Minnesota Poker Laws

A Guide to Poker in the State of Minnesota

Minnesota Gambling Laws

This guide to poker in Minnesota starts with a brief overview of gambling developments in the State before looking at whether or not poker is legal. Then the games and venues available for live players are covered followed by the status of online poker.

A Brief Overview of Gambling in Minnesota

As Minnesota’s original constitution contained a section stating "The legislature shall never authorize any lottery or the sale of lottery tickets" a slow start to legal gambling could be expected.

Games in Minnesota really took off in the 1980s when the Native tribes successfully argued their rights to host gambling games. After this was granted by the courts, high stakes bingo parlors began to appear on tribal land. Over the years other games have been added including casino games and poker.

Around the same time pari-mutuel betting was legalized for horse racing, creating a massive industry still popular today. When the State looked to expand its gambling interests they permitted the racetracks to host other forms of gambling. These sites now boast the two biggest poker rooms in the State.

Is Poker Legal in Minnesota?

Minnesota law has a clear definition of gambling, centered on betting.

Section 609.755 clearly states “Whoever does any of the following is guilty of a misdemeanor 1) makes a bet...”

Section 609.75(d)(1) of state law defines “a 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.”

As betting is a key part of poker, therefore making it gambling, it means the game can only be played in regulated environments otherwise it would be classed as illegal.

In 2005 Texas Holdem tournaments were made legal to in the State, providing no fee was charged and the total prize money is less than $200.

Live Poker Options in Minnesota

The State licensed poker rooms can be found at the racetracks of Canterbury Park & Running Aces. These offer reasonably large rooms offering daily cash games and tournaments - as well as hosting popular events such as the Heartlands and Mid-States Poker tours. More card rooms can be found in the Native casinos scattered throughout the State on tribal land.  

Home games are legal due to a carve-out in the statute book, providing no-one makes a profit off rake or fees and there is a limit of $200 maximum profit. Whether this profit cap is per hand or per session is unclear, although as long as you keep the games relatively small stakes and apply no charges then your game should be safe.

Charity poker tournaments require individual licenses - they run frequently as popular fund raising events here. You can also find free bar leagues operating in Minnesota. Both these type of events operate legally abiding by the conditions set in the 2005 legislation.

How Online Poker Stands in Minnesota

Despite no direct reference to online gambling in Minnesota’s laws, existing statutes class it as illegal in the opinion of the authorities. This is yet to be tested in a court of law as no one has yet been arrested for playing online poker, despite many residents enjoying games provided by offshore sites.

The companies behind such sites are based mainly in the Caribbean islands where they operate legally. The belief is they are able to provide games to US citizens due to free trade arrangements. Due to this set up the offshore sites provide a grey market which is not strictly legal, although there is no enforcement stopping anyone playing on them.

There is a great deal of debate in Minnesota as to the future of online poker. There have been previous unsuccessful attempts to prohibit it. There is recent interest in regulating it in a similar way to New Jersey or Nevada. As the discussion continues both for and against there are no upcoming bills that seek to make any changes to the status of online gambling.

In Summary – Minnesota Poker

Minnesota has embraced gambling in recent years and poker has become such a popular pastime in the State that Texas Holdem has received legal status, albeit with strict controls. The “Racinos” found at the two biggest racetracks in the state host a wide variety of poker to suit all bankrolls.

While the online debate invokes some passionate arguments, there is yet to be any significant movement here to operate a regulated market. Meanwhile residents continue to enjoy games on offshore sites.