Any discussion of online betting laws must make the distinction between federal and state laws. Federal laws are sweeping in nature – i.e. they cover every state in the union. No state may pass a law contrary to what is active at the federal level. Outside of those laws, each state has the leeway to chart its own course for online gaming.
The two major pieces of legislation at the federal level are the Wire Act of 1961 and the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA). I won’t bore you with too many details, so I’ll just recap both laws.
Legal Minnesota Betting Sites
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
Games of Skill:
The Wire Act makes it illegal to bet on sports over the internet or with the aid of any type of telecommunications device. For years, the Department of Justice interpreted the Wire Act to also apply to online poker and gambling. The DOJ changed its interpretation in 2011 to declare that the Wire Act now only applies to sports betting. This paved the way for states like Minnesota to legalize online poker and casino games.
The UIGEA didn’t specifically outlaw any form of gambling. Instead, it targets the banking industry and makes it illegal for banks or other financial institutions to process payments to or from unlicensed betting sites or poker rooms. The UIGEA does not criminalize any act of gambling and does not prohibit states from legalizing online poker or gambling.
Furthermore, several forms of gambling are exempt from the UIGEA and Wire Act. Horse racing betting, greyhound racing and fantasy sports are all exempt from both laws. This is why we’re able to have legal racing betting sites and real money fantasy sports today in the United States. Both forms of betting are exempt from all federal legislation.
Internet poker and casino games are not yet legal in Minnesota. The state would have to pass new legislation to authorize either activity. It would also need to create some sort of regulatory system to ensure the safety of gaming operators inside the state.
Legal Betting Sites in Minnesota Today
Minnesota isn’t overly restrictive with its gaming laws. Everything that’s legal at the federal level is also legal within the state. State lawmakers haven’t address online poker or casino games, so those are not available at this time. In fact, no legislation has even been proposed. It will likely be a long wait before we find online casinos or poker sites in MN.
Here’s what we have available right now.
Horse Racing Sites
Horse/greyhound betting and fantasy sports may be legally offered over the internet to Minnesotans. The state racing commission currently authorizes two racing betting sites: BetAmerica and WatchandWager.
The only restriction is customers from Minnesota may not bet on Canterbury Park or Running Aces races over the internet. It’s quite common for states to restrict residents from wagering on local tracks online – the goal is to encourage people to visit the track in person.
Fantasy Sports Sites
Daily fantasy sports betting is legal in Minnesota thanks to an exemption found in the UIGEA. Federal law considers fantasy sports betting a contest of skill and fundamentally different than fixed-odds sports betting. That being said, Minnesota has also never gotten around to formally legalizing fantasy sports. This leaves the main DFS sites in a big of a legal grey area, although they do operate openly in Minnesota and have done so for years without any trouble.
More recently, some lawmakers have proposed making daily fantasy sports explicitly legal and regulating the industry. Companion bills HF1415 and SF1402 introduced in 2017 are currently seeking to give the industry official legal status and implement a number of consumer protection regulations.
The proposed legislation is similar in nature to bills that have been passed in other states. If successful, these bills would establish a minimum age of 18 for players, prohibit customers who would have conflicts of interest (such as athletes participating in contests involving games in which they participate), require operators to segregate players’ funds from operational funds and devise voluntary self-exclusion programs for problem gamblers.
Unlike other bills, this one does not require expensive operating licenses. Operators would only be required to register with the Department of Public Safety and pay a registration fee of $500. The bill also does not call for any additional taxes.
Real money skill games hosted over the internet are also legal in Minnesota. Skill gaming websites offer a variety of games such as Bejeweled, Scrabble and Solitaire in which you compete against other players for the best score.
Internet skill gaming isn’t terribly popular so most games are just played for a few dollars. The biggest skill gaming site today is WorldWinner.com. They are owned by the Game Show Network and have been operating for a long time.
What About Online Poker and Casino Games?
Sadly, there’s nothing to report here. Minnesota doesn’t appear to have online poker or internet gambling high on its priority list. The state would have to enact new legislation to bring either of those options to residents, and we haven’t even heard a peep from lawmakers about anything coming up.
State laws do not prohibit residents from playing at unlicensed poker sites based out of other countries such as Costa Rica. The state did attempt to block access to about 200 IP addresses related to online gambling in 2009. The measure was a complete disaster and obviously concocted by lawmakers with no working knowledge of the internet or even a thorough understanding of gaming or Constitutional law.
The block never went into effect and the measure was eventually dropped.
State law does not make it a crime for someone to play casino games or poker online. If you’re willing to risk your money at unlicensed sites, you’re free to do so. However, I don’t recommend doing so at this time. The risks of losing your money are very real. It has happened before and it will probably happen against before we legalize online poker and casino games nationwide.
Minnesota State Lottery Online
Minnesota is one of the most recent states to take its lottery online. Residents of the state may visit the official lottery website to buy individual tickets or subscriptions online. The state even sells instant scratch tickets that you can scratch and redeem online instantly.
The addition of scratch tickets caused quite a bit of controversy when the new games were unveiled in February of 2014. State lawmakers immediately drafted a bill to end the scratch tickets and enact future limitations on what the state lottery may offer online.
The measure to end scratch tickets was supported by a group of lawmakers who oppose online gambling altogether, tribal casino groups and charity gambling groups. Eventually, the bill was presented to Governor Mark Dayton who vetoed it. Scratch games are still available online to this day: