Legal Gambling & Poker Laws in Minnesota

Minnesota Online Gambling & Poker Laws
Legal Gambling Laws in Minnesota

There's more to say than you might think about online poker and Minnesota.  In fact, there's a good deal to say about Minnesota and gambling in general.  We won't be covering every aspect of betting and wagering in the Gopher State, but we will be giving you the heads-up on the history, the law and the future in this Guide to Minnesota and Online Poker.

Online Poker in the State of Minnesota

The Best Legal Minnesota Online Poker Sites

Minnesota online poker players deserve sites that give them fair and secure games.  For that reason, when we built our list of the best online poker rooms for poker players from Minnesota, we only chose from rooms that are legally licensed and regulated.  Of course, we also narrowed the list further by welcome bonus, software and the other factors that are critical to online poker players.  After all that, we came up with this list of the top legal Minnesota poker rooms online:

Can You Play Poker Online in Minnesota?

If you're a poker player looking for some online action, you'll have little trouble getting it in Minnesota.  There aren't any US-friendly poker sites we are aware of that restrict sign ups from the state, so you shouldn't encounter any problems finding a poker site accepting Minnesota players.  All of our top legal sites listed above accept Minnesota players, as do a number of other US-facing online poker rooms.

Can Online Poker Be Played Legally in Minnesota?

What does the law in Minnesota have to say about playing poker online for real money?  Like many US states, the law regarding poker played online is complicated in Minnesota, and you should consult a lawyer for a definitive answer to this question.  But to help you gain a better basic grasp on the general outlines of Minnesota law as it might apply to online poker, here is a quick list of key aspects of gambling law in the state:

  1. Minnesota effectively outlaws all forms of gambling that aren't specifically permitted by law.  The state accomplishes this with a broad definition of illegal gambling via the charge of "acts of or relating to gambling" (Section 609.755), which makes it a misdemeanor to make "a bet," to participate in an illegal lottery, to spread information about an illegal lottery, to allow a place under your control to be used as a gambling house or to possess a gambling device.
  2. The definition of "bet," therefore, is critical to Minnesota gambling law.  Section 609.75(2) defines "bet" as "a bargain whereby the parties mutually agree to a gain or loss by one to the other of specified money, property or benefit dependent upon chance although the chance is accompanied by some element of skill."
  3. The section then further defines what does not constitute a bet, including approved raffles, approved pari-mutuel wagering, private social gambling and state-sold lottery tickets.  Poker does not appear on this list (except implicitly under the social gambling exception).
  4. A separate class of gambling-related offenses result in gross misdemeanor charges.  Most of the offenses in this section (609.76) are apparently targeted at those operating the illegal activity, but a few could conceivably apply to participants as well - especially the violation of participating "in the income" of a "gambling place."
  5. Minnesota law prohibits "probability calculating devices" at licensed gaming facilities (Section (609.76).  The law is a bit vague, but given that it bans "keeping track of or counting cards used in a game," it would seem to cover many popular pieces of poker software.  However, online poker rooms are not licensed by the state of Minnesota, so players don't have to worry about this odd part of the state's gambling law.

To learn more about Minnesota law and how it might apply to playing poker online for real money, access the full Minnesota statutes at this link [1].

Will Minnesota Regulate Online Poker?

In our opinion, Minnesota does have a better chance than the typical US state of having state-regulated online poker in the next few years.  The state had taken a relatively liberal attitude toward gambling expansion in the last decade, and a nationwide trend of regulating online poker could easily generate sufficient momentum to pull Minnesota along in its wake. 

Minnesota Gambling Facts

Gambling in Minnesota History

As the State Lottery of Minnesota tells it [2], gambling has been a part of Minnesota basically since there was such a thing called Minnesota.  Both native cultures and settlers left ample evidence of gambling games in records and other cultural artifacts.  Along with that history goes a tradition of strong anti-gambling laws in the state, which broadly outlawed gambling in 1850 and then enshrined a similar stance in the Minnesota Constitution in 1857.  Minnesota gamblers went indoors and underground for the better part of the next 100 years until the pendulum swung back in favor of regulated gambling in the state during the middle of the 1900s.

What Regulated Gambling Options are in Minnesota?

The only form of regulated gambling you won't find in Minnesota: Commercial casinos (although the state's racetracks are working diligently to change that).  Minnesota has a state lottery, pari-mutuel wagering at the aforementioned racetracks, a very substantial charitable gambling industry and a host of tribal gambling facilities which also offer mobile gambling.  Minnesota racetracks may also offer table games like poker and blackjack. 

Is Online Gambling Regulated by the Minnesota Government?

Not in the traditional sense, but the state took a large step in the direction of regulating Internet gambling when it issued final approval for electronic pull-tab machines [3] in September of 2012.  The games can be played remotely using a tablet (at approved locations) and in many ways resemble a slot machine.

Minnesota Gambling News and Developments

Gambling-related stories continue to claim a good amount of ink in the Minnesota press.  Some of the biggest ongoing stories include the continued growth [4] of the state's massive charitable gambling industry (over $1b in gross receipts for 2012), a push to expand electronic gambling options [5] and the brewing fight between the state's racetracks and state government over what sort of gambling options tracks can install.

Continuing Your Minnesota Gambling Research

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library [6].  An excellent place to begin research concerning the evolution of gambling law in Minnesota.  Contains a timeline (with links) of all relevant legislation and an extensive list of related reports, papers and books on the subject.

Minnesota Gambling Control Board [7].  Home for the applications, paperwork, regulatory and financial information related to regulated charitable gambling in the state of Minnesota.  If you have questions about what's legal and how to ensure compliance, the GCB site should be your first stop.

Minnesota Indian Gaming Association [8].  Get a tribal perspective on Minnesota gambling with resources from this trade group for Minnesota tribes involved in the industry.  Easy way to get an overview of the different tribes, their position on issues and key facts and figures regarding tribal gambling in Minnesota.

Minnesota's Place in Poker History

While not home to many legends of the game, Minnesota maintains frequent links to poker.  One example is Minnesotan John Morgan, a man involved in what may end up being among the most famous poker hands ever.  The hand took place during the 2012 $1m buy in Big One for One Drop at the World Series of Poker.  Morgan fired a massive river bet in a huge pot against opponent Mikhail Smirnov, and Smirnov - to the shock of onlookers at the Rio and around the world - folded his quad eights face-up on the table.  Only one hand - a possible straight flush - beat Smirnov, but Morgan has yet to reveal the cards he was holding.

While not a native of Minnesota, WSOP champion and modern-day poker legend Greg Raymer is said to have picked up the game while attending law school at the University of Minnesota.

Sources & Citations For This Article on Minnesota Online Poker