson), which offers more than 1,000 slot machines and 18 table games. The second-biggest is the Sky Dancer Casino & Resort (Belcourt), offering over 800 slot machines and 10 table games.

Overall, North Dakota features more than 4,100 slots and 118 table games, which is a significant amount for a state this size.

Legal Status of Gambling in North Dakota

The criminal code of North Dakota’s constitution starts out tough with the following excerpt in Article XI, Section 25:

“The legislative assembly shall not authorize any game of chance, lottery, or gift enterprises, under any pretense, or for any purpose whatever.”

But this is just a prelude to North Dakota explaining that only the state congress and constitution determines legal gambling, as per section 12.1-28-01:

“However, the legislative assembly shall authorize the State of North Dakota to join a multi-state lottery for the benefit of the State of North Dakota, and, the legislative assembly may authorize by law bona fide nonprofit veterans’, charitable, educational, religious, or fraternal organizations, civic and service clubs, or such other public-spirited organizations as it may recognize, to conduct games of chance when the entire net proceeds of such games of chance are to be devoted to educational, charitable, patriotic, fraternal, religious, or other public-spirited uses.”

North Dakota also features a couple of unique exceptions to what they deem as illegal gambling, or the process of risking anything of value on a game or event.

One of these includes statue 12.1-28-01 (a), which exempts “lawful contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance” where only the participants receive rewards. This is a lengthy way of saying that sporting contests are legal between humans and animals, while closing the loophole for sports betting.

Another is found in statue 12.1-28-01 (c), which states that “gaming equipment and devices” can be used under permission for the “purpose of conducting scientific research in a controlled environment on the campus of that institution.” This basically says that 4-year colleges can lawfully use gaming equipment when used specifically for research purposes.

Beyond these instances, other forms of gaming in North Dakota either need to be legalized, held for charity, or played privately. Below you can take a closer look at the gaming activities offered in the state.

Casino Gambling

North Dakota offers 6 tribal casinos, with each of the state’s 5 tribes running at least one.

These casinos have it good compared to other states because they don’t have to share revenue with North Dakota. Instead, they merely pay their regulatory fees and keep their revenue.

Of course, this isn’t to say that the casinos give nothing back because they provide employment and help fund projects.

Obstacles for North Dakota’s tribal gaming market include that they don’t operate in a top vacation destination, and neighboring states have adopted gambling too. That said, many of those who gamble in North Dakota’s casinos also live in the state.

Charitable Gaming

North Dakota includes a lengthy section in their laws that’s dedicated to charity gaming. And for good reason too because they offer almost two dozen charitable gambling facilities.

You should contact the state and/or a lawyer before offering charity gaming. But based on the laws, we see that the following groups qualify to run charitable gambling:

  • Statue 53-06.1-01 (2): Any group who’s dedicated to helping the abused, elderly, diseased, distressed, or underprivileged.
  • Statue 53-06.1-01 (3): Any civic group that wants to promote common good and social welfare (i.e. Jaycee, Kiwanis, Lion, Rotary, Sertoma).
  • Statue 53-06.1-01 (6): Public or private elementary school, middle school, high school, 2-year, or 4-year college.
  • Statues 53-06.1-01 (7) and (8): Veterans group or fraternal organization.


As you can see, a large number of groups are eligible to run charitable gambling.

Regarding what games a charity can offer, this depends upon the age. Anybody under the age of 19 is restricted from playing bingo, unless they have an adult with them.

Those under the age of 21 are restricted from playing paddle-wheels, poker, punchboards, twenty one, and sports pools.

Charities can also run poker tournaments, but stipulations must be followed, as per statue 53-06.1-03 (1a). These include the primary prize not exceeding $2,500, and the total prize pool not exceeding $12,000.

Horse Racing

The North Dakota Horse Park is the only racetrack in the state, offering live and simulcast racing.

Given how many tribal casinos and charitable venues the state has, it’s odd that they only have one pari-mutuel facility. But then again, North Dakota has only had their pari-mutuel industry since 1987.

According to the Jamestown Sun, the state is considering 10 racinos at the time of this writing.

SB 2221 would see 10 racinos built across the state and be filled with slot-like machines. All of the games would use the outcomes of previously run horse races as their random payout engine.

Given that North Dakota doesn’t have any provisions for casino-style gaming (a.k.a. Class III), using previous horse race results to determine payouts is a key element.

