Gambling during football season: What you need to know

Oct. 7, 2021

Football season is back in full swing, and it feels great. You've probably already hung out with friends, brought your famous dip, maybe helped fire up the grill. And perhaps there was a friendly wager on the game. Was it legal?

Minnesota Sports Squares sheet

If the wager took place at someone's home, the answer is yes. A spontaneous wager at home, among friends – also known as a “private social bet" – is legal. But it can't be part of organized, commercialized or systemic gambling, and the owner of the house can't derive any profit from the wager.

So what about wagering at a bar? As long as they're run by licensed charitable organizations, sports-themed football tipboards are also legal. The proceeds from legal tipboards contribute to programs that benefit such populations as youth, seniors, veterans and wildlife. Watch out for illegal gambling at an establishment that uses tipboards without a Minnesota symbol.

Also, bars and other establishments can do drawings or giveaways, but not if you have to pay or contribute anything of value to participate.

It's also legal to participate in a fantasy football league. This is where you combine players from different teams to for​m your own squad. However, betting on the performance of individual players or teams is against the law.

Here's what is against the law: sports betting in any business establishment in Minnesota. This includes bars and restaurants where you would watch the game. Any bar owner in Minnesota who runs or allows illegal gambling operations on their premises can face regulatory sanctions and fines. They can even have their license suspended or lose it altogether.

If you're wondering exactly what constitutes a bet, remember that it has to satisfy three conditions:

  1. You, the bettor, are risking something of value (usually money).
  2. The outcome is based on chance.
  3. If the outcome is in your favor, you win a prize (again, usually money).

So have fun with those private social bets, but keep them out of business establishments. And business owners, while you're at it, don't forget to check IDs carefully for underage drinkers and monitor those who are intoxicated so you don't overserve.

Football season is going to be great this year – and knowing what is and isn't legal in terms of sports betting will make it more fun. So grab the chips, turn on the game, and cheer on your favorite team.​​