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Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum signs gambling compacts

Publish Date: 12/03/2022
Fact checked by: Mike Goodpaster

Governor of North Dakota Doug Burgum declared Friday that he had signed a pact with North Dakota’s American Indian tribes. This deal lowers the legal gambling age to 19 at tribal casinos and allows reservation gamblers to use debit or credit cards to place their wagers.

Mobile sports betting is also permitted within reservation boundaries, but not outside, under tribal-state agreements known as compacts.

Last month, state law prohibited internet gambling and sports betting outside reservations, so Burgum denied a request by the state’s five tribes to grant them exclusive rights. Following months of meetings, tribal representatives signed off on the compacts Friday, according to the second-term Republican governor.

“We are deeply grateful to the tribal chairs and their representatives for their collaboration throughout these many months of negotiations, and we look forward to continuing the mutually beneficial gaming partnership between the state and the sovereign tribal nations with whom we share geography,” Burgum said in his statement.

Lawyer and Executive Director of the United Tribes Gaming Association Cynthia Monteau did not immediately respond to a telephone call seeking comment Friday. Leaders from each of the state’s five tribes make up the association. This year’s compacts will replace those that expire at the end of the year. A new 10-year compact has been negotiated.

Initially, the tribes requested exclusive rights to host online gambling and sports betting on tribal lands, so gamblers could place bets using mobile devices and computer servers.

However, Burgum said, “a clear legal path does not exist for the governor to grant such a broad expansion of gaming.”

The five tribes of North Dakota demanded exclusive rights, claiming that the rise of Las Vegas-style pull tab machines legalized in 2017 to benefit charities has hurt their casinos, which are some of their biggest employers and help pay for social programs on the reservations. It is estimated that North Dakotans spent nearly $1.75 billion on machines in fiscal year 2022.

As part of the newly signed agreement, each of the state’s five tribes has pledged $25,000 to provide gambling addiction programs for their members.

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