Legal South Dakota Casinos & Online Poker Laws

An Overview Of The Gambling Laws In South Dakota

South Dakota has a rich history of gambling going back to the gold-rush days. Much of this was centered on the small town of Deadwood, which was later reborn as a gambling themed tourist destination. More recently, tribal casinos have provided opportunities to enjoy casino gaming for the rest of the State. This article gives you a detailed overview of the South Dakota gambling laws.

First of all below we head back through the history of gambling in South Dakota, covering the events that bought us to the current situation in quick-fire format. Next a look at the different types of gambling games, along with a current legal situation of each can be found – before things get more detailed with excerpts from the statutes and a legal timeline. At the end of this page you’ll find a summary and a look towards the future.


South Dakota Gambling Laws – A Brief History

While the days of pioneers and the gold-rush were historically rich, the gambling in South Dakota was shaped by the initial State constitution. This followed the puritanical ‘ban everything’ remit that was the norm at the time. The later history of South Dakota has involved carving out areas of gambling in the name of economic development and revenue streams.

The town of Deadwood is synonymous with gambling, this was an entertainment center during the gold-rush and was home to many colorful characters – and probably very dangerous too.  Though the original opium dens, brothels and smoke-filled saloons are long gone, Deadwood is once again home to a large number of casinos. In 1989, following legal permissions, regulated casinos opened with a $5 maximum bet. This brought prosperity back to a town which had been in decline, and at one point there were more than 80 casinos operating there. These are mostly smaller scale venues, offering slots, blackjack and poker games. The bets were raised to $100, and then to $1000 in 2012. After years of decline, the current major issues in Deadwood are more to do with the lack of parking than with crumbling infrastructure.

Tribal gambling got its start in 1993, when compacts were signed with several of the famous tribes which have land in South Dakota. There are now 9 large tribal casinos, which offer huge numbers of slot machines and table games.

You can enjoy live poker games at both the State or Tribal casinos, though there is no carve-out for home poker games under South Dakota law. This State has specific laws banning gambling over the internet. There have been no recent announcements on whether South Dakota will follow Nevada, Delaware and New Jersey and introduce regulated online poker games.

Other types of gambling available here include sports betting on horse racing. There are only live races at summer fairs in this State, with the last greyhound and horse racing tracks long gone. You can bet off-site on races from other States though. Charity gambling (bingo and raffles) and a popular lottery make up the remainder.


What Types Of Gambling Are Currently Legal?

Casino Gaming: Yes, there are State casinos located in the historical city of Deadwood, and also tribal casinos which are broadly distributed around the State. These venues offer slots, blackjack and poker games only.

Online Casinos: No, The legislation specifically outlaws gambling over the internet.

Live Poker: Yes, you can play poker games and tournaments at both Tribal and State casinos. Poker home-games are not legal in SD, though there is no sign of major enforcement when it comes to small stakes local games.

Online Poker: No, with a small population and so many tribal interests looking to carve up any revenue it is difficult to see how regulated online gambling would work for this State.

Sports Betting: Yes, you can remotely bet on Simulcast dog and horse races from 4 venues in South Dakota. There are some races at Summer Fair events, though the racetracks themselves have closed down in this State.

Lottery Betting: Yes, there is a lottery including scratch-off cards, VLTs (virtual lottery terminals) and inter-State games.

Bingo Games: Yes, bingo is regulated under charity gambling laws.


South Dakota Gambling Laws – Statutes And Legal Timeline

Like many States the definition of gambling is wide in South Dakota. At the same time the penalties for taking part in unregulated gambling are more severe than in other jurisdictions, starting with a class 2 misdemeanor – and going up from there. Hosting gambling is also covered by the law, as is the operation of a gambling machine.

Here is the key definition of gambling:

“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.” (From: 22-25-1 Gambling defined)

The ‘cards’ reference is believed to give the laws plenty enough scope to cover poker, and this is expanded on in the mention of internet gambling (specifically the definition of a bet or wager).

“… 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….” (From Chapter 22-25A-1)

Here are the key recent legal events which have affected gamblers:

1987: Charitable gambling bill passed, allowing bingo and raffle type games for non-profit organizations. In 2010, the scope was increased to allow industrial development organizations to run licensed bingo games.

1987: First lottery draw takes place, after legislation authorizing this was passed one year earlier. Video Lottery Terminals were added two years later.

1989: Casino gambling begins in the historic town of Deadwood, initially with a $5 maximum bet.

1990: Off track wagering on horse and greyhound races first offered via simulcast

1993: First tribal compacts signed, allowing casinos to be built on native lands.

2000: Betting limits increased at Deadwood casinos to $100 max.

2012: Betting limits increased yet again at Deadwood – this time to $1000 max.


South Dakota Gambling Laws – Summary And Look To The Future

Considering the small population of South Dakota, there are plenty of choices available when it comes to gambling. Deadwood remains the main draw for outsiders as a tourist destination in its own right. For many residents, this town is a long drive, and the closer tribal casinos offer a great alternative for casino games, slots and poker. Penalties for those gambling illegally in this State are stricter than in many other States – though as is often the case there is little evidence of strict enforcement when it comes to ‘penny ante’ social gaming.

The ban on internet gambling pre-dates the current wave of State regulation. While there is no reason to believe that this should in itself be an impediment to future online poker legalization – the small size of the population here does create the need to join a larger inter-state pool to make this viable. It will be interesting to see whether South Dakota shows any interest once several more States have shown this model to work.


Useful Resources

Information On The Tribal Compacts

Deadwood history

Statutes In Detail

Summary Of The Statutes

Internet Gambling Statutes