The casinos won’t be located at horse tracks like true racinos, and will instead be attached to bars and restaurants. Nevertheless, the goal is to help the state’s struggling horseracing industry.

SB 2221 has already made it through the Senate and a House Judiciary Committee. But it must still pass a House vote and be signed by Gov. Doug Burgum.

Lottery

As covered before, the North Dakota Lottery sells less tickets per capita than any of the 44 states currently offering a lottery.

The two reasons why include that they don’t offer state-based tickets, nor do they offer the popular scratch-offs. What they do offer includes Mega Millions, Powerball, 2by2, Hot Lotto, and Wild Card 2 tickets.

Considering that the North Dakota Lottery has only been around since 2004, the state may add more products as they look to expand gaming options.

Players only have to report lottery winnings if they win $600 or more. The state takes just 3.22% in income tax from winnings, but the federal government takes out 25%.

Poker

Poker is offered at a couple of the state’s tribal casinos, including the 4 Bears Casino & Lodge, Prairie Spirit Lake Casino & Resort, and Sky Dancer Casino.

While the poker action in North Dakota isn’t outstanding, some of these casinos offer tournaments on a regular basis.You can also look forward to poker tourneys at bars and restaurants that are licensed to offer charity gaming.

The charitable poker laws are very liberal, allowing tournament prize pools worth up to $12,000. But also note that statue 53-06.1-07.2 of the charitable gaming laws notes that charities can’t hold poker events more than two times per year.

Other stipulations include the following:

  • Maximum single bets are limited to $1.
  • No more than three raises per round.
  • Non-tournament entry fees can’t exceed $2 per each half-hour of player.
  • Tournament prize pools can’t exceed 90% of the gross proceeds.

Social Gambling

One area where North Dakota is strict is their social gambling laws. While they allow for private gaming, you also need to follow some rules.

According to statue 12.1-28-02, it’s 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.”

In short, it’s legal for any player to gamble up to $25 per round, but you’re committing a misdemeanor by wagering $25.01 or more.

You’re in serious violation of the law if you wager $500 or more per round, which is a felony on the first offense. But keep in mind that nobody has been arrested for breaking this law in over 50 years.

Where Can I Gamble in North Dakota?

Blue Tent4 Bears Casino & Lounge

Address: 202 Frontage Road, New Town, ND 58763
Venue Type:Casino
Blue TentBaymont Inn & Suites

Address: 3333 13th Ave S, Fargo, ND 58103
Venue Type:Charitable
Blue TentBest Western Ramkota Hotel & Conference Center

Address: 800 S 3rd St, Bismarck, ND 58504
Venue Type:Charitable
Blue TentBig Top Bingo

Address: 901 25th Street South, Fargo, ND 58103
Venue Type:Charitable
Blue TentBlue Wolf Casino

Address: 3402 Interstate Boulevard South, Fargo, ND 58103
Venue Type:Charitable
Blue TentBorrowed Buck’s Roadhouse

Address: 1201 Westrac Dr, Fargo, ND 58103
Venue Type:Charitable

North Dakota has an enormous selection of gambling options that we haven’t listed, but if you’d like to look at more available options, there are plenty of places that have a thorough list of North Dakota gambling locations.

Online Gambling Options in North Dakota

North Dakota is one of the many states that fail to directly address online gaming in its criminal code. They’re also similar to other states in that they offer vague language that could be applied to wagering through smartphones, laptops, and VR headsets.

Section 53-04-01 defines an illegal gambling apparatus as “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.”

If the state really wants to pursue online gamblers and operators, they could use this vague language to try.

Would they be successful?

We don’t know, nor do we have the law background to guarantee one way or the other. But our guess is that it’s highly unlikely that North Dakota will ever pursue legal action against online gamblers.

For starters, they aren’t overprotective of their gaming industry like other states. In fact, North Dakota doesn’t even get a cut from tribal gaming action.

Another point worth making here is that the state has never made an online gaming arrest. Taking this into account, odds are that you’re safe by betting at offshore sites within state lines.

Attempts to Legalize Online Poker

In 2005, Rep. Jim Kasper introduced legislation that would’ve amended the poker section of the state constitution to allow for internet poker.

