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South Dakota has an interesting gambling history that's steeped in the legendary Deadwood and Black Hills Gold Rush. This lawless settlement came to be well known for its gambling halls, gold mines, and saloons.
The days of the Wild West are long gone. But South Dakota still includes much of this liberalism in their gambling laws today.
They offer most forms of gambling, including commercial casinos, lottery games, poker, racing, social gaming, and tribal casinos.
But the Mount Rushmore State is surprisingly harsh on internet gambling operators.
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Online Gambling and South Dakota Law
Most states don't have specific language aimed at internet gambling sites. But South Dakota actually dedicates multiple passages to the activity - none of them good for gamblers.
This state makes it clear that they don't want offshore operators within their boundaries.
But as you'll find out below, South Dakota's laws have provided little deterrence for offshore gaming sites.
Is Online Gambling Legal in South Dakota?
Entitled "Internet Gambling," Chapter 22-25A of the criminal code includes several laws. Here's code 22-25A-1, which is specifically aimed at offshore websites:
"For the purposes of this chapter, the term, bet or wager, means to directly or indirectly take, receive, or accept money or any valuable thing with the understanding or agreement that the money or valuable thing will be paid or delivered to a person if the payment or delivery is contingent upon the result of a race, contest, or game or upon the happening of an event not known to be certain. Bet or wager does not include the purchase, sale, or trade of securities or commodities under state or federal law."
This law outlaws accepting any type of bet, which makes real money online casinos, poker sites, and sportsbooks illegal.
Code 22-25A-9 explains that every bet accepted results in an individual violation:
"Each bet a separate violation. A violation of § 22-25A-7 or 22-25A-8 occurs if the violation originates or terminates, or both, in this state. Each individual bet or wager offered in violation of § 22-25A-7 or from a location or site that violates § 22-25A-8 constitutes a separate violation."
The penalty for a first offense is a Class 6 felony, and the penalty for a second offense is a Class 5 felony.
These are stingy laws that should technically scare off any offshore gaming site. Nevertheless, a wide variety of casino and poker sites continue operating here.
Why are Online Casinos Operating in South Dakota if They're Illegal?
Based on South Dakota's criminal code, gambling sites are clearly illegal. So why are they still operating here?
The reason is twofold:
- South Dakota has never taken legal action against an offshore operator.
- They don't have their own regulated online gaming industry.
Either of these two aspects have the potential to keep gaming sites out. But South Dakota has yet to put legal action behind their laws.
They aren't alone in this regard because very few states have made an effort to prosecute offshore sites.
These companies are located thousands of miles away, and South Dakota would rather put their resources towards more important matters.
The state has offered some interesting views on the subject, though. Here are some mixed views from important politicians:
According to the Rapid City Journal, Governor Dennis Daugaard was interested in a 2011 US Department of Justice opinion that . "Are we thinking about online gaming?" asked Daugaard's spokesman, Tony Venhuizen. "He's willing to learn more about that and have that discussion, but he doesnt have any immediate plans to take on that issue."
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley was part of a 2014 letter that asked the US DoJ to reverse their 2011 opinion on the Wire Act. "The impact of this opinion - which in effect opens the door to the spread of internet gambling - will have a potentially significant impact on state and local law enforcement," the letter read.
Will I Be Arrested for Gambling Online in South Dakota?
Despite half of their gambling criminal code being dedicated to iGaming, South Dakota makes no mention of player penalties.
Based on this fact and how South Dakota hasn't arrested anybody for online gambling, you're likely safe.
But keep in mind that the state has a broad definition of gambling that covers most games, players, and operators. Here's how code 22-25-1 defines gaming:
"Any person who engages in gambling in any form with cards, dice, or other implements or devices of any kind wherein anything valuable is wagered upon the outcome, or who keeps any establishment, place, equipment, or apparatus for such gambling or any agents or employees for such purpose, or any person who knowingly lets any establishment, structure, place, equipment, or apparatus for such gambling is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor."
We doubt that South Dakota will use this to pursue internet gamblers if they haven't done so already. But it's still good to know the laws.
Are Offshore Gaming Sites Safe?
It depends on the site.
Offshore gaming companies aren't licensed in the US. Instead, they're licensed in jurisdictions like Antigua & Barbuda, Costa Rica, Curacao, Panama, and the Kahnawake Gaming Commission (Montreal, Canada).
While these jurisdictions have licensing requirements, they don't have the legal authority to enforce iGaming rules. This means that an offshore gaming site could close up and avoid repaying player deposits.
The good news, though, is that this doesn't happen very often. Most gaming sites serve players well because they want repeat business.
Nevertheless, you should read reviews and visit prospective sites. When doing so, look for the following points in any quality gaming website:
- Processing Withdrawals
- Customer Service
- Bonus Terms
- Deposit Options
- Game Variety
The longer a site has been in business, the more likely they are to be reputable.
