BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum has submitted final drafts of new tribal-state gaming compacts for review, after months of negotiations with the five tribal nations with whom North Dakota shares geography.
The current tribal gaming compacts are set to expire early next year, requiring the governor and tribes to negotiate new gaming compacts. A public hearing on proposed addendums to the compacts was held Oct. 21 as required by state law, and a public comment period closed Monday.
Final drafts of the five compacts have been submitted to Legislative Management, a group of 17 legislators that includes the majority and minority leaders of both the House and Senate, as well as legal staff. Legislative Management has 21 days to review the compacts, after which the governor and each tribe may sign the compacts.
The U.S. Department of the Interior then has 45 days to approve or reject the signed compacts. If Interior takes no action within those 45 days, 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. 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 authorized by state and federal law.
“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 authorized 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 changes to the compacts include:
- Lowering the legal age for gambling on reservations from 21 to 19 years old. An exception remains in place for those with military ID, who may gamble at age 18.
- Allowing tribes to accept credit and debit cards for any purpose, including account wagering and cashless gaming.
- Clarifying that the state will conduct one annual casino inspection at the tribe’s expense. Any additional inspections will be at the state’s expense. Casinos remain subject to regular federal inspections and audits, along with submitting quarterly reports to the state.
- Limiting the cost of state regulatory activity reimbursed by the tribes to no more than $10,000 per year for each tribe, subject to an annual inflation rate.
- Providing 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 annually.