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Minnesota has some clear laws against gambling, which include making bets, except where authorized by law. In essence, any betting, or gambling, that isn’t permitted by law specifically constitutes illegal gambling. Let’s look at the specific law related to participating in gambling and see how it reads:
“Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a misdemeanor:
(1) makes a bet;
(2) sells or transfers a chance to participate in a lottery;
(3) disseminates information about a lottery, except a lottery conducted by an adjoining state, with intent to encourage participation therein;
(4) permits a structure or location owned or occupied by the actor or under the actor’s control to be used as a gambling place; or
(5) except where authorized by statute, possesses a gambling device.
Clause (5) does not prohibit possession of a gambling device in a person’s dwelling for amusement purposes in a manner that does not afford players an opportunity to obtain anything of value.” (1)
So making a bet is illegal, so now we have to look at what is meant by making a bet in Minnesota:
“Subd. 2. Bet. A bet is 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.
Subd. 3. What are not bets. The following are not bets:
(1) a contract to insure, indemnify, guarantee or otherwise compensate another for a harm or loss sustained, even though the loss depends upon chance;
(2) a contract for the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or other commodities;
(3) offers of purses, prizes or premiums to the actual contestants in any bona fide contest for the determination of skill, speed, strength, endurance, or quality or to the bona fide owners of animals or other property entered in such a contest;
(4) the game of bingo when conducted in compliance with sections 349.11 to 349.23,
(5) a private social bet not part of or incidental to organized, commercialized, or systematic gambling;
(6) the operation of equipment or the conduct of a raffle under sections 349.11 to 349.22, by an organization licensed by the Gambling Control Board or an organization exempt from licensing under section 349.166,
(7) pari-mutuel betting on horse racing when the betting is conducted under chapter 240; and
(8) the purchase and sale of state lottery tickets under chapter 349A.” (2)
How Does This Apply To Betting On Poker?
If we look at the definition of betting in subsection 2, like several other states, they incorporate into the definition of betting or gambling both a dependence upon chance, and whether this element of chance also includes an element of skill or not.
There has been some confusion in the laws of other states whether an element of skill in a game would permit it from being excluded in the definition of games of chance, and poker is one of those games where there is an element of skill involved as well. However, by putting in the provision that betting on a game still constitutes illegal gambling even though there may be an element of skill, this serves to put to rest any arguments that games like poker do not fit this definition.
So when we take this into account, claims that the provision that bonafide games of skill are excluded require that these games do not involve the element of chance, and poker clearly does have an element of chance, so it would not be saved by this provision as it would not qualify.
So betting on poker, and betting on anything in fact, is against the law in Minnesota unless specifically authorized by law.
Live Poker Venues in Minnesota
In spite of these laws, there are several live poker rooms in the state of Minnesota where you can play poker legally. Minnesota features a total of 20 land-based casinos, 18 of which are Indian casinos and 2 are racetrack/card rooms (3).
Among these casinos and card rooms, 11 of them offer live real money poker tables. They are the Black Bear Casino Resort in Carlton (4 tables), the Fortune Bay Casino in Tower (4 tables), the Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onamia (8 tables), the Running Aces Harness Park in Forest Lake (23 tables), the Seven Clans Casino Warroad in Warroad (2 tables), the Treasure Island Casino in Welch (6 tables), Canterbury Park in Shakopee (32 tables), the Grand Casino Hinkley in Hinkley (4 tables), the Northern Lights Casino in Walker (6 tables), the Seven Clans Casino Thief River Falls in Thief River Falls (3 tables) and the Shooting Stars Casino in Mahnomen (7 tables). (4)
So while most of these poker rooms are on the very small side, the two racetrack card rooms are quite large and poker players will find all the action they can handle at either of these venues.
Online Poker In Minnesota
While Minnesota is not among the handful of states that either have online poker regulation or have plans on looking to enact it in the near future, Minnesota is one of the more liberal states when it comes to gambling and it is likely that we may one day see such a bill pass, although they may want to continue to expand their land based gambling first, and there is certainly room to grow with that right now.
In addition to allowing Indian casinos, state legislators took the step back in 2012 to allow “racinos” as well, which is a big first step and allows card games to be offered at select racetracks now. (5) This is of particular significance to poker players as the card game of choice at these racinos is poker.
For now though, Minnesota residents will have to either be content to play at one of the selected card rooms in the state, or should they wish, play online at one of several online poker rooms that offer play to Americans. None of these poker rooms have any issues with residents of Minnesota, although players from other states do face restrictions, including a few states where no one accepts players from.
Among these online poker rooms accepting Minnesota residents is probably one of my favorite and most recommended sites in Ignition Poker. This particular site recently bought up the Bovada software and re-branded as Ignition. They currently offer a new poker player bonus of up to $1,000, including a FREE $5 casino chip you can use in their attached online casino.