House wants voters to OK online gambling, sports betting

February 23, 2021 GMT

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The North Dakota House wants residents to decide if sports betting and internet poker should be allowed in the state, reflecting a relaxation of anti-gambling attitudes in the highly conservative state.

Representatives on Tuesday endorsed a pair of bipartisan resolutions and companion bills that set the rules for the gambling operations. The proposals now move to the Senate, where their prospects are unclear.

If approved by both chambers, the measures could appear on the November 2022 ballot.

Fargo Republican Rep. Jim Kasper has aggressively but unsuccessfully pushed internet poker in the Legislature since 2005. If the proposal had succeeded then, North Dakota would have become the first state to license and regulate it, but the measure was killed in the Senate. Six states allow internet poker now.


“Sixteen years!” Kasper said in an interview.

Separately Tuesday, the Republican-controlled House defeated a Democratic bill that would have authorized North Dakota’s five American Indian tribes to negotiate an agreement with the governor to allow internet gambling and sports betting. Tribal gambling in North Dakota is regulated under the tribal-state agreements known as compacts, the first of which were signed in 1992.

The measure would have only allowed gambling operated by tribes and utilizing servers located within the reservations — a provision that was not supported by the majority of House members.

The House also on Tuesday killed legislation that would have allowed betting on previously recorded horse races. A similar bill was killed two years ago in the North Dakota Senate.

Backers say state-sanctioned internet poker and sports betting would generate revenue for charitable causes and the state, including its compulsive gambling treatment program. Opponents worry that expanded gambling in the state could cause more gambling addiction problems.

No revenue estimates were provided by measure sponsors.

North Dakota is one of about two dozen states attempting to capitalize on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision that lifted a federal ban on sports gambling.

The North Dakota’s sports betting bill allows gambling on professional sports only.

North Dakota voters and lawmakers, once hostile to expanding gambling, have altered their views over the years. Voters decisively approved a statewide lottery in 2002 after rejecting three lottery measures during the previous 12 years. Along with charitable gambling — pull-tab tickets, bingo cards, blackjack and other games — it’s become a multimillion-dollar annual industry.