Port: Should North Dakota’s tribes get a monopoly on sports betting?


MINOT, N.D. — The relationship between our state government and North Dakota’s five Indigenous tribes has been strained in recent years. Tax issues and mineral rights disputes and the ugly, violent protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline have all added up to a tense situation.

Now the tribes are proposing, to Gov. Doug Burgum, something they say will help ease the tension. They want a monopoly on sports gaming in the state.

Gambling, outside of the state lottery, and charitable gaming, is illegal in North Dakota, but state leaders have been loosening things up. A big shift came with the approval of electronic pull tabs (basically slot machines) during the 2017 legislative session. Non-tribal gaming revenues in our state jumped 52% after that, and the tribes say it came at the expense of their gaming operations. The Spirit Lake Sioux tribe reported a 42% decline in their revenues that was contemporaneous with the proliferation of the new pull tab machines.

Now there’s a push to legalize sports betting in North Dakota — a proposal to do so came up just one vote short during last year’s legislative session — and the tribes are trying to get ahead of it.

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