Proposal on Oct. 21

North Dakota's tribes seeking exclusive rights to host online gaming and sports betting

North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum.
Reading time 1:59 min

North Dakota’s five American Indian tribes are pushing for exclusive rights to host internet gambling and sports betting in the state. The parties argue that the expansion of electronic pull-tab machines at a statewide level has affected their casinos after being legalized in 2017, and now seek to revert it through expanded wagering. 

Seeking this million-dollar monopoly, the tribes are turning to Republican Governor Dough Burgum to enforce it under expanded compacts. The current ones expire at the end of this year, and only Burgum can approve them.

The tribes’ proposal is still in draft form, and its final version will be presented at a public hearing on October 21, according to Deb McDaniel, North Dakota’s top gambling regulator, as reported by the Associated Press

DraftKings supported legislation and a failed resolution last year to allow sports betting in North Dakota. Back then, the company said that sports wagering already happens in the state, regardless of its legitimacy, with an estimated 138,000 people betting more than $353 million in offshore markets per year. 

The new proposal comes as Burgum works to improve state-tribal relations that have been strained since he took office in 2016 in the midst of prolonged protests and hundreds of arrests during the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline that passes beneath the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. 

Additionally, it comes amid tension in regard to the state's gambling industry. In spite of the tribe’s warnings, the governor signed legislation in 2017 allowing electronic pull-tab machines. It was feared that the Las Vegas-style games would lure gamblers away from the state’s tribal-owned casinos. 

North Dakota legislature

Cynthia Monteau, a lawyer and executive director of the United Tribes Gaming Association, composed of leaders of five different tribes, stated that allowing the tribes to host internet gambling would help improve relations and offset the tribes’ losses due to e-tabs.

I think it’s time to start looking at ways on how we can work together and help each other and mend these relationships and move forward in a positive way,” she said, as reported by AP News.  

Tribes believe the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act gives them authority to conduct online betting statewide, using servers on tribal lands. It is yet unclear what the financial benefits would be to the tribes and the state under the proposal, or how it would be regulated and taxed.

A similar compact between Florida and the Seminole Tribe is tied up in federal court after a judge found back in November that the multibillion-dollar agreement between the state and the tribe allowing online betting violated a federal rule that requires a person to be physically on tribal land when wagering. 

The lawsuit, filed by non-Indian casino owners in the state, challenged the approval of the agreement by the US Department of the Interior, which oversees tribal gambling operations. North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley said he has offered Burgum legal advice on the tribes’ proposal and that he’s aware of the lawsuit in Florida.

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