In order to discuss gambling history in North Dakota, we must first mention the state’s constitution, which made gambling illegal under Article IX. Section 25 of the article explicitly states that “the legislative assembly shall not authorize any game of chance, lottery, or gift enterprises, under any pretense, or for any purpose whatever”, which creates a sort of blanket ban on any kind of gambling in North Dakota.
The law is also very clear on what the punishment is for gambling in the state of North Dakota, though it depends on how much you have spent. For example, anything over 25 dollars is only considered an infraction, but wagering more than 500 dollars is punishable by a fine of 3000 dollars and up to an entire year in jail. At the time of this writing, the legal age for gambling in North Dakota is 21 and up.
According to the laws in North Dakota the state considers gambling to be ”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 birth of gambling in North Dakota
Charity gambling was legalized by the state in 1977 and mostly consisted of raffles and bingo. This eventually got expanded into Blackjack, off track betting and sports pools, which would be followed by legalized horse racing in 1987. As a result of horse racing becoming legalized, four tracks were built throughout North Dakota, but only one of them still stands today. That would be Chippewa Downs, located in Belcourt.
While commercial casinos were banned in North Dakota under article IX of the constitution, the introduction of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 changed that entirely. In fact, the new law allowed the state to create compacts with tribes in order to finally bring casinos to the state. Under the new act, five casinos were to be created on tribal grounds, which would help the tribe’s economy and give citizens a chance to gamble more freely.
The Indians would also be licensed to operate several low scale casinos, thus allowing an even bigger portion of the citizens of North Dakota to gamble. The smaller scale casinos were a great way for those that didn’t want to venture to one of the big five casino’s and instead wanted to undertake a more relaxing experience.
North Dakota legalizes (some) casinos
North Dakota legalized casinos in 1992 and five were built in various places throughout North Dakota, along with seven charitable casinos. The tribal casinos built were The Dakota Magic casino, Skydancer Hotel and Casino, the Fort Yates prairie casino and resort, Spirit lake casino and 4Bears casino and lodge. North Dakota operates live poker rooms that usually run around 5-7 tables of Texas Hold-em poker. The casinos can hold low stakes to medium stakes poker tournaments as well.
These tribal casinos were licensed to operate a plethora of games, including slots, video poker, Blackjacks, Craps, Roulette, and live poker. The maximum bet at these casinos varied by game and whether it is following the regulations set forth by the gambling board or not. The maximum bet for poker is 25 dollars, while you can bet up to 250 dollars in Blackjack. Craps and Roulette offer a max bet of 60 dollars.
Online gambling still illegal in North Dakota.
Although Casinos would become legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, online gambling is still considered illegal. The state legislature tried to legalize online gambling in 2005, but the bill was voted down 44-3. This would end up being the state’s last legitimate attempt to legalize the practice and there is no telling if online poker will ever be available online due to the conflict it would cause.
Ambiguous language around online gambling in North Dakota
Fortunately for North Dakota citizens, the laws concerning online gambling are kind of ambiguous and some claim that people can gamble online at their own risk. Interestingly enough however, section 23 of the North Dakota state code has been interpreted to not include online gambling, which has created a lot of debate around whether it is legal or not.
Now, authorities can claim that the law defined in section 23 of the code extends to online poker, but it doesn’t explicitly say that, and could be interpreted in a variety of different ways. There are, however, several reputable offshore sites that you will not be prosecuted for playing on in North Dakota, including Ignition, BetOnline, Bovada, and Americas Cardroom.
Other forms of gambling legalized
The state of North Dakota did legalize para-mutual gambling in 1990, which allowed citizens to gamble on simulcast horse and dog races across the world but haven’t gone much further than that. Their last bill of interest was the 2005 measure that was going to be recommended for a vote and got shot down 44-3.
Taking a look at the financial side of things, North Dakota is said to bring in over 460 million dollars in gambling revenue and over 20 million in gambling taxes. That might seem like a lot of money, and it is to some extent, but one must remember that tribes only cover regulatory fees for their casinos and pay the state no taxes. This means that the state is missing out on a lot of revenue.
Looking into the numbers further, tribes made over 4 billion dollars from gambling revenue in 2014, which was an uptick of 4.5% Unfortunately, there aren’t many figures available on what that number is today, but the state is still missing out on a lot of money and really have no way to stake a legitimate claim to it.
In the end, gambling is a very complicated business in North Dakota. Furthermore, it seems like everyone is out for their own interests when it comes to gambling in this state, which makes the landscape somewhat stagnant. Hopefully, that will change with North Dakota legalizing online gambling in the near future, but who knows what will happen with everyone so intent on keeping things the way they are.