How long does it take an offshore site to process cashouts?
This is important with any type of business, including online gaming.
Lower bonus wagering requirements allow you to earn your bonuses faster.
Make sure the site has a deposit and withdrawal method you can use.
The more games a site offers, the more entertained you'll be long term.
Breaking down what is or isn't legal in South Dakota. Gambling Venues in South Dakota
Where to gamble in the state of South Dakota. The History of Gaming Laws in South Dakota
A brief history of South Dakota laws regarding gambling. South Dakota Gambling FAQs
A list of questions asked about gambling in South Dakota Additional Information
Still have questions? Check out these links. The Future of Gambling in South Dakota
What does the future of gambling look like in South Dakota?
More Gambling Laws in South Dakota
Deadwood is the only place in the state where commercial casinos are allowed. This is similar to New Jersey, where all casino gambling is confined to Atlantic City.
One thing that separates Deadwood apart from any other gaming destination is its casino architecture. The casinos are required to maintain 1990s architecture to keep the nostalgic look of the town.
Another unique aspect is that Deadwood allows minors on casino floors. In fact, parents can have children alongside them while gambling.
Deadwood currently features 10 casinos. Most of the casinos operate from 8am to 12 midnight, while a few stay open 24 / 7.
The city offers most standard casino games, including blackjack, Caribbean stud, Let It Ride, Texas holdem, three card poker, slot machines, and video poker. A 2014 voter referendum added craps, keno, and roulette to this list too.
South Dakota also features 9 tribal casinos.
These establishments are spread throughout reservations on the state. Some of the available casinos include: Dakota Sioux Casino (Watertown), Grand Buffalo Casino (Lower Brule), Grand River Casino (Mobridge), and Lode Star Casino (Fort Thompson).
Dakota Sioux is the largest of these casinos, featuring over 300 slot machines, a poker room, and several table games.
Charitable Gambling: Legal
Approved and licensed charities are allowed to offer bingo and specific lottery games. Casino nights and poker are not permitted under South Dakota's charity gaming laws.
Established in 1987, the South Dakota Lottery offers a variety of in state, multi state, and scratch off games.
They also feature over 9,000 video lottery terminals (VLTs), which offer electronic bingo, blackjack, keno, and poker. The VLTs' maximum bets are $2, and prizes can be worth up to $1,000.
South Dakota features several live poker rooms throughout its commercial and tribal casinos. Silverado Franklin is the largest poker room at five tables.
The Mount Rushmore State has a limited live racing program that takes place in the spring. The Stanley County Fairgrounds and Brown County Fairgrounds feature live horseracing for several weeks.
The Triple Crown Casino (Sioux City) and Time Out Lounge (Rapid City) both offer simulcast betting on horse and greyhound racing.
Social Gambling: Legal
South Dakota doesn't make any exception for social gaming in their criminal code, therefore it's illegal.
Efforts have been made to carve out exceptions for social Texas hold'em and other card games. But these haven't resulted in any changes.
Nevertheless, we can't find one instance where somebody has been arrested for social gaming in South Dakota.
As long as you keep the stakes reasonable and the host isn't running an illegal gambling business, your poker game should be fine.
Gambling Venues in South Dakota
360 Main Street
Deadwood, SD 57732
Deadwood Gulch Gaming Resort
304 CLiff Street
Deadwood, SD 57732
Gold Dust Casino and Hotel
688 Main Street
Deadwood, SD 57732
Silverado Franklin Casino
709 Main Street
Deadwood, SD 57732
Royal River Casino and Hotel
607 South Veterans Street
Flandreau, SD 57028
The state's largest concentration of casinos is found in Deadwood. Located near the Montana and Wyoming borders, Deadwood quickly experienced success because it draws both in state and out of state bettors.
But due to the gambling saturation that's overtaken America, Deadwood had to increase betting limits to remain competitive with other states.
South Dakota's largest casino is Royal River, which has almost 400 gaming machines and 10 table games. The second biggest is Silverado Franklin Hotel & Casino, which offers 360 slot machines.
History of Gambling in South Dakota
South Dakota's recorded gambling history began in 1874, when Colonel George Armstrong Custer's expedition discovered gold in the Black Hills.
This started the Black Hills Gold Rush, which made Deadwood a big prospecting town. Numerous brothels, gambling establishments, and saloons opened in Deadwood.
This is also where the infamous outlaw "Wild Bill" Hickok was shot by Jack McCall during an 1876 poker game. Hickok held a poker hand of Ac As 8s 8c (fifth card unknown) when he was shot, which is now known as a "Dead Man's Hand."
By the 1950s, South Dakota passed laws to hamper the spread of gambling. But they would quickly offer a legal gambling option in 1960, when lotteries were approved.
By 1989, commercial casinos were approved in Deadwood with a $5 maximum bet. This made the legendary Wild West town one of the few places outside Las Vegas with commercial gambling.
