Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, said the bill had been completely changed and had an accompanying resolution that would allow voters to decide whether to legalize sports betting in North Dakota.
House Concurrent Resolution 3032, introduced by Rep. Michael Howe, R-West Fargo, would set a measure in November 2022 on whether or not North Dakota should legalize sports betting.
“The only way to legalize sports betting in North Dakota is through a constitutional amendment,” he said. “It is the only way for North Dakota to join 25 other states and the District of Columbia to get legally regulated sports betting.”
Howe said a 2018 US Supreme Court ruling lifted the federal ban on sports games and allowed states to legalize it.
“Tens of thousands of North Dakotans engage in sport, albeit illegally,” he said. “It is estimated that North Dakota would generate $ 7.2 million in tax revenue from sports betting per biennium.”
HCR 3032 originally received a committee recommendation not to pass 6-7, with one member not voting. After further discussions and the return of the absent member, however, it was voted again and a 9-5-Th-Pass recommendation was made.
Rep. Rick Becker, R-Bismarck, said that because of the close voting in the committee, it would be best if the people of North Dakota could decide.
“This will lead to a referendum,” he said. “There are clearly different opinions within the legislature and this committee,” he said. “I think we should give them a voice.”
Rebecca London testified in favor of legalizing sports betting on behalf of DraftKings, an online sports betting company.
“That would make the people of North Dakota decide,” she said. “We believe it is a necessary step.”
London said there is no protection in North Dakota for the thousands who already bet illegally every year and DraftKings would be able to provide consumer protection.
“This would wipe out the illegal market quickly and effectively,” she said.
Collette Brown, the executive director of the Gaming Commission at Spirit Lake, testified against the resolution because she believed it was not in North Dakota’s best interests.
“DraftKings don’t care about North Dakota, they are trying to maximize their profits,” she said. “We shouldn’t be sending gaming revenue to the New York Stock Exchange.”
Brown added that another bill, HB 1448, would be more beneficial as it would allow the governor to negotiate and execute a tribal state treaty that allows online sports betting through a nationally recognized Native American tribe.
When asked if the resolution was beneficial to the tribes, Brown said she did not believe it.
“The current state of the tribes’ point of view, the whole situation (Dakota Access Pipeline), I think we are all in a group against it,” she said. “Personally, I don’t think it would be best for tribes to get on the ballot to approve sports betting.”
Kasper’s newly amended HB 1234 would be an “implementation draft” intended as a framework should voters approve the measure.
“One of the things I think is important is that it not only enables mobile betting for sports betting, but also kiosks,” said Kasper. “I see the kiosk opportunity as a job opportunity for our small towns.”
Kasper said this could help companies affected by the coronavirus as it could give customers another reason to get into business.
Kasper’s amended bill provides for the creation of a sports betting commission to work in the attorney general’s office.
“You would have a commission that would oversee it and the attorney general,” he said.
The attorney general’s office provided a tax bill, but it stated that no tax implications were found at the time.
The committee amended the bill to remove the ability to use a credit card while in action, add a study on sports betting in North Dakota, and remove the ability to wager on college sports – an issue raised by opponents of the bill.
The committee failed to raise votes to get a do-pass recommendation, but the bill was evaluated without a recommendation.
Rep Karla Rose Hanson, D-Fargo, said the changes could help the bill clear the house.
“If things go on, they will be in the best shape they could be,” she said.