MINOT, N.D. — Thanks to the legalization, and subsequent proliferation, of electronic pull tab machines, charitable gaming has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise in North Dakota. As I reported earlier this year, that firehose of new revenue has created a cut-throat environment for charitable gaming interests and the hospitality businesses that host them.
Charities have begun to form for-profit entities to buy up bars and protect their charitable gaming spots. The hospitality industry, meanwhile, is chagrined by the competition they now face for things such as liquor licenses and business locations.
Meanwhile, gaming interests have brought full-court political pressure on state policymakers and regulators, pushing them to further loosen gaming laws. The North Dakota Gaming Alliance, which represents charitable gaming interests, literally employs state Rep. Mike Motschenbacher, who has divided his time at the Capitol during this year’s legislative session between attending to his duties to his constituents, and those of his day job as executive director.
It’s become very clear that the gambling industry in North Dakota has grown far faster than state officials intended, and well beyond the scope of our ability to prudently regulate it.
It is in this fraught environment that Attorney General Drew Wrigley has filed a complaint, asking for the revocation of the licenses for three gaming distributors with overlapping ownership interests, as well as fines and legal fees.