Is sports betting legal in North Dakota?

Yes. Legal sports betting is taking place in several locations in North Dakota. The state’s federally recognized tribes are able to offer sports betting on their reservation lands, and several already do so. It’s not clear if the abstaining members of the group are planning to offer sports betting in the future, but the decision resides with them — there are no legal hurdles that they must first navigate.

Incidentally, in 2021, North Dakota lawmakers rejected a motion to allow for a ballot measure to make retail sports betting officially legal at the tribal locations, rather than as a clause in their compacts. However, the failure within the North Dakota Legislative Assembly has no real practical repercussions for the tribes, who continue to offer on-site sports betting

Is online sports betting legal in North Dakota?

No. There is no enabling legislation or constitutional amendment to allow online sportsbooks in North Dakota. 

In December 2021, North Dakota lawmakers rejected legislation to allow a ballot measure for online sports betting to be on the November 2022 ballot for voters. Approval from voters is necessary to move forward with online sports betting, so there can be no online wagering on the ballot until 2024, which means no online sportsbooks until 2025 at the earliest.

Where can I bet on sports in North Dakota?

So far, three tribes in North Dakota have opened sportsbooks. The first location was at the Dakota Magic Casino in Hankinson. The Dakota Nation Enterprise (aka the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) took the first bet in North Dakota in December 2021. The launch occurred only days before the North Dakota Legislative Assembly voted down two pieces of legislation to expand sports betting throughout the state.

Since the launch in Hankinson, two other sportsbooks have opened:

Two other facilities have the same eligibility to offer sports betting as the three above. Their respective tribal authorities have not elected to do so yet, but that may change soon in the future. Representatives at both the Prairie Knights Casino in Fort Yates and the Spirit Lake Casino in St. Michael confirmed that discussions and planning are underway for retail books, but neither party furnished any sort of timeline for a debut.

What sportsbook apps are available in North Dakota?

None. Sports betting in North Dakota is available only in person on tribal lands, not in the rest of the state. Lawmakers rejected a bill to offer online sports betting as a ballot measure in December 2021, and no similar measure is possible in the state until November 2024 — at least. Any sites that claim to be legal online sportsbooks in North Dakota are not trustworthy (more on this below).

North Dakota sports betting law

There is no traditional sports betting law on the books in North Dakota. In fact, North Dakota lawmakers rejected a recent attempt to put the issue in front of voters. However, the tribes in North Dakota are able to offer on-site sports betting through language in their compacts with the state, which includes the following:

III. AUTHORIZED CLASS III GAMING.

3.1 Kinds of Gaming Authorized. The Tribe shall have the right to operate upon Tribal trust lands within the exterior boundaries of the Lake Traverse Reservation as established in the Treaty of February 19, 1867, and the lands and waters identified in Section XXXIII below, the following Class III games during the term of this Compact, pursuant to Tribal Law and Federal Law, but subject to limitations set forth within this Compact.

G. Sports Book except as prohibited by the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection
Act, P.L. 102-559; 28 U.S.C. Chap. 178,.Pt. VI;

All five tribes have the same language in their most recent compacts, which were enacted in March 2013. So, given the dismissal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act by the US Supreme Court in 2018, all five tribes suddenly found themselves authorized to offer sports betting on their tribal lands. 

The oversight authority for sports betting falls to each individual tribe’s gambling commission or regulatory body. The exact rules at each sportsbook may vary, but the overall operation is (by virtue of the compact) subject to state inspection at any time. You will likely find a mostly uniform experience, no matter where you go.

Popular sports to bet on in ND

North Dakota is one of only five states with fewer than 1 million residents. Consequently, no major professional sports teams call the state home, as the prospects for home games would be unfortunately sparse. College and high school teams are very popular locally, but North Dakotans must look beyond state lines for top-level pro teams for which to root. In many cases, the closest option geographically is in Minnesota

NFL

The NFL season is the busy season for sportsbooks across the country, and the Super Bowl is the biggest sports betting day of the year. The nearest team to the east is in Minnesota:

NBA

NBA games are popular for both sports fans and sports bettors. Basketball is part of the US sports year for all but the depths of summer and the sport is quite popular on a local level in North Dakota. But as far as pro teams go, the closest option for most North Dakotans lies in nearby Minnesota.

