Legal Online Poker Sites in South Dakota

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South Dakota Online Poker LawsRelevant State Code: 22-25-1 et seq.; 42-7-47 et seq.

South Dakota is known for the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and - at least to gamblers - some of the most aggressive anti-gambling laws in the nation.  The state takes a very strict approach to unregulated gambling of all types, an approach that starts with a very broad definition of gambling:  

Section 22-25-1
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.

Note that the definition is potentially a bit circular - the term "gambling" is used in part to define "gambling" - but regardless, the thrust of South Dakota law is clear: Wagering anything of value on outcomes is illegal unless the activity is specifically regulated by the state.

The definition above lays out the core penalty for both players and operators involved in land-based illegal gambling (we'll cover penalties related to Internet gambling a bit later in the article) - a class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 days and fine of $500.  Operators could also potentially run afoul of state laws that require anyone involved in a gambling business to be licensed and regulated, along with (significant) penalties related to proper tax filing for gambling-related business. 

While the anti-gambling laws are stiff, enforcement of said laws doesn't appear to be a priority for law enforcement in South Dakota (or South Dakota residents are quite the upstanding lot) - the state reported zero charges related to gambling in 2011.

What Types of Gambling Does South Dakota Law Allow Legally?

You'll find a state lottery, commercial casinos and tribal casinos in South Dakota.  Pari-mutuel wagering is allowed on live horse racing.  Casinos in Deadwood have a maximum bet limit of $100

There are no forms of social gambling allowed under South Dakota law.  Engaging in unregulated gambling is illegal regardless of place, stakes or the relationship between participants.

South Dakota does permit qualifying charitable organizations to conduct bingo games and certain types of lotteries.  Sections 22-25-23 through 51 detail the conditions under which such games can be conducted.

South Dakota Law Regarding Real Money Poker

South Dakota law specifically forbids gambling "with cards," strongly suggesting that poker sits squarely on the list of activities prohibited by the state.  That means those in South Dakota who want to play poker are basically limited to the regulated options provided by commercial and tribal casinos. 

Since there is no social gambling exception and players do have criminal liability in South Dakota, home poker games are technically against the law - even if no one takes a rake or is otherwise profiting from the game.

While there are some forms of charitable gambling allowed in South Dakota, the current menu of options does not appear to include poker.

As for online poker: South Dakota does have laws regarding online gambling that we'll talk about in the next section, but the laws aren't concerned with players.  However, the general law prohibiting wagering on card games could still be applicable to those playing poker online in the state.  While that's certainly a potential risk, we were unable to locate any instances of individual online poker players charged with violating South Dakota law.

South Dakota Law Regarding Online Gambling & Online Poker

South Dakota law effectively criminalizes the operation of an online gambling business; under Section 22-25A, it's illegal to run such a business in the state (even if it doesn't take bets from residents) or to accept bets from those in South Dakota.  

What's more is that each and every bet counts as a separate charge, and each individual charge is a felony.  The law would seem to apply equally to poker and casino games as the law prohibits taking bets that are contingent on "the happening of an event not known to be certain." 

No part of the law as we read it addresses the act of gambling online as a player - the statute is specifically written in a way that seems to limit its scope exclusively to operators. 

South Dakota Gambling: Fun Facts
Before 2000, the maximum bet that could be placed in a South Dakota casino was $5.  The law was amended that year to increase the maximum amount to $100.  In 2012, South Dakota gambling hub Deadwood bumped that limit to $1000.

Actor Kevin Costner owns a casino in South Dakota - The Midnight Star.

South Dakota: Recent Online Gambling News

We were not able to locate any recent developments regarding regulation of online gambling in South Dakota.

Is South Dakota Planning Online Poker Regulation?

The answer appears to be something along the lines of "not anytime soon."  In the wake of the DOJ's change of position on the Wire Act back in December of 2011, a spokesperson for South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard said: "Are we going to do anything? Are we thinking about online gaming? He's willing to learn more about that and have that discussion, but he doesn't have any immediate plans to take on that issue."

Any plan for online gambling regulation would likely face fierce opposition from the state's established gambling industry.  With no apparent advocate for online gambling regulation in government and no (or negative) momentum from industry, it appears that South Dakota's chances of regulation online poker are far worse than average among US states.