Online gambling

Charities Fight ND Tribes Plan For Online Gaming Rights

BISMARCK, ND (AP) — Allowing North Dakota’s five Native American tribes to host internet gambling and sports betting could effectively end charitable gambling in the state, officials told Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday. representative of charities.

The tribes want the two-term Republican governor to endorse the idea in tribal-state agreements known as compacts, the first of which was signed in 1992. The current compacts expire at the end of this year and only Burgum can endorse them.

The tribes say their casinos, which are usually among their biggest employers and help fund social programs on reservations, have been hit by the explosion of charities’ Las Vegas-style pull-along machines, which have been legalized in 2017. North Dakotans poured nearly $1.75 billion into machinery in fiscal year 2022.

Representatives of North Dakota’s five tribes and charitable gaming industry officials made their case at a public hearing attended by about 100 people at the state Capitol.

If approved, North Dakota gamblers using mobile devices could place bets that would be routed through computer servers on tribal lands.

Rhonda Counts, an employee of Sky Dancer Casino on the Turtle Mountain reservation, said the casino had to shut down some of its gambling offerings and cut jobs since electronic tabs went live.

“We are suffering,” she told the governor.

She and others said allowing tribes to host internet gambling on their reservations and take off-booking bets would help offset losses from e-tabs.

Mike Motschenbacher, executive director of the North Dakota Gaming Alliance, told Burgum that allowing off-booking betting would “absolutely devastate our industry.”

He said the tribes already had the advantage over gamblers through their casinos. This statement drew a rare and somewhat angry rebuke from Burgum.

“I just have to say that I don’t think the data would support your claim that tribes have the advantage,” Burgum said.

Deb McDaniel, North Dakota’s top gambling regulator, said the amount of revenue given to charities this year from all gambling activities is estimated at $75 million. She said that was more than double what it was two years ago, thanks to the increase in electronic tab betting.

State tax revenue from charitable gambling also more than doubled to about $24 million during that time, the data shows.

It’s unclear what the financial benefits to tribes — or the state — would be under the proposal, or how it would be regulated and taxed.

Burgum said the terms of the pacts are still being negotiated and should be completed next month.