Kasper’s bill involved having the Attorney General’s office provide oversight over the industry. It also would’ve required a $50,000 application fee, followed by $20,000 annual license renewal fees.

But his legislation didn’t have support from the Attorney General, the Senate, or the House. The bill quickly died and no efforts have since been made to legalize poker.

North Dakota Proposes up to Six Commercial Casinos

At the time of this writing, House Majority Leader Al Carson (R-Fargo) is sponsoring a bill that would allow for six state-owned casinos.

With state revenue down because of sagging oil and agriculture economies, House Bill 3033 is seen as a way to generate additional revenue. Carlson’s plan would see 70% of the proceeds earmarked for tax relief.

But this bill is receiving pushback from both charity and tribal gaming interests. Adding six more casinos to a state of 740k residents would saturate the market and ensure that many gaming establishments would struggle to survive.

But with the state receiving just 1% of charity gambling revenue and nothing from tribes, there’s a chance that HB 3033 will receive a serious look.

North Dakota Gambling FAQ

What’s the Difference Between North Dakota Charity and Tribal Casinos?

Tribal casinos offer more Vegas-style gaming, including video poker, baccarat, blackjack, craps, roulette, and three-card poker.

Charity gaming establishments are limited to Class II-style gaming, including bingo, calcutta, paddle-wheels, pull-tabs, punchboards, and poker.

Another difference is that tribal casinos largely govern themselves, while charitable casinos are subject to the laws of North Dakota.

Is My Home Poker Game Legal?

North Dakota law allows for poker and other social forms of gambling. But the key is that it must be within state guidelines regarding the limits.

Section 12.1-28-02 of the criminal code states that no player can wager over $25 per hand, round, or event. It’s considered a felony if anybody wagers more than $500 per hand/round.

The odds of the state prosecuting anybody for violating these laws is slim to none. The only way we can see it happening is if players openly advertise how much they’re playing for and law enforcement catches wind of it.

Why Doesn’t North Dakota Sell Scratch-offs?

Although they allow several forms of gaming, North Dakota has always been leery of the lottery. And much of this ambivalence has to do with their history.

According to Prairie Public, the state was thinking about establishing a lottery back in 1890. But an undercover investigation revealed that public officials were being bribed to establish the Louisiana State Lottery in North Dakota.

The idea was immediately scrapped, and the incident left a lasting impression on the state. It would be almost another century before they made another serious push at legalizing a lottery.

North Dakota residents voted down a lottery proposal in 1986, ’88, and ‘96 before finally approving the matter in 2002.

Judging from the Peace State’s slow embrace of the lottery, they chose not to offer scratch-offs and state-based tickets because they wanted to test the waters. But as more residents drive across the border to buy out-of-state scratch-offs, it’s only a matter of time before North Dakota approves them.

Is Online Gambling Legal in North Dakota?

The state hasn’t made a ruling one way or the other.

Like many states, North Dakota includes a vague passage that could be used to prosecute online gaming as a misdemeanor offense.

But there’s nothing concrete, and nobody in the state has ever been arrested for an iGaming related crime.

History of North Dakota Gambling Laws

1976Certain forms of charity gambling are legalized.
1987North Dakota legalizes pari-mutuel betting for licensed charities.
2002Voters approve a state lottery, which only sells multi-state drawing tickets.
2004North Dakota Lottery begins operation.
2005Rep. James Kasper proposes online poker bill, which fails to progress.
2012North Dakota amends charitable gaming laws to reduce taxes.

Conclusion

Looking at North Dakota’s vast wilderness and sparse population, few outside the area would know that they have a notable gaming industry.

The Roughrider State features 5 casinos, 22 charity casinos, and a host of lottery vendors and bars with gaming.

But given that the state government doesn’t share in much of the revenue, they’re currently exploring options to add more gambling.

One proposal would see 10 racinos – minus the racing – built across the state to generate more money for the horseracing industry. The other proposal calls for six state-run casinos to be built.

It’s hard to see either of these proposals being viable when considering how small North Dakota is. But again, the state is looking for additional revenue due to an agricultural and oil slump, and casino gaming is a short-term fix.

Outside of a 2005 online poker bill, North Dakota has spent very little time exploring internet gaming. This has kept the activity in a legal grey area, meaning you’re probably safe to bet at offshore sites.

And if you want to enjoy land-based gaming, North Dakota offers a wide variety of options across the state.

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