Gambling in South Dakota: Top Online Sites, History & Gaming Laws
- Casino Gambling: Legal
- Poker: Not Legal
- Horse Racing Betting: Legal
- Dog Racing Betting: Legal
- Lottery: Legal
- Daily Fantasy Sports: Not Specified
- Charitable Gaming: Legal
- Social Gambling: Legal
- Online Gambling: Not Specified
South Dakota gambling law is lengthy, convoluted, and in flux. South Dakota is one of several American states with gambling in its blood. Though the state is now home to limited legal casino and other forms of gambling, South Dakota was once its own little gaming hotpot, in the days before the industry was legitimized as a tourist trade. The Mount Rushmore State is home to a long list of gambling regulations that we’ve spent hours poring over and parsing for our readers.
Even though the modern gaming industry in the state probably doesn’t resemble frontier gaming in any way, SD has created a new tourist trade. The state’s casinos are especially popular among gamblers who live in any of several neighboring states with zero legal gambling option. The popular South Dakota lottery is another big revenue builder for the state.
What forms of gambling are legal in South Dakota?
Below is a guide to the basics of South Dakota’s gambling regulations. We’ve included additional resources at the end for those readers that want to expand their understanding of the state’s gaming code even further.
For all its historic landmarks, open landscapes, and frontier living, South Dakota is very much a modern state. Many forms of gambling are legal (or, at least, unregulated) in the state. The information in
the box below is designed to quickly bring you up to speed on some of the basics of South Dakota’s betting industry. Before we go into greater detail on the legalities of various forms of gambling in the state, we think it’s important to offer some perspective, and we do that by sharing some crucial numbers with you.
- Age Requirements
- 18 for bingo, 21 for all other gaming
- Approximate Annual Gambling Revenue
- $528 million
- Approximate Annual Gambling Taxes
- $16 million
- Number of Commercial Casinos
- 10 million
- Number of Racinos
- Number of Tribal Casinos
- Casino Regulatory Body
- South Dakota Commission on Gaming
- Lottery National Rankings
South Dakota is home to nearly two dozen casinos, a number of OTB betting parlors for pari-mutuel wagering, a few racetracks, and a somewhat popular lottery. The state also allows charitable gambling, and South Dakota is home to one of the most liberal sets of social gaming laws in the country. The information below is an educational analysis of South Dakota gambling law. We aren’t lawyers. If you need real legal advice on the subject, consult a South Dakota lawyer with experience in gaming.
The Legal Status of Gambling in South Dakota
The state of South Dakota defines the word gambling like this:
The state’s criminal code then spends a few thousand words listing exceptions.
Below is a guide to what wagers are legal and illegal by South Dakota’s code of law:
Both tribal and commercial venues operate inside South Dakota. A major tourist destination in the form of the historic city of Deadwood is little more than a casino gambling hotspot with a couple of restaurants thrown in for good measure. Currently, the state is home to 45 casinos of varying size. Due to existing gaming laws, these venues are allowed to host slots, blackjack games, live poker, and casino-style poker games. You won’t find games like roulette, craps, keno, bingo, or video poker in South Dakota’s casinos.
Small Stakes Games
The operation of “limited-stakes” card games and slot machines has been legalized in recent years. This allows smaller businesses, like bars and clubs, to host slots and poker tournaments provided players don’t wager more than $50 on any one outcome.
Social (or “private”) gambling games are implicitly illegal within SD state lines. The state moved to legalize and regulate games like head to head poker and blackjack, but no exception was ever made for games played privately in the home. We looked back through the past fifty years or so of the state’s history and couldn’t find a single instance of a South Dakota citizen being arrested for playing in a private gambling game, so we doubt that the lack of an exception for private gaming bears much weight.
As if often the case in America, pari-mutuel wagering is somewhat unrestricted, with dozens of tracks and OTB betting sites spread across the state. If you’re headed to South Dakota and you’re interested in some racing action, be warned that the tracks only operate full-time in the summer. These tracks are especially popular during tourist season – July and August.
“Qualified charitable organizations” are allowed by the state government to operate bingo and lottery games in order to raise money. These games are legal as long as the proceeds do not go to an individual who works for the organization. Though only lottery and bingo games are available for play at these charitable events, the maximum prize amount of $2,000 set by the state is generous compared to other American charity gaming laws. Qualified charitable organizations are defined as
Is Online Gambling Legal in South Dakota?
Online gambling is explicitly illegal in South Dakota – for some citizens.
The Mount Rushmore State passed a law about a decade ago called Chapter 22-25A. This law makes it illegal for “those in the gambling business” to place online wagers. This is a serious law that prescribes a stiff felony charge for any casino employee or operator who places an online wager.
