North Dakota Sports Fans: Your Time Has Come For Legal Retail Wagering

Written By Derek Helling on November 30, 2021

If you’re a sports bettor in North Dakota, Deadwood and crossing the state line into Montana have probably been among your gambling destinations. Starting Wednesday there will be a new hot spot for North Dakota sports betting.

That’s when the retail sportsbook inside the Dakota Magic Casino in Hankinson will start accepting wagers. For the state’s residents, it means a better way to bet in a couple of ways.

North Dakota sports betting ready to kickoff

Starting Wednesday, Dec. 1, the casino’s self-branded sportsbook will spring to life. The newly renovated space inside the casino has all the aesthetics and amenities that veteran bettors expect, like:

  • Beverages and foodservice
  • Multiple viewing screens playing live sports
  • VIP seating

Of course, the area will also feature betting kiosks and windows. The casino’s operator, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Tribe, has contracted with IGT to manage its sports betting product.

As of yet, the casino has not shared any details about a launch ceremony or other fanfare on Wednesday. The casino is also mum right now in regards to whether the betting windows will run shorter hours than the rest of the casino.

That means bettors will find a variety of markets on a daily basis on popular sporting events. That not only includes in-state universities’ football and men’s basketball teams but many domestic and international professional sports leagues.

Within the borders of ND, they can only legally find those markets at the casino, however.

Online wagering remains illegal in ND

Despite two recent attempts at expanding the scope of legal betting in ND, the only way to legally bet on sports in ND remains to visit the Dakota Magic Casino. Of course, you also must be at least 21 years of age as well.

Earlier this year, ND legislators presented two separate proposals. Both would have created a legal system for legal online sports betting across the state.

Both bills failed to overcome resistance from the state’s college athletic departments and existing gambling operators, though. Tribal gaming interests like the operators of the Dakota Magic Casino feared online wagering would cut into their revenues.

The comparative lack of commercial gaming interests in ND helps keep the tribal gaming operators strong. Thus, if online gambling ever comes to ND, it might be in a form akin to that in two other states to recently launch.

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Arizona, Connecticut pose potential blueprints

Arizona and Connecticut are two other states where tribal gaming companies dominate that industry. In both, online sports betting is not only legal but currently live.

So, how did they satisfy both interests simultaneously? They took different paths but ended up at the same place; renegotiated gaming compacts that authorized online betting under the tribes’ auspices.

In AZ, the state gave the tribes new casinos and table games in exchange for the tribes forfeiting their sovereignty when it came to online sports betting. In CT, the tribes partnered directly with online sportsbooks like DraftKings and FanDuel directly.

Whether the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate would ever be open to such a situation remains to be seen. Currently, they’re probably interested to see to what extent retail wagering might increase the foot traffic in their ND casino.

It’s unclear to what extent North Dakotans are crossing state lines to place legal online wagers in MT. If that’s happening, an in-state online platform could capture that action. For the time being though, that’s off the table.

Those looking to place legal retail wagers won’t have to travel to Deadwood in South Dakota starting Wednesday. Bets on the expansion of that framework in the near future seem like long shots.

Photo by Guy William / Shutterstock
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is a lead writer for PlayUSA and the manager of BetHer. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Iowa and covers the intersections of sports with business and the law.

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