North Dakota Proposal: State Owned Casinos

The majority leader of the North Dakota House, Al Carlson (l.), wants the state to get into the casino business. Six Indian reservations currently offer gaming; however, he would like to break up that monopoly.

Rep. Al Carlson, the North Dakota House majority leader, is the spear point of a proposal that would give the voters the option of authorizing as many as six state-owned casinos.

He is pushing a constitutional amendment to establish casinos as “destination-oriented attractions” whose profits would be used to lower or eliminate sales tax and corporate income tax.

He told the Bismarck Tribune: “It is not intended to make money for the state.”

Where Carlson controls the pedals, the House, his bill is expected to face smooth sailing. Its future in the Senate is less sure. For one thing, Carlson introduced the bill after the normal deadlines had passed. This requires more committee hearings than normal for a bill.

If both chambers assent, the constitutional amendment could be scheduled for the June 2018 primary.

The state’s five Las Vegas style casinos are confined to Indian reservations. The legislature defeated an idea for statewide casinos in 2003 but have approved of a state lottery. Carlson says this shows people want to gamble.

He said he expects pushback from the gaming tribes.

Senator Richard Marcellais, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, says he opposes the measure because, he says, casinos cause crime and drugs. “I don’t like them. They do more harm than good.”

The proposed amendment would not allow state funds to be used to fund the facilities, except through issuing revenue bonds. They would be regulated by a state-appointed commission.