North Dakota Governor approves tribal compacts to lower age limit

New tribal-state gaming compacts have been agreed in North Dakota that will see the legal age of gambling on reservations lowered from 21 to 19-years-of-age. 

Agreed by Governor Doug Burgum and the Chairpersons of the five tribal nations, with whom North Dakota shares geography, the new terms will replace current tribal gaming compacts.

Existing agreements are set to expire early next year with the next process in the hands of the US Department of the Interior for final approval.

The lowering of the legal age limit will also see an exception that will remain in place for those with military ID, who may gamble at the age of 18. 

Burgum noted: “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.”

The next stage will now require the Department of the Interior to approve or reject the signed compacts in the next 45 days. If it takes no action within the set time limit, the compacts automatically go into effect. 

Changes to the compacts include eliminating unnecessary duplication of regulation, cleaning up a number of other regulatory and definition issues, and allowing online Class III casino-style gaming and online sports betting, including mobile gaming, within the physical boundaries of the reservations.

The final drafts were submitted by Gov. Burgum earlier this month following months of negotiations with the five North Dakota-based tribal nations. A public hearing on proposed addendums to the compacts was held Oct. 21 as required by state law.

At the time of the final submission of the draft, Gov. Burgum stated: “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. 

“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.

Other noticeable changes to the compacts will allow tribes to accept credit and debit cards for any purpose, including account wagering and cashless gaming. 

Furthermore, the compacts are said to allow flexibility in administering gambling addiction treatment, education and prevention services that are supported through contributions of $25,000 per year from each tribe, for a total of $125,000.