Thanks to the oil-fracking industry, North Dakota in the 2010s is experiencing a Gold Rush-like wave of population growth for the first time in its history. Unemployment is virtually non-existent in most areas of the state, both old folks and newcomers find themselves with lots more disposable income, and bursting of this natural-resource bubble seems far away. The history of gambling in the United States shows that these are the conditions for a booming casino industry in the short-term, so should we expect this in North Dakota?
The answer isn’t quite as clear as one might think…
Population: 672,591 (off. 2016 est.)
Area: 70,762 sq. mi.
Gambling Age (Casinos): 21
Gambling Age (Lottery): n/a
Number of Casinos: 12
• North Dakota was #1 among states in population growth in the 2010-15 period, with a whopping 12.5% increase, due to the burgeoning fracking industry and related job-market growth.
• The lonely state? North Dakota is said to draw the fewest tourists/visitors of any state.
• An estimated 90,000 bison are alive and well in North Dakota.
• North Dakota is the nation’s no. 1 producer of sunflowers.
The history of gambling in North Dakota is easy to sum up – at least for the first 100 years or so of its statehood. From its incorporation into the Union in 1889 right through to 1988, the letter of the law in North Dakota simply outlawed all types of gambling.
Though regulations for pari-mutuel betting were introduced into law in the 1930s, North Dakota has never had an outstanding thoroughbred racing industry; this continues to this day. For example, the state’s two race tracks – the Chippewa Downs and the ND Horse Park – offered a combined 14 live race dates in 2017.
In 1976, charity gaming and bingo were allowed, but the real change to gambling in North Dakota came in 1988 with the passage of the Indian Gaming and Regulatory Act (IGRA), which allows casinos and bingo halls to be established on Native American reservation land. By 1992, five tribes had signed compacts with the state government. In 2013, further expansion of the compacts led to the allowing of all types of bingo and casino gaming in Native American-run casinos, including poker – though the cap on this game is $25 per hand.
At this time, state law also provided for the licensure of casinos on non-reservation land in North Dakota, beginning with (as is usual) installation of hundreds of games at the state’s two race tracks. Wagering on simulcast horse-racing events at these sites was alos legalized, followed thereafter by OTB sites.
As of this writing, North Dakota hosts 12 casinos, five of which are Native American-run: Spirit Lake Casino & Resort in St. Michael; Prairie Knights Casino and Resort in Fort Yates; the 4 Bears Casino and Lodge in New Town; the Grand Treasure Casino; and the Sky Dancer Hotel and Casino.
In standard fashion, the age for pari-mutuel betting on horse racing is 18, while in casinos, one must be 21 to enter. The strange little loophole is on OTB and simulcast horse race betting, for which 21 is the legal age.
Historically speaking, the state of North Dakota has been so bereft of gambleing, gamblers and general population since European settlement that perhaps the most famous North Dakota gambler is a guy 99.99% of folks have never heard of: Mitch Schock. In 2011, Mitch became the first North Dakotan to ever win a bracelet at the World Series of Poker when he took an Omaha tournament for over $310,000.
Through 2016, Schock remains the sole player from North Dakota to have achieved the feat.
Everything up to “Class III”, i.e. casino, gambling may be offered by a state-licensed entity – though again, note that maximum pot at poker tables of $25. Oddly enough, though even online daily fantasy sports betting is allowed in North Dakota, the state still has no lottery.
Now this is the big question. Normally in a boom time in America, local politicos and/or hustlers get to work in promoting the possibilities of gambling – in their own divergent ways, of course. The current wave of near-total employment and influx into North Dakota would imply, given the history of gambling in most states, that casino-style gambling would see an uptick in the 2010s.
And yet, after the expansion of the law itself in 2013, a massive increase in casino venues has not been seen. In fact, folks within the gambling industry in North Dakota are keeping a close watch on the Prairie Knights Casino near Bismarck. This casino not only helped fiscally support protesters of the Dakota Access Pipeline through the winter of 2016-17; in addition to this financial hit, the U.S. government had cut off North Dakota Highway 1806, the main thoroughfare to protest sites – and the Prairie Knights.
We’d suspect that the gambling industry in North Dakota will be healthier in the 2010s for North Dakota; we’ll just see how much more gambling infrastructure is built up there in frackin’ land…