North Dakota is a gambling-friendly state for the most part. Apart from sports betting, online poker and internet casinos, the state permits all the most common types of gambling. Indian casinos, horse racing tracks and certain forms of online betting are all allowed as long as the operators have the appropriate licenses.
Social gambling and poker are both legal as long as the participants wager no more than $25 in any single hand or event and the house does not take a profit. At one point, North Dakota even flirted with the idea of licensing and regulating online poker sites. Representative James Kasper introduced HCR 3035 in 2005 as an attempt to get North Dakota to become the first state in the US to legalize online poker and offer oversight over the industry.
Where to Bet Online in North Dakota
Horse and Greyhound Betting:
Games of Skill:
Had it passed, HCR 3035 would have allowed poker sites to relocate to North Dakota and accept wagers from all 49 states except for states that opted out. Rep. Kasper put forth a comprehensive argument for regulating online poker, noting the potential tax revenue and safety issues that a licensing regime would have addressed.
Ultimately, HCR 3035 was defeated in the senate with a vote that overwhelmingly rejected the proposal. North Dakota hasn’t pushed for any other measures to legalize the industry since then. Lawmakers don’t seem particularly interested in pushing the issue at this time so it will likely be a while before anyone takes another stab at bringing internet poker or gambling to ND.
Legal Betting Sites
North Dakota has so far been fairly receptive to the forms of online betting that are legal at the federal level. Horse racing and fantasy sports are exempt from federal laws that prohibit most forms of online wagering and North Dakota does not prohibit either of those. The same also applies to games of skill.
Online Fantasy Sports
Online fantasy sports betting is legal across the United States except in states that specifically prohibit fantasy leagues or games of skill. This is the fastest-growing form of online betting in the US and all the major fantasy sites accept residents from ND. If you’re familiar with traditional fantasy leagues, online fantasy works in much the same manner.
There is one key difference, though. Online fantasy leagues last for just a day or week as opposed to an entire season. You can draft new teams every week and participate in multiple contests every day. The largest fantasy sites routinely host dozens of short-term leagues every single day at stakes that range from just a few cents to several thousand dollars.
Fixed-odds sports betting is outlawed in North Dakota but fantasy betting provides a similar experience that is 100% legal. Both forms of wagering require a similar skill set and both can be supremely profitable for knowledgeable sports fans. These days, it is not uncommon to find fantasy contests on the internet that offer six or seven figure prizes to the top-performing teams.
The reason online fantasy betting is legal in North Dakota is because the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) of 2006 specifically classified fantasy betting as a game of skill. Thus, federal gaming laws do not apply to fantasy betting.
Horse Racing Betting
Parimutuel horse wagering is legal in North Dakota at live tracks, simulcasting facilities and online. The Racing Commission oversees the state’s two racetracks (Chippewa Downs and the North Dakota Horse Park) as well as online wagering.
North Dakota is unique in that it doesn’t just permit online horse betting; it actually licenses and oversees wagering websites. Two of the nation’s largest horse betting sites, BetAmerica and WatchandWager.com are both licensed by the ND Racing Commission. Sites that are licensed in other jurisdictions are also permitted to offer their services to residents.
Online skill games ride a fine line between what is legal and what is not. Chapter 12 of the North Dakota Century Code explains that the definition of gambling does NOT include:
Lawful contests of skill, speed, strength, or endurance in which awards are made only to entrants or to the owners of entries
What this means is that it is not prohibited to place wagers in a contest of skill as long as you are one of the participants. Any game in which skill is the only factor that determines the winner may be hosted as a real-money contest. There are a few websites that offer these types of games, with WorldWinner.com being the largest.
WorldWinner hosts a variety of skill games such as Scrabble, Bejeweled and others that can be played for real money. It’s an interesting concept but it has had a hard time catching on in a big way. At this time, most games are played for small sums of money.
North Dakota Lottery
The North Dakota Lottery does not sell individual tickets online at this time. Any website that claims to sell tickets online is operating unlawfully and is most likely based out of a foreign country. If you decide to buy tickets from such a website, you should know that there is no way to guarantee that you’ll be paid if you win a big jackpot.
There’s no need to resort to offshore lottery websites anyways, because the ND lottery now has a subscription service that is available online. If you visit the subscription page on the lottery website, you can sign up for an account and purchase subscriptions that range from a single drawing to 52-weeks of drawings.
Winnings of $599 or less are deposited directly to your online account, which you can then withdraw electronically. Winnings of $600 or more must be claimed in person just like you would had you purchased the winning ticket at a gas station.
Gambling and the Criminal Code
The Criminal Code of North Dakota considers gambling to be any activity in which the participants risk “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 definition of gambling makes the above-noted exception to games of skill and private games in which the participants wager no more than $25 at a time. Anyone who is caught participating in outlawed gambling games is subject to an “infraction” for which there is a fine of up to $1,000. Anyone convicted of more than one infraction in a year may be charged with a Class B misdemeanor for which there is a fine of up to $1500 and up to thirty days of imprisonment.
Overall, the risks involved in gambling as a player are minor. These laws do not include small stakes social games or participation in exempted forms of betting such as horse racing, fantasy sports or contests of skill. It is unclear if these laws apply to betting at unregulated offshore poker or gambling sites, but no one to date has ever been charged for doing so.
North Dakota’s Criminal Code does take the “business of gambling” more seriously. Anyone who conducts a wagering pool or lottery, receives wagers on behalf of another person or organizes an unlicensed gambling operation can be charged with a Class C felony. The punishment for conviction of a Class C felony in North Dakota is up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.