South Dakota has since raised max betting limits to help Deadwood remain a profitable casino destination in the face of out of state competition.
They've also resisted against online gambling for fears that it will detract from Deadwood's land based gambling revenue.
Gold found in Deadwood. Black Hills Gold Rush begins and town immediately draws miners, brothels, and gamblers.
State enacts laws to hamper illegal gambling.
South Dakota Lottery created.
Voter referendum approves both video gaming and commercial casinos in Deadwood.
South Dakota Supreme Court rules that video gaming is unconstitutional. Voters approve constitutional amendment to legalize video lottery gambling.
Maximum bet in Deadwood casinos increased from $5 to $100.
Increased out of state competition encourages South Dakota to increase max casino bet to $1,000.
"Wild Bill" Hickok shot dead during a poker game in Deadwood.
Voters approve lotteries.
Voters narrowly defeat video lottery gaming bill.
Video lottery is kept with a 63% vote after a repeal attempt.
Voters again reject attempts to outlaw video lottery with a 67% vote.
Gov. Daugaard's spokesperson says they're interested in exploring online gaming.
Voter referendum approves craps, keno, and roulette within commercial casinos; attorney generals from South Dakota and other states write angry letter to US DoJ about Wire Act opinion.
South Dakota FAQs
The South Dakota Constitution bans internet gambling operators and even slaps them with an individual charge for every accepted bet. But the state is still filled with online gaming options.
Not surprisingly, this has left many gamblers with questions. And here are some FAQs that we've received on the Mount Rushmore State.
While Governor Daugaard offered encouraging comments in 2011, South Dakota has made no serious effort to legalize internet gaming.
They have a large commercial gambling market, which is one of the biggest conditions needed for running iGaming. But they're also lacking in the following aspects:
- Population = 858.6k residents.
- No support from commercial casinos.
- No legislative efforts.
- No serious support from politicians.
- None of their neighbors have legalized the activity.
With so many factors against it, we don't see internet gambling being legalized in South Dakota for years.
In December 2015, Attorney General Marty Jackley released a statement that . He also stated that he'd consider pursuing legal action against operators:
"Based upon the current state of uncertainty, including the ongoing debate on whether daily fantasy sports wagering is predominately a permissive game of skill or an unlawful game of chance, it will not be my intent to seek felony indictments here in South Dakota absent a clearer directive from our state legislature. I will continue to consider other alternatives including potential civil remedies and National Attorneys General joint action aimed at protecting the intent of our Constitutional and statutory provisions."
Despite Jackley's opinion, the state hasn't moved to take legal action against DFS sites. In the meantime, DraftKings and FanDuel continue operating in the Mount Rushmore State.
Based on section 22-25-1, which mentions "equipment" and "apparatus," gambling on your smartphone is illegal.
But as covered in the Online Gambling section, South Dakota hasn't arrested anybody for gambling online. This applies to mobile players too.
Technically, you're not supposed to play online casino and poker games on your smartphone. But given that South Dakota hasn't arrested players or operators, you would probably be fine.
We base this answer on the 2011 case, where the US Department of Justice cracked down on the world's largest poker sites.
The US DoJ indicted owners of these sites and forced them out of America. But they didn't touch any players' deposit money.
Absolute Poker, Full Tilt Poker, and UltimateBet became insolvent because they could no longer accept American customers.
Absolute and UltimateBet players still have yet to receive their deposit money. Full Tilt players were reimbursed because the government worked out a special deal with PokerStars - the only indicted site that stayed solvent.
PokerStars had so much money that they paid $731 million to buy Full Tilt, repay affected players, and avoid admitting wrongdoing in the Black Friday case.
We don't ever see South Dakota carrying out a largescale operation like this. But if they did, they wouldn't take any money from an offshore operator beyond fines.
Below you can see the agencies that govern South Dakota gaming along with more information on laws.
The Commission on Gambling website discusses gaming applications, horseracing rules, annual revenue reports, and more.
This page offers a comprehensive look at South Dakota's gambling laws for both charitable and commercial gaming.
The South Dakota Lottery oversees both the state's ticket games and video lottery terminals.
The Future & Your Views
South Dakota doesn't take a favorable view towards online gambling, and they aren't anywhere close to changing this stance.
The primary objective for South Dakota is to protect Deadwood's commercial gambling industry. They don't, however, seem to care much about iGaming.
One problem is that South Dakota isn't a good candidate for successful iGaming due to their small population (46th in US). They're also located in a region that isn't obsessed with casino or internet gambling.
Perhaps the biggest problem of all is that there aren't any serious legislative efforts to regulate the activity.
The current laws in place make online gambling operators illegal. And while these laws haven't been strictly enforced, they show the state's attitude towards iGaming.
It may be 5 to 10 years before North Dakota seriously considers online gambling. In the meantime, players continue playing at offshore casino, poker, and sports betting sites.