Minnesota Poker Laws & Legislation

Minnesota laws do state that online gambling is illegal. Bingo was legalized in Minnesota back in 1945. After that, it wasn’t until 1978 that raffles were legalized for charitable organizations. Pull-tabs were authorized in 1981, the same year that Native American tribes were given the authority by a US Court of Appeals to conduct bingo. Parlors were soon opened on a number of Indian reservations.

Voters in Minnesota approved pari-mutuel betting in 1983, and two years later, the first track opened for horse racing at Canterbury Downs.

The lottery was legalized in 1988, and the Department of Gaming was created the following year.

When Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 to authorize tribes to make compacts with state governments for gambling establishments, Minnesota tribes worked quickly to work on their compacts. By 1989, seven tribes were given the authorization to offer video gambling along with bingo. Two more tribes signed compacts in 1990, and another two did the same in 1991, at the same time that all 11 tribes finalized agreements to offer blackjack. In 1992, there were 14 tribal casinos, and that number grew to 17 by 1993.

Finally, in 2000, the first card club in the state opened at Canterbury Park, compete with a poker room.

Latest Developments Regarding Online Poker in Minnesota

Not many experts are placing bets on Minnesota to legalize and regulate online poker in the next few years. The state’s lawmakers have been and continue to be wary of too much gambling growth.

The closest that Minnesota has come to online gambling is to consider daily fantasy sports (DFS). There was a bill that proposed its legalization in 2016, and the House did advance the bill with a passing vote, but the Senate never took up the subject.

The Senate was interested in the public’s opinion on the topic, however, and asked for answers in the 2016 Senate State Fair Opinion Poll. The question read:

“Should Minnesota regulate and tax the operators of online fantasy sports games (which are not to be confused with online video games), similar to the way the state currently regulates and taxes providers of lawful gambling like pull-tabs, tipboards, raffles and bingo (e.g. requiring vendors to register, pass background checks and submit to financial audits)?”

The results delivered 66.51% of yes votes, only 20.54% of no votes, and 12.95% undecided.

It is unclear if the legislature will consider the topic again in 2018 and if any other type of online gaming will be included with it.

Minnesota Laws Pertinent to Online Poker

Chapter 349 of the Minnesota Statutes addresses lawful gambling, with much of the focus on bingo, raffles, and pull-tabs. To that end, lawful gambling was defined as “the operation, conduct or sale of bingo, raffles, paddlewheels, tipboards, and pull-tabs.”

The law that allowed card games at racetracks was put into Chapter 206, permitting “card club activities” at class A tracks. Card club is defined as “a facility or portion of a facility where the commission has authorized a licensee to conduct card playing” And card playing is then noted as “an activity wherein individuals compete and wager with each other utilizing a 52-unit system.” It should be noted that the games are unbanked, which means that the players compete against each other and not the house, as in poker, though the house may collect rake but has no interest in the outcome of the game.

According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, skill games are addressed as not applicable in the criminal penalties statutes. However, skill activities are specified as darts, bowling, and pool tournaments. Casino nights, on the other hand, “do not usually include activities based on the outcome of a player’s skill, but rather the luck of the draw or some other chance event.” This indicates that the state does not recognize poker as a game of skill.

Texas Hold’em is listed as a permissible social skill card game, legal under the social gaming regulations. Players in Texas Hold’em tournaments “cannot be charged any fee or be required to give any consideration (something of value) as a condition of participation.” The state also says that prizes can be awarded if not exceeding $200, but players must be able to compete for free.

That page of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety website also specifically addresses online gambling. It reads:

“Online sports betting and online casinos that take your money and offer prizes via the web are illegal in Minnesota. There are websites available that operate outside of the United States to purposefully avoid laws and enforcement. Not only is it a crime to participate, there are consumer protection concerns as well. When you send money, you are giving your personal financial and banking information to unknown persons that are not licensed or regulated in handling it. If you do win, there is no recourse if they do not pay you.”

This specifies that the activity is illegal, and anyone who participates is committing a crime.

Disclaimer: This is not written by an attorney and is not or should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney for help interpreting these laws as they pertain to any given situation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question:  Is it okay to play online poker from Minnesota?

Answer:  There are sites like Bovada and Intertops, reputable online poker operators that are comfortable offering cash games and tournaments to players in Minnesota. It is best to be cautious, however, as the law clearly states that online gaming is prohibited.

Question:  Will law enforcement pursue poker players?

Answer:  This is unlikely. The law says that players are guilty of a crime by playing online games from within Minnesota, but the pursuit of players is not something that law enforcement has ever done or is likely to do. The operators would be in legal jeopardy before the players would be.

Question:  What if my favorite sites choose to stop servicing Minnesota players?

Answer:  The online poker sites we choose to recommend are reputable and will let players in Minnesota know if they decide to withdraw from the state. If the legal team working with any operator deems it necessary, the site will contact its players and give plenty of time to withdraw funds and find another site on which to play poker.