A House Committee endorsed a resolution on Wednesday that would allow North Dakotans to vote if legal sports betting should be allowed in the state.
The bipartisan resolution was given a “do-pass” recommendation and will now head to the Full House for consideration. If it is approved by both chambers, the North Dakota sports betting bill could appear in the 2022 ballot. A bill that will set the rules for the operation of gambling in the state will be forwarded to the Full House by the legislative committee without an endorsement.
Said the sponsor of the resolution, West Fargo Republican Rep Michael Howe:
“The only way to legalize this is to put this to a vote of the people of North Dakota. I feel the majority of North Dakotans want this.”
Change of Position
North Dakota lawmakers and voters were once hostile to expanding gambling in the state. However, they’ve had a change in position since the United States Supreme Court repealed the 1992 Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. In recent years, the Peace Garden State has allowed more games of chance. However, a North Dakota sports betting bill was rejected in the Legislature two years ago.
The matter could also be put to a vote by North Dakotans themselves using an initiated measure. The state’s constitution gives it citizens the right to bypass the Legislature and place a constitutional amendment directly in on the ballot.
Supporters of legal North Dakota sports betting say that the measure would generate revenues for the state and its charitable causes, including its compulsive gambling treatment program. On the other hand, those opposed to the proposal, including GOP Bismarck Rep. Larry Klemin who is the chairman of the judiciary committee, worry that expanding gambling in the state would cause more gambling addiction problems in the state.
A spokesman for Gov. Doug Burgum said on Wednesday that the governor will not stand in the way of any attempt to legalize North Dakota sports betting but added that he won’t advocate it either.