During the 2017 Legislative Session, House Bill 1216 passed which added new language to the North Dakota Century Code. This allows pull tabs to be delivered in an electronic format. Though “any game of chance, lottery, or gift enterprises” is prohibited by Article XI, Section 25 of the North Dakota State Constitution, pull tabs fall under the list of exemptions.
With passage of HB 1216, there follows a process in developing the rules that will govern the number of machines allowed at a single business location. The Gaming Division of the Attorney General’s office is responsible for drafting the rules. As it stands now, they are recommending a limit of five machines per location— with an option to file for an exemption of up to fifteen. And some folks want the limit at ten, instead of five.
The administrative rules governing games of chance in North Dakota are extensive— to put it mildly. In total, the current draft from the Attorney General’s office is a tad over 261 pages long. You should take a look. They’re quite cumbersome.
With the limitations imposed by the Constitution, North Dakota currently allows charitable gaming, the North Dakota Lottery, and tribal gaming. And I’m left to wonder why the state bothers prohibiting any gambling at all?
Aside from running the lottery and placing limitations on pull tabs, you may recall that last Legislative Session an attempt was made to propose a change to the Constitution that would have allowed six state-owned casinos. At the time, many interpreted the resolution as being retaliatory in nature in the aftermath of the protests to the Dakota Access Pipeline. It was difficult to argue against such an accusation when considering the timing of the proposal and the fact that only reservations have casinos in North Dakota. The resolution was later amended to make them privately owned, but it was handily defeated.
According to the Attorney General’s website, “There are over three hundred licensed organizations operating a total of 926 gaming sites across the state.” And during the 2015-2017 biennium, these same organizations “grossed over $547 million, raising over $42 million for charitable uses and generating $6.5 million in gaming taxes for the state’s general fund.”
You may be surprised to know that I don’t gamble. Yet, I see no reason that the state should have its hand in the business of it. If gambling is to exist at all in North Dakota, it should be at the hands of private entities, not the state. Whether it be five, ten, or fifteen pull tab machines; those decisions should be left to the businesses footing the bill for them, not bureaucrats in Bismarck. After all, why should government dictate how businesses and private organizations run and how people spend their money?
The Legislature’s Administrative Rules Committee will ultimately have final say over the proposed rules.