Governor Burgum Rejects North Dakota Tribes’ Request for Exclusive Rights to Offer Online Gambling and Sports Betting Services

The Governor of North Dakota, Doug Burgum, has rejected a request that the state’s Native American tribes made, as they had been seeking exclusive rights to offer sports betting and online gambling services, both of which potentially constitute a multimillion-dollar industry.

On November 2nd, Governor Burgum shared that he does not believe there is a clear legal path for him to independently expand the gambling laws of the state in order to allow the five Native American tribes to host online gambling services there. For the time being, both sports betting and online gambling are illegal in North Dakota.

The local Indian tribes offer gambling services under their compacts with the state signed in 1992 but these agreements are set to expire at the end of 2022. This is why earlier this year they asked Governor Burgum to provide them with exclusive rights to offer online gambling that would help them offset the negative effect of their tribal casinos’ losses following the legalization and increase in popularity of the so-called electronic pull-tab machines. So far, casino gambling has been a crucial source of both employment and income for the North Dakota Native American tribes.

According to Governor Burgum’s news release, a total of 4,500 electronic pull-tabs have emerged at 800 locations around the state only five years after the local Legislature gave the green light to the slot-like machines. The revenue that the controversial machines generate provides funding to various charities, which in October pushed back on the tribes’ request to be granted exclusive rights to operate online gambling. Reportedly, local gamblers spent almost $1.75 billion on electronic pull-tab machines in fiscal 2022.

Five Indian Tribes Seek Permission to Exclusively Offer Online Gambling and Sports Betting in North Dakota

Although he rejected the main request of the five North Dakota’s Native American tribes, Governor Burgum supported their request to lower the legal gambling age at casinos on their reservation lands from 21 to 19. Furthermore, he also approved of the proposal to allow debit and credit cards to be used for making gambling transactions.

The provision of sports betting and online gambling services would be allowed within the borders of each of the five tribes’ reservation lands under the gambling compacts of the nations with the state. Each tribe would have to make annual contributions worth $25,000 to problem gambling treatment programs. Apart from that, the tribes’ agreements with the state also include clauses allowing the Native American nations to offer online gambling services across the territory of North Dakota in case federal and state laws ever make it legal.

Governor Bargum submitted the five compact agreements to the Legislative Management for review, despite the fact that the deals cannot be altered by the panel of leading state lawmakers. After the Committee provides its review, the compact agreements could be once again signed between tribal representatives and the Governor. Then, they will be sent to the US Department of the Interior which needs to provide final approval in order for the compacts to take effect.