BISMARCK, ND (AP) – The North Dakota House wants residents to decide whether sports betting and internet poker are allowed in the state, reflecting a relaxation of anti-gambling attitudes in the highly conservative state.
Representatives on Tuesday approved two bipartisan resolutions and ancillary laws that set the rules for gambling operations. The proposals are now going to the Senate, where their prospects are unclear.
If approved by both houses, the measures could appear on the November 2022 ballot.
Fargo Republican MP Jim Kasper has aggressively but unsuccessfully promoted internet poker through legislation since 2005. If the proposal had worked back then, North Dakota would have been the first state to license and regulate it, but the measure was killed in the Senate. Six states now allow internet poker.
“16 years!” Kasper said in an interview.
Separately on Tuesday, the Republican-controlled house defeated a Democratic bill that would have authorized the five Native American tribes of North Dakota to negotiate an agreement with the governor to allow internet gambling and sports betting. Tribal gambling in North Dakota is governed by the tribal agreements known as Compacts, the first of which were signed in 1992.
The move would only have allowed tribal gambling and the use of servers within the reservations – a provision that was not supported by the majority of the House’s members.
The house also killed laws Tuesday that would have allowed betting on previously recorded horse races. A similar bill was killed in the North Dakota Senate two years ago.
Supporters say state-sanctioned internet poker and sports betting would generate revenue for charity and the state, including its compulsive gambling treatment program. Opponents fear that expanded gambling in the state could create more gambling addiction problems.
No sales estimates were submitted by the sponsors of the measure.
North Dakota is one of roughly two dozen states trying to benefit from the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted a federal ban on sports games.
The North Dakota sports betting bill allows gaming only in professional sports.
North Dakota voters and lawmakers who once opposed the expansion of gambling have changed their minds over the years. Voters firmly voted in favor of a statewide lottery in 2002 after rejecting three lottery operations in the past 12 years. Along with nonprofit gambling – pull tab tickets, bingo cards, blackjack, and other games – it has become a multi-million dollar industry every year.