Casino Efforts in North Dakota Backtrack

by Jim Hall

North DakotaA proposal for casino gaming in North Dakota has backtracked after being sent back to a House Committee.

In recent months, several states have been focused on casino gaming. Some are looking to get into the land-based industry while others are focusing more on online game play. Either way, we have seen proposals die as well as move forward. In most cases, we do not see legislation fall backwards but that is exactly what has happened in North Dakota.

Casino Proposal Backtracks

A proposal was introduced in North Dakota that would see as many as six casinos created in the state. However, the legislation has suffered a setback after getting a ‘do not pass’ recommendation. The bill, known as House Concurrent Resolution 3033, was introduced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson and was recommended as ‘do not pass’ within the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday with a vote of 13 to 2.

The resolution was given a second chance thanks to Assistant House Majority Leader Don Vigessa when it was re-referred to the House on Thursday. A voice vote provided approval. So now, the measure will be on the table yet again this Monday.

Changes Made

To try and see the bill move forward, Carlson proposed an amendment to the state constitution earlier this week that would allow the casinos to be privately-owned and state regulated. The new casinos would have to be located 20 miles or more away from reservations of Native Americans and be five miles away or more from cities that have 5,000 or more residents. To regulate the industry, the North Dakota Casino Gaming Commission would be created.

Five poker rooms are currently in operation in the state with only around 24 tables in operation. There are almost 4,000 slot machines in operation in the state within the 10 tribal casinos of North Dakota with the gaming being regulated by the federal government.

If the bill is approved, voters in the state could be deciding if they want to see such gaming during the 2018 June primary. However, there is much opposition by way of the tribal chairmen and charity gaming officials. Each group relies on the money they earn from gambling and they do not want to see any competition created.

Federal law states that casinos on tribal land is allowed. The tribes are now afraid that if the state Constitution were to be changed and more casinos allowed, then their gambling facilities would suffer. They are also afraid that relationships between tribes would be strained.

Mark Fox is the Chairman for the MHA Nation who stated the following on the matter:

“It’s our catalyst. It’s our vehicle for change. It’s the pulling up of the boot straps that we always hear people say, why don’t those Indians pull themselves up by the boot straps? So we do. We conduct our gaming and were darn good at it.”

One could expect that the tribes will try to fight back against the proposal, if it is able to move forward next week. The legislation still has a long way to go before it can be made law, including the public vote. The tribal groups may be somewhat worried now and are most likely trying to find ways to see the legislation stopped in its tracks.

In many states, tribal groups have been opposed to gaming changes. Consider California. For about a decade, the state has tried to see online gaming come to pass but have been able to approve legislation due to the tribal groups wanting the activity to be offered a certain way. It will be interesting to see if North Dakota tribes will face off against the measure and how they will plan on fighting the potential for new casinos to be created in the state.