Today the House did the right thing and killed House Concurrent Resolution 3033, which would have proposed – via a vote of the people – amending the State Constitution to allow the state to have up to six state-owned casinos. However, earlier in the week, the bill was amended from "state-owned" to "privately owned".
Of course, the resolution didn’t go down without it’s primary sponsor, House Majority Leader Al Carlson, lobbying on the floor for it’s passage. But it was Rep. Dan Ruby (R – District 38) who stole the show by reminding his colleagues in the House that the state often suggests people with addictions need welfare services as a solution to their problems and that the legislature often creates it’s own problems through proposals like this.
Ruby’s best line came towards the end of his comments when he said, "…if gambling and welfare was the solution to our problems, the reservations would be paradise. I don’t think anybody agrees that it is." Ouch. That’s what we call brutal honesty.
Throughout the floor debate, it was mentioned multiple times that failure on the legislature’s part to pass the resolution will just result in an initiated measure being proposed to make casinos a reality. I agree with Rep. Dan Ruby. If the State Constitution is to be amended to permit casinos, then let the people go through the initiated process to make it happen.
It is certainly not the proper role of government to be in the casino business. Should the people choose to propose an initiated measure to make casinos a reality, I would hope that it will be for full legalization to allow private businesses to handle the demand, not the state. If there is not sufficient demand for private businesses to build, fund, and maintain casinos in North Dakota, then there shouldn’t be any. And on the flip side, if there is a demand, the state shouldn’t be put in a position to snub out the private sector opportunity.
The vote wasn’t even close with a final tally of 28-63.