Port: If nonprofits can buy bars to promote gambling, are full-on casinos far behind?


MINOT, N.D. — “It’s not something we’re looking forward to.”

That’s what Mikayla Jablonski Jahner, the executive director of Bismarck Hockey Boosters, told me about her nonprofit group purchasing a bar. She spoke to me in the context of my article about the charitable gaming boom in North Dakota driven by the enormous popularity of electronic pull-tab machines.

Gross proceeds from charitable gaming have grown more than 560% in 2018, the last year before the e-tab machines were legalized, turning charitable gaming into a $1.7 billion industry. This has touched off a turf war among gaming interests now competing for lucrative places to put blackjack tables and pig wheels, and, most importantly, the highly lucrative e-tab machines.

This brings us back to the Bismarck Hockey Boosters and their decision to buy a bar. They told me they’re doing it to protect their gaming locations. “We need to protect our revenue,” Rick Geloff, a board member for the group and its treasurer, told me.

The e-tabs explosion — remember that 560% growth figure I just cited took place during the pandemic years which shut down many hospitality businesses — has created some enormous incentives for charities and businesses to place machines in as many places as they can.

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