North Dakota tribes want exclusive rights to online gambling

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BISMARCK, ND (AP) — North Dakota’s Five Native American Tribes are seeking exclusive rights to host internet gambling and sports betting in the state, a monopoly worth millions, just a year after lawmakers ruled rejected a push from a major national player to allow it in the state.

The tribes are looking to Republican Gov. Doug Burgum 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 approve them, said Deb McDaniel, North Dakota’s top gambling regulator.

The tribes say their casinos have been hit by the explosion of electronic drawbar machines across the state after they were legalized in 2017, with North Dakotans pouring nearly $1.75 billion into machines over the course of the year. fiscal year 2022. Their proposal, obtained by The Associated Press, is still pending. form project. A public hearing on a final proposal is scheduled for Oct. 21, McDaniel said.

DraftKings, a major player in the US mobile gambling market, backed legislation and a failed resolution last year to allow sports betting in North Dakota to join about two dozen other states. The company said at the time that sports betting was already taking place in North Dakota, with around 138,000 people betting more than $355 million in illegal offshore markets each year.

The company did not immediately return messages seeking comment on the tribes’ proposal. FanDuel, another major player in the mobile game market, said it had no comment.

Americans have bet more than $125 billion on sports with legal outlets in the four years since the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that lifted the federal ban on gambling sports, paving the way for all 50 states to offer it.

In the fifth year of legal sports betting, the action is ramping up thanks to microbetting, the ability to place a bet on an outcome as narrowly targeted as the outcome of the next baseball pitch or the next football game.

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 spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor would not comment as negotiations are ongoing.

The proposal comes as Burgum has worked to improve state-tribal relations that have been particularly strained since he took office in 2016 amid prolonged protests and hundreds of arrests during construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that passes under the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The tribe draws its water from the Missouri and fears pollution.

In 2017, Burgum signed legislation endorsing electronic drawbar machines, despite opposition from tribes who warned that Las Vegas-style games would drive players away from tribal-owned casinos in the state.

Allowing tribes to host internet gambling and take off-booking bets would help improve relationships and offset the losses tribes have suffered from electronic tabs, said Cynthia Monteau, attorney and executive director of the United Tribes Gaming Association, which is made up of leaders from each of the state’s five tribes.

“I think it’s time to start looking for ways to work together and help each other, repair relationships and move forward in a positive way,” she said.

The tribes believe that India’s Federal Gaming Regulation Act gives them the power to conduct statewide online betting, using servers on tribal lands.

A similar deal between Florida and the Seminole tribe is stalled in federal court after a judge ruled in November that the state’s multi-billion dollar deal with the tribe allowing online betting violated a federal rule. which requires a person to be physically on tribal lands when betting. . The lawsuit, brought by non-Indian casino owners in Florida, challenged approval of the deal by the US Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations.

North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley, a Republican, said he offered legal advice to Burgum on the tribes proposal, but would not disclose what it was. Wrigley said he was aware of the lawsuit in Florida.

West Fargo Republican Rep. Michael Howe, who is now running for Secretary of State, has long been a supporter of expanding online sports betting operations in the state.

Howe said he doesn’t necessarily oppose the tribes’ proposal. But he said if he fails, he expects legislation to resurface allowing it with or without the involvement of tribes due to its growing popularity.

“I think the average North Dakota who loves sports betting doesn’t care where the tax revenue goes,” he said.

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