Tribal igaming off the table as ND Governor submits compact draft

North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum has rejected a proposed online gaming addendum by five tribal nations after he submitted the final drafts of a tribal-state gaming legislation. 

With the current tribal gaming compacts set to expire early 2023, and after months of negotiations between state officials and five tribal nations, the final drafts have now been submitted to legislative management, 17 legislators that includes the majority and minority leaders of both the house and the senate, as well as legal staff. 

“These negotiated compacts address a number of longstanding issues between the state and tribes by cutting through red tape and streamlining regulation of tribal gaming for the benefit of both parties,” Burgum said. 

From the date of submission, legislative management now has 21 days to review the compacts, after which the governor and each tribe may sign once given the green light. 

The US Department of the Interior then has 45 days to approve or reject the signed compacts. If the interior takes no action within those 45 days, the compacts automatically go into effect.

Changes made within the compact are said to include the elimination of unnecessary duplication of regulation, cleaning up a number of ‘other regulatory and definition issues’ and allowing class III casino-style gaming and online sports betting, including mobile gaming, within the physical boundaries of the reservations. 

An addendum proposed by the tribes to offer those types of gaming outside the reservations was not included in the final draft. Language was included in the compacts to allow the tribes to offer such gaming off the reservations if authorised by state and federal law.

On the above point, Burgum noted: “While we understand and appreciate the desire by some of the tribes to extend online gaming beyond their reservation boundaries, a clear legal path does not exist for the governor to grant such a broad expansion of gaming in the compact. 

“We plan to work with the legislature to bring all parties to the table and take a comprehensive look at gaming during the upcoming 2023 session, including sports betting, e-tabs and other gaming.”

Since electronic pull tabs were authorised during the 2017 legislative session, the number of e-tab machines in North Dakota has increased to approximately 4,500 devices at 800 sites – surpassing the roughly 3,300 class III slot machines located at tribal casinos in North Dakota.

If approved by all the aforementioned involved, additional changes to the compacts will see the legal age for gambling on the reservation lowered from 21 to 19 years-of-age. However, an exception will remain in place for those with military ID, who will be eligible to gamble at the age of 18. 

Furthermore, tribes will be allowed to accept credit and debit cards for any purpose. This is set to include account wagering and cashless gaming. 

The tribes will also agree to allow the state to conduct one annual casino inspection at the former’s expense, with any additional inspections paid for by the state. Moreover, casinos will remain subject to regular federal inspections and audits, as well as submitting quarterly reports to the state of North Dakota. 

Delving into responsible gambling measures on the reservation, the compact states that each tribe will provide flexibility in administering gambling addiction treatment, education and prevention services that are supported through contributions of $25,000 per year, for a total of $125,000 annually.