Minnesota’s experience with gambling is largely tied to the state’s history with Native American tribes. Tribes native to Minnesota have negotiated the greatest compact with any US state. To this day, they have a strong position of power within the state.
Minnesota was the very first state to negotiate compacts under the Indian Gambling Regulatory Act of 1988. Incredibly, they did not negotiate any tax contribution from the tribes’ gaming activities. Furthermore, the state cannot renegotiate the deal without approval from the tribes (which they’ll likely never give). So, Minnesota is both terrific and terrible for gambling. There are plenty of tribal casinos, to be sure, but it is unlikely there will ever be any other kind of casino in the state.
Minnesota’s position on internet gambling is strict in some areas of the law while surprisingly progressive in others. Overall, it is illegal to bet online in Minnesota. However, in 2013, Minnesota lawmakers allowed the state lottery to offer online ticket purchasing.
The idea was that Minnesotans, who were generally ambivalent toward the lottery, would find a renewed interest in the program if they could buy tickets at home. Sadly, the response was underwhelming, and the state canceled the program in 2015.
As in many states, there is hope — in the form of daily fantasy sports. The legislature is currently considering several bills that would allow services like FanDuel and DraftKings to operate in the state. In fact, a bill to allow DFS passed the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016. It eventually stalled out in the Senate. The sticking point had to do with the legal age to play, and the new bills are said to address that issue. In short, it is moderately likely that Minnesota will enter into online gambling via daily fantasy sports in the near future.
Likely online gambling operators
|Operator||Type of Gaming||Reason|
|FanDuel/DraftKings||Daily Fantasy Sports||Bill to legalize is under consideration in legislature|
|Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe||Casino Gaming||Operate two casinos in MN; casinos offer social gaming capability|
|Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians||Casino Gaming||Operate three casinos in MN; casinos offer social gaming|
|White Earth Nation||Casino Gaming||Operate three casinos in MN along with several other types of business; diversity of organization would allow easier transition into online space|
Social casino options
Minnesotans have several solid options for social casino gaming in the state. The best ones are directly tied to in-state casinos. Five casinos (Grand Casino Hinckley, Grand Casino Mille Lacs, Seven Clans Red Lake, Seven Clans Thief River Falls, and Seven Clans Warroad) all have direct links to Double Down Casino — one of the largest providers of social casino gaming. A sixth casino, Treasure Island, offers visitors a self-branded social site.
These offerings are typically a risk-free way for casinos and potential players to find each other. They allow players to experiment with the slot offerings at a property without risking any money. From the casinos’ point-of-view, this ability creates warm contacts with clientele because people come to their casinos already prepared for the machines in the building.
Otherwise, all of the typical other sites are available in Minnesota. Slotomania, Zynga Poker, and Big Fish are available through Facebook or mobile devices. MyVegas, the branded site from MGM Resorts, can be played for real comps, but unfortunately, there are no nearby opportunities for redeeming those comps. Still, Minnesotans can acquire valuable free goodies through social sites.
State casino operator history
Everything gambling-related in Minnesota seemed to happen at the same time. The 1980s brought pari-mutuel betting (1983), tribal gaming (1988), and the state lottery (1989) into legal existence. These advancements led to the relatively bright situation in Minnesota. There are 18 casinos, two racetrack/card rooms, and the multitude of games offered under the state lottery program.
The first of these options to arrive was horse racing. There had been rumbles in the state about legalizing pari-mutuel betting since the 1960s, though any attempted legislation was shut down before it gained traction. However, the first major motion toward legalization occurred in 1971. At that time, a bill to legalize horse racing reached the floor of both chambers.
Then, in 1978, a bill to allow a constitutional amendment vote narrowly avoided passage in the House. Emboldened, proponents of the bill were finally successful with a version that passed in 1982 by a small margin in both legislative bodies. Interestingly, though it was hotly contested in the government, the amendment was ratified by the citizens of Minnesota by an almost two-to-one margin. Due to this amendment, Minnesota is now home to two racetracks. There is Running Aces and Canterbury Park (though Canterbury Park briefly closed between 1991 and 1993 due to financial woes).
Both racetracks were the beneficiaries of legislative action in 1999. It was determined that any racetrack which hosted racing for a full year would be eligible to establish “unbanked” card games. This meant poker was coming to the racetracks (albeit under specific betting limitations and room size limitations). Still, this introduction of a secondary option for players at the racetracks influenced the purses. It also established the tracks as premier destinations for breeders of excellent horses.
The main source of gambling in the state of Minnesota is the 11 Native American tribes offering 18 separate casinos for play. Some of these facilities are quite small, with only a few hundred slot machines and a smattering of table games. Others are as large as any Strip casino. Two of them (Mystic Lake and Treasure Island) offer more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space to patrons.
Of the 11 tribes, the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians and the White Earth Nation lead the way in terms of properties owned. Each tribe manages three locations. White Earth Nation also owns a slew of other properties. This is a sign of the prosperity engendered by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in this particular state. Fortunately, these properties are spread throughout the state, cutting down on the chances of cannibalizing player bases.
One quirk of the compacts with the state is that the selection of table games is rather limited. Most of these casinos offer blackjack, slots, and bingo only. Below are the largest casinos in the state.
Largest land-based casinos
|Property||Location||# of Slot Machines||Table Games Offered*||Poker (if yes, # of tables)|
|Mystic Lake Casino Hotel||Prior Lake||4000||BJ, BI||n/a|
|Treasure Island Resort & Casino||Welch||2400||BJ, BI, UTH, 3C, C4, EZ Baccarat||6|
|Grand Casino Hinckley||Hinckley||2100||BJ, BI, Pull Tabs||4|
|Black Bear Casino Resort||Carlton||2000||BJ, BI||4|
|Grand Casino Mille Lacs||Onamia||1900||BJ, BI, Pull Tabs||8|
*Craps (C), Blackjack (BJ), Roulette (R), Baccarat (B), Poker (P), Mini-Baccarat (MBac), Pai Gow Poker (PGP), Pai Gow Tiles (PGT), Let It Ride (LR), Caribbean Stud Poker (CS), Crazy 4 Poker (C4), 3 Card Poker (3C), 4 Card Poker (4C), Ultimate Texas Hold’em (UTH), High Card Flush (HCF), Mississippi Stud (MS), Texas Hold’em Bonus (THB), Big Six Wheel (B6), Bingo (BI)
State legal environment
|Permitted/Offered?||Notes & Restrictions|
|Land-Based Gambling||Yes||Tribal casinos only – limited game selection at most places|
|Online Gambling||No||DFS may be legalized soon|
|Lottery||Yes||In-state and multi-state drawings|
|Charitable or House-Based Gambling||Yes||Bingo and raffles|
|Minimum Gambling Age||18|