We believe this law against the practice of online gambling by “those in the gambling business” is a tactic approval of the practice of online gambling for anyone who is NOT in the gambling business. If you want a legitimate legal opinion on this defense, we recommend you contact a legal professional familiar with South Dakota gaming regulations.
If a person were convicted under this law, the penalty is a fine not to exceed $10,000 and an optional prison sentence of no more than one year. Considering that the penalty in the state for simple gambling is a $50 fine and no jail sentence, it’s clear that state lawmakers wanted gambling operators completely out of the online gambling business, while regular citizens are all but passed over when it comes time to penalize for illicit gaming.
Where Can I Gamble In South Dakota?
Online Gambling Options in South Dakota
South Dakota’s legislature hasn’t moved to outlaw the practice of online gambling. Lawmakers have also recently avoided an outright attack on the DFS industry, preferring to attempt to collect what it calls “civil remedies” instead of a financial punishment. What does this mean for South Dakota gamblers? If you do your wagering online, and if you’re doing business with an offshore sportsbook or other gambling site, you’re not in any danger of prosecution. No gamblers in South Dakota have ever been charged with a crime related to placing an online bet, and we don’t think that will change anytime soon without additional legislation.
History of South Dakota Gambling Laws
Further Reading on South Dakota Gambling Law
The homepage for South Dakota’s gambling regulatory and enforcement agency. Here you’ll find contact information for the state’s various regulatory agencies, rules and regulations for the operation of legal games of chance and skill, FAQs on topics related to gaming, and clarifications on state law from the state government. If you’re researching SD gambling law, you should start your research here.
This link will take you to a quick look at state gambling law. All relevant sections of South Dakota’s code of law are available here with a single click. Don’t sleep on the links on the left-hand navigation bar, particularly the Industry Statistics link, which includes interesting details on revenue produced by the state’s various forms of gaming.
This summary of all state gaming laws is useful as more than just a resource. The page where this gaming law summary is hosted links to the same information for every US state. Details include specifics on gaming regulations, links to online state law books, and a long series of interesting gambling law articles.
South Dakota Gambling FAQ
I read that South Dakota’s casinos have a maximum bet limit. Is that true?
Yes, there’s a limit, and it’s $1,000. You can’t wager more than $1,000 on any one round or hand. That’s not such a bad limit. Few of us have ever wagered more than that on any one hand, anyway. And don’t overlook the fact that this limit has changed over the years. Once upon a time, South Dakota casinos had a max bet of $5.
What games are available in South Dakota casinos?
Lawmakers have approved a short list of games: blackjack, craps, keno, poker, roulette, and slot machines. Some game designers have created some hybrid electronic games that fit through the state’s many loopholes, but for the most part, those are the only games you’re going to be allowed to play. One venue, Triple Crown Casino, is also licensed to offer simulcast betting.
Is it legal to own a slot machine for display in my home in South Dakota?
No. While many states allow people to display vintage slot machines (older than twenty-five years) or plain-old disabled machines (games that do not pay out rewards even if money is put into them), South Dakota says you just plain can’t own them at all. No exception is made, except a general exception making it legal to display other coin-operated devices, namely those that don’t potentially reward money.
Is it legal to gamble in your own home in South Dakota?
Yes, so far as we can tell, South Dakota law makes no mention of restrictions on private or social games of chance and skill. The assumption is that so long as your game is truly out of the public eye, and so long as you’re not operating games of chance and skill for profit, your game is legal and outside the purview of South Dakota lawmakers.
What are South Dakota slot machine paybacks like?
South Dakota law doesn’t dictate a range of legal payback percentages, like you find in other states. They do, however, keep excellent records. According to the South Dakota Commission on Gaming, the average payback for all denominations of slot machine is 91.32%. The best slot machines in the state, in terms of odds, are the nickel games, with an average payback of 94%.
Is Deadwood going to be the next Las Vegas?
South Dakota’s laws are just too restrictive for the creation of a full-fledged gambling Mecca. Having said that, the state is doing a brisk trade in attracting their own citizens to the state’s gaming houses and providing regulated gambling for people in nearby North Dakota.
Okay, so some tough restrictions are in place preventing the state’s citizens from enjoying unfettered access to gambling. Still, South Dakota is home to more casinos than the average US state. The lack of a clear prohibition against online gambling (except for those who work in the gambling business) means that South Dakota currently has some of the most liberal gambling laws in the country.
Changes to the state’s gaming laws are now under consideration – who knows, maybe SD will relax their laws even more by this time next year?