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North Dakota Legal Poker

Last Update: April 4, 2015

Online Poker

As one of the smallest states by population in the Union (only Vermont and Wyoming have fewer residents), North Dakota is not particularly well-equipped for online poker. Despite its liquidity problems, in 2005 the state was close to putting a referendum on the ballot to mandate an internet poker licensing bill. The bill passed in the North Dakota House by a slim margin. It then stalled in a Senate committee and was ultimately overwhelmingly rejected in a full Senate vote.

The North Dakota legislature has never taken the issue back up. By the same token, North Dakota doesn’t have any statutes criminalizing poker. Given the state’s generally permissive attitude towards gambling, and its previous attempts to license online poker, online poker is probably at least tolerated in North Dakota.

By the strictest interpretation of the laws, however, because it is not run by eligible non-profit institutions, it might be illegal.

Live Poker

Despite a rather stark constitutional prohibition against gambling (“The legislative assembly shall not authorize any game of chance… under any pretense or for any purpose whatsoever.”) North Dakota doesn’t entirely frown on live poker. It’s just not very accommodating about it, either.

Exceptions to the North Dakota constitutional gambling ban exist for certain types of non-profit organizations, who can offer poker on up to two occasions per calendar year. Chapter 53-06.1 of the North Dakota Century Code governs these “games of chance”.

Under the Games of Chance Administrative Rules of the North Dakota Gaming Commission, tournaments of up to 3 days in length can take place on either of the “occasions”. Satellites to the main tournament are capped at $300 each, but there appears to be no limitation on the size of the main tournament buy-in. The only requirement is that the entry fee must be a minimum of 10% of the total buy-in.

North Dakota also has approximately 10 tribal casinos run by four tribes that have entered into compacts with the state. While some of these operations are limited to slot machines, at least three offer live poker on some nights of the week.

Home games in North Dakota appear to be legal so long as the maximum amount wagered by any player in a single hand does not exceed $25.

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