MLB

Major League Baseball remains the top level of play for America’s pastime. While it is not in the same category of popularity as the NFL or the NBA, it is still an integral part of the American sports landscape. Once again, the team in Minnesota is the closest option for rooting interests and betting:

NHL

North Dakota is undeniably a hockey state. The Fighting Hawks from the University of North Dakota might be the most popular team in any sport in the state and have captured the NCAA Division I hockey championship multiple times, most recently in 2016. Here are the closest NHL teams to North Dakota:

NCAA

North Dakotans have two options for betting on local schools, as there are two universities in the state that play in the NCAA’s Division I.

Some states have provisions in their sports betting laws to limit or prohibit wagering on in-state college athletics. In this case, North Dakota sports bettors are aided by the lack of an active sports betting statute. However, each individual sportsbook will have its own rules, so you might want to check with your destination sportsbook beforehand.

Other types of gambling in North Dakota

The limited sports betting in North Dakota is not the only way to place a bet in the state. Here are the different options for gambling in North Dakota beyond wagering on sports:

Tribal casinos

The most complete gambling locations in North Dakota are five tribal casinos. No other venues in North Dakota offer an experience as near to a visit to Las Vegas or Atlantic City as these facilities. Depending on the venue, you may be able to find slots, table games, poker and other types of games. As we discussed earlier, you can also bet on sports at some of these locations:

The exact roster of games varies from casino to casino. If you plan to visit one of these facilities in the near future and have a particular game in mind, make sure to check if it’s available before you get in the car.

Charitable casinos

Several other locations in North Dakota offer gaming options without being full-service casinos. Generally speaking, gaming is only part of the services at these venues, which often combine bowling, bingo and sports bar-type offerings under one roof.

You will not find true slots or much variety within the table games at these sites. The slot options are actually electronic pull-tabs, the virtual version of the games typically available in bingo halls. The only table games dependably at these locations are blackjack and paddlewheels, the latter of which resembles Big 6 or other “wheel of fortune”-style games. Some of these properties may hold poker games or tournaments from time to time, too.

Additionally, all of the gaming at these venues is managed by licensed charitable organizations. The organizations can offer wagering as a form of fundraising for themselves. Although a full list of these places is hard to produce, here are some of the options:

It is even more important that you call ahead before visiting one of these locations. The exact lineup and availability of games will vary more frequently than at an established tribal casino.

Horse betting

Although North Dakota’s climate doesn’t suggest a favorable destination, the state is nonetheless active in horse betting in a rather comprehensive manner. All three of the major avenues for betting on horse racing are present, and people in the state don’t even have to leave their homes if they want to wager.

The first way to bet on horse races is to visit one of the two live horse racing tracks in the state. Both venues offer roughly half a dozen race days during the summer, primarily in July. Each track offers pari-mutuel wagering. Here are the tracks:

North Dakotans may also visit one of several standalone off-track betting locations spread around the state. Although the experience of seeing the horses race in person is not available at these places, they offer wagering on horse races around the country (and world) in a way that the live tracks do not. They also have more expansive hours and dates of operation, so it’s good to know where you can place a wager if it’s any month besides June or July:

Finally, if you would prefer not to leave your house, office or favorite coffee shop but would still like to bet on horse racing, you’re in luck. North Dakota allows online horse betting via advance deposit wagering sites such as TVG, FanDuel Racing and TwinSpires. Additionally, FanDuel TV (formerly TVG) is a digital cable, satellite and streaming network that covers horse racing and betting. 

Daily fantasy sports

Daily fantasy sports contests exist in a sort of legal limbo in North Dakota. The North Dakota Century Code is silent on the issue, meaning that DFS is neither expressly legal nor explicitly illegal. It remains a murky situation, but law enforcement in the state has remained passive on the issue. 

Thus, you can participate in DFS contests on DraftKings, FanDuel and any other providers that operate in the state. Although we don’t usually recommend frequenting sites where the legal question is unclear, DraftKings and FanDuel are legitimate companies with domestic operations and a history of abiding by state laws wherever they can. The only thing to be sure to do is stick with known vendors. In an unregulated environment, a fly-by-night DFS operator might try to swoop in. If a site or bonus seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Lottery

The North Dakota Lottery serves as the state’s official lottery game provider. It is an arm of the state government and is the only lottery operator allowed to sell tickets to people in the state.

However, there are a couple of elements about the ND Lottery’s offering that are different from what you’ll find in most other states with lottery games. The first is that the ND Lottery does not sell scratchers (aka instant win) at all. Although these games are a staple for most places, the only types of lottery games in North Dakota are multistate and in-state jackpot drawings. 

The other wrinkle is that the North Dakota Lottery lets you purchase tickets through its app. Although these tickets are merely for the draw games, the ND Lottery does have an iLottery function nonetheless. 

North Dakota participates in Mega Millions and Powerball, both of which have fielded estimated jackpots in excess of $1 billion at times. Other draw games on sale through the ND Lottery include Lucky 4 Life, which offers a chance to win a weekly stream of money, and Lotto America, which is a smaller jackpot game with an annuitized pay structure. Finally, you can take part in North Dakota’s 2BY2 if you want to play smaller games more frequently.

Comparing North Dakota sports betting to South Dakota

Although comparing the two Dakotas is a bit knee-jerk, there’s no denying that they are a valid apples-to-apples sample with regard to sports betting. Though their legal approaches are quite different, the end result is that both of them are quite similar in key areas. Neither state has authorized online sports betting state-wide, but South Dakota sportsbooks in Deadwood do have the ability to offer an app for use on casino premises. No apps have launched as of yet.

StateNorth DakotaSouth Dakota
Retail sports betting?YesYes
Sportsbook locations– Tribal casinos– Casinos in Deadwood
– Tribal casinos
Online sportsbettingNoYes*
Specific rules or restrictions– No gaming commission
– No overall rule set
– No wagering on in-state college teams
– No wagering on individual college athletes
– No wagering on minor league games

FAQ on North Dakota sports betting

Who oversees sports betting in ND?

The tribal gaming commission for each individual sportsbook. Each sovereign tribe is responsible for managing all the gambling taking place on its lands. However, North Dakota does maintain the right to inspect the operations, so if you have a dispute that you cannot resolve with the tribal commission, you may be able to find some aid in Bismarck.

What is the gambling age for ND sports bettors?

Although the tribes have sovereignty, each compact specifically requires that they restrict sports betting to those who are 21 or older

Do I have to be inside North Dakota to play?

Yes. Since there are no online sportsbooks available in North Dakota, there is no logistical way to place a bet outside of the state at this time. If you want to play, you’ll have to drive to a tribal casino with a sportsbook.

Do I have to be a resident of North Dakota to bet at ND sportsbooks?

No. So long as you are of legal age and in one of the approved facilities, you can bet on sports.

Why are there online sportsbooks that say they are legal in North Dakota?

They exist in a legal gray zone. A Google search may reveal multiple online sportsbooks that say they accept wagers from North Dakota, and some of them may seem quite legitimate. While they may claim to be legal, that’s a bit of a half-truth on their part. There is no explicit law allowing or banning online sports betting in North Dakota, and they interpret that as permission. 

The biggest concern, however, is not the legality. North Dakota law enforcement is not looking to arrest someone for playing online. Instead, the biggest issue with using a site like Bovada or BetOnline is the fact that these are unregulated sites that do not have to conform to US law, let alone commonly accepted business practices and standards. In order to play, you will have to surrender your banking and personal information to the site, and there’s no way to verify that any of these outfits are trustworthy or secure stewards of your data. 

Any of these offshore books could also close up shop and neglect to pay out any winnings without any legal recourse for the bettor.

As frustrating as it is to drive to Dakota Nation, Sky Dancer or 4 Bears, it is much safer than attempting to bet from home. Gambling with your identity or your financial information is a risk nobody should ever take.

Resources

Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians Compact Amendment: An example of the legislation empowering sports betting in North Dakota

North Dakota Legislative Assembly: State lawmaking body

Gambler ND: Responsible gambling resource in North Dakota

The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead: Fargo newspaper

The Bismarck Tribune: Bismarck newspaper

Other Sportsbook Offers

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