Sports betting in North Dakota will have to wait until next year.
The Senate voted down a resolution from the House that would have put legalizing wagering on sports on the November 2024 ballot. The vote was 30-16 to kill HCR 3002.
The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Greg Stemen, narrowly passed in the House by a 49-44 vote in January.
Currently, only casinos on tribal lands can legally accept wagers on sports. The five tribes attempted to get exclusive rights to mobile gambling and sports betting outside the reservation. Tribal leaders argued that their casinos, which typically are among their biggest employers and help fund social programs on the reservations, have been hurt by the explosion of Las Vegas-style pull tab machines that were legalized in 2017 to benefit charities.
They said having control of gambling and sports betting would lessen the blow caused by the pull tab machines. Almost $1.75 billion was spent on the machines in fiscal year 2022.
The request was made in December when tribal leaders and Governor Doug Burgum sat down to work out new compact agreements that were set to expire at the end of the year. A 10-year compact was agreed upon but Burgum said that “a clear legal path does not exist for the governor to grant such a broad expansion of gaming.”
The only other way to bet on sports is through illegal offshore sportsbooks, something Stemen said is happening with great frequency.
“It’s estimated, currently, that there are almost 140,000 people betting in the state illegally,” Stemen said.
Stemen added that his measure would have regulated and brought oversight and consumer protections to sports betting.
“This concurrent resolution will not make sports betting legal in the state of North Dakota. What it will do is allow the voters of North Dakota to make their wishes known at the ballot box,” Stemen said when he introduced the resolution in January.
But some senators are strongly opposed to sports betting in the Roughrider State. Republican Sen. David Rust told reporters that he has long been opposed to gambling in North Dakota.
“I just think that gambling in North Dakota has mushroomed to the point where I have in no way, shape or form a desire to expand it,” Rust said.
Sen. Janne Myrdal, R-Edinburg, said sports betting essentially uses “our athletes as human commodities” for for-profit gambling.
Some of the opposition is so against sports betting that they struck down a bill in February that proposed a sports betting task force to develop an implementation plan for online sports betting and regulation.
Stemen said the issue isn’t going away. He cited data from the American Gaming Association that nearly 138,000 residents are betting more than $300 million annually, including $30 million in revenues to offshore betting sites.
Stemen did not say whether he would reintroduce legislation in next year’s session.