Burgum denies tribes' request for exclusive online gambling rights

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Burgum denies tribes' request for exclusive online gambling rights
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BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum has rejected a request by the state's Native American tribes for exclusive rights to host sports betting and online gambling, potentially a multimillion-dollar industry.

Burgum said on Wednesday, Nov. 2, he doesn't believe there's a "clear legal path" for him to unilaterally expand North Dakota's gambling laws to allow the five tribes to host internet betting across the state. Internet gambling and sports betting are currently illegal in the state.

The state’s tribes, operating under state gambling compacts signed in 1992 that will expire at the end of the year, petitioned Burgum to give them exclusive rights to the online betting market to make up for revenue lost at tribal casinos due to the legalization and popularity of electronic pull tab machines. The tribes rely on casinos as a crucial source of income and employment.

Five years after the Republican-led legislature authorizedthe slot-like machines, about 4,500 e-tabs have popped up at 800 sites around the state, according to Burgum's news release. The revenue generated by machines benefits charities, which pushed back on the tribes' requestfor exclusive online gambling rights at a hearing last month.

Gamblers wagered nearly $1.75 billion on e-tabs in fiscal year 2022, according to state figures.

Cynthia Monteau, the director of the United Tribes Gaming Association, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Though he denied the tribes' main plea, Burgum backed their request to lower the legal gambling age from 21 to 19 at casinos on the five reservations. The governor also endorsed allowing debit and credit cards to be used for wagering.

Online gambling and sports betting would be allowed within the confines of each reservation under the compacts. Each tribe would be on the hook for $25,000 a year in contributions to gambling addiction treatment programs.

The agreements also include language that would allow the tribes to offer online gambling across the state if state and federal laws ever allow it.

Burgum submitted the five compacts to Legislative Management for review, though the panel of leading lawmakers cannot alter the agreements, said Legislative Council Director John Bjornson. After the committee's review, the compacts could be signed by the governor and tribal representatives.

The agreements would then be sent to the U.S. Department of the Interior for final approval.

The five tribes with reservations and casinos in North Dakota are the Spirit Lake Tribe, the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.

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