North Dakota has successfully negotiated and signed new gaming compacts with five tribes in the state. The existing compacts were set to expire early next year. That required the governor and tribes to negotiate new ones.