North Dakota Should Just Legalize Gambling

Today a legislative committee is hearing testimony on HCR3033, a proposed constitutional amendment allowing for the creation of a limited number of casinos operated by the State of North Dakota.

The resolution was introduced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, though the idea originated with Senator Lonnie Laffen (R-Grand Forks), and it’s timing has widely been viewed as retribution against the state’s Indian tribes.

The tribes operate a half dozen casinos in our state already. Competition from state-owned casinos would likely be devastating.

I won’t speak to what may or may not have been in Rep. Carslon’s heart when he put this bill in the hopper, but he’s no dummy. He had to be aware of the context. Of how it might have been perceived. That he filed the bill anyway sure makes it seem like his critics are right.

All that being said, I don’t think it is incumbent upon North Dakota to protect the near monopoly tribes have on gaming in our state (we also have charitable gaming though it’s a much smaller and far more limited sort of enterprise). Nor do I think we ought to create a situation where we have governments – tribal and non-tribal – operating rival gaming monopolies.

Think of how much more attractive a destination North Dakota would be for everyone from outdoors enthusiasts to history buffs if gaming were on the table for a visit to our state as well our many other amenities.

If we want to expand gaming in North Dakota, we should just do a full-scale legalization.

The tribes, after all, would have an opportunity expand their existing operations off of the reservations. They’d have to compete with non-tribal gaming, but that’s as it should be in a free society. And they’d have a head start on the state’s business.

The state, meanwhile, could sit back and reap the rewards in the form of increased commerce and tax revenues from tourism. Think of how much more attractive a destination North Dakota would be for everyone from outdoors enthusiasts to history buffs if gaming were on the table for a visit to our state as well our many other amenities.

The puritans and moralists on both the right and the left will be dead-set against it. They’ll warn of things like crime and gambling addiction, but c’mon. Gambling is mainstream now. Between online gaming, tribal casinos, and discount flights to Vegas people who want to gamble are doing it already.

Most citizens handle it appropriately.

Carlson’s bill is almost certainly going to fail in the House, as it should, but I hope it starts a discussion about moving our state toward a blanket legalization of gaming.

It would serve our state well.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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