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Sports betting simplified
With miles of farmland, a harsh winter climate, and a small population with no major pro or college sports, North Dakota is not seen as an ideal state for online sports gambling. There are other states with bigger populations with pro and major college sports. Still, there is an interest in developing online sports gambling in North Dakota as an attraction for visitors and additional tax revenue.
The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was overturned on May 14, 2018. On that day, courts voted to allow each state to propose and create its laws and regulations for sports betting. Despite the restriction on sports betting being lifted, North Dakota has yet to legalize the state's activity.
Though sports betting is not legal, that doesn’t mean that other forms of gambling aren’t prevalent in the Peace Garden State. Horse racing, lotteries, charitable gaming venues, and several tribal casinos are available for North Dakota residents. Bettors can play table games and poker and use slot machines at any of the tribal casinos in the state. Wagering or playing in real-money tournaments on daily fantasy websites is also allowed.
Charitable gaming is so popular in North Dakota that around 800 small charitable casinos operate around the state at bars, restaurants, and other locations, offering activities like poker, pull tabs, raffles, bingo, and sports pools, to name a few.
While North Dakota does not operate its lottery, the North Dakota Lottery does allow residents to participate in many other multi-state lotteries.
Regarding sports betting, residents on the state's western side can at least make the short trip across state lines to Montana, which has already legalized sports betting.
During the committee hearing, proponents said sports betting legalization would help maximize state tax revenue and help limit illegal activity at offshore sportsbooks.
The resolution’s sponsor, Rep. Greg Stemen, estimates sports betting revenue for the state can reach up to $3.6 million in its first year. Stemen also estimates 140,000 residents are betting illegally.
The North Dakota legislature has tried to legalize sports betting in the past. Legislators first failed to legalize in 2019 and pass a ballot measure for the 2022 election in 2021.
Tribal-state compacts allow for sports betting on tribal land. There are sportsbooks at three casinos in North Dakota: Dakota Magic Casino in Hankinson, 4 Bears Casino and Lodge in New Town, and Sky Dancer Casino & Resort in Belcourt.
In October 2022, the five tribes asked for exclusive rights for sports betting outside tribal land, but Gov. Doug Burgum did not agree to the deal. Burgum did allow the legal gambling age at tribal casinos to drop from 21 to 19.
Of all the states that have yet to legalize sports betting in the US, North Dakota may be one of the states furthest away from doing so.
Two bills, HB 1295 and HB 1254, were introduced in 2019 to designate sports betting as a game of chance and allow sports wagering at any charitable gaming establishment. The state’s Attorney General would’ve overseen sports betting. Those bills were both defeated. One didn’t pass the House, and the other made it to the Senate, but it was not discussed.
No new bills were introduced in 2020, meaning there’s little conversation about legalizing sports betting in North Dakota. As one of the smallest states in the US and home to no major professional sports teams, there isn’t a rush to regulate sports betting in North Dakota.
Although should sports betting be legalized in North Dakota, the state would likely have the infrastructure to get it up and running quickly. There are five tribal casinos in North Dakota and two horse racing tracks. Given bars and restaurants already have a relationship with charitable gaming. It may not be too far of a stretch for them also to offer sports wagering. However, the state does not have any commercially-operated casinos.
Online lottery subscriptions are legal, as is betting on horse races, but otherwise, playing online slots and poker are still both illegal. Even the failed bills from 2019 did not mention the introduction of online sports betting, meaning legal mobile sports wagering maybe even farther away.