North Dakota Charities Fire Back at Tribes’ Effort to Gain iGaming, Online Sports Betting

Posted on: October 24, 2022, 12:16h. 

Last updated on: October 24, 2022, 12:56h.

North Dakota charities that rely on charitable gaming to fund their programs are speaking out. They are against Gov. Doug Burgum’s (R) plans to expand the state’s Class III gaming compacts with its five federally recognized Native American tribes that operate casinos.

North Dakota charities tribes sports betting iGaming
Spirit Lake Nation Chairman Doug Yankton speaks at an iGaming and sports betting meeting at the state Capitol in Bismarck on Oct. 21, 2022. North Dakota charities are against allowing the state’s tribes to exclusively gain online casino gambling and sports betting rights. (Image: AP)

Burgum, who’s continuing to try and repair strained state relations with North Dakota’s tribes — six years after the prolonged 2016 protests over the Dakota Access Pipeline that passes beneath the Missouri River near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation –is finalizing new Class III gaming terms with the tribes.

North Dakota’s Class III gaming compacts, the contractual agreements that allow the tribes to operate Las Vegas-style slot machines, table games, and in-person sports betting on their sovereign lands, are set to expire at the end of the year.

Burgum wants to allow the Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations), Spirit Lake Nation, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians, and Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation to operate internet casinos with interactive slots and table games. The governor, who’s in his second term, additionally believes the tribes should be given online sports betting rights.

Charitable Backlash

While Class III gaming compacts in many states require tribes to share a portion of their net gaming income with the state, North Dakota only requires that its Native American entities cover the state’s costs of regulating tribal gaming.

North Dakota’s five tribal groups say the added gaming options would better assure the tribes’ economic sovereignty. Representatives from the state’s charitable gaming industry say authorizing iGaming and online sports betting — which would essentially provide legal gambling options across the state — would greatly hurt charitable gaming.

Mike Motschenbacher, the executive director of the North Dakota Gaming Alliance, which lobbies the state on behalf of charitable gaming interests, says legal tribal iGaming and online sports betting “would absolutely devastate our industry.”

Motschenbacher said in a recent op-ed that state charities raised about $73 million in the latest fiscal year from charitable gaming operations. The money supported a variety of programs, including meals for seniors, veterans programs, and youth activities.

“Taking away the ability for North Dakota charities to continue to provide these services to North Dakota citizens by creating a monopoly for the benefit of one group is not good policy for our state, especially since the tribes are not required to pay any taxes to North Dakota should this issue be approved by the governor,” Motschenbacher opined in The Jamestown Sun.

Governor Says Charities Have Upper Hand

Burgum has countered the charitable gaming industry’s opposition to expanding the Class III compacts. He argues that North Dakota charities were dealt a winning hand in 2017 when the state approved electronic pull-tab machines. The devices look and sound like slot machines.

Last week at a public hearing at the state Capitol regarding tribal gaming, the governor fired back at Motschenbacher when he contended that providing the tribes iGaming and online sports betting would put the state’s charities at a competitive disadvantage.

I just have to say that I don’t think the data would support your assertion that the tribes have the advantage,” Burgum said.

Annual charitable gaming proceeds more than doubled after e-pull tabs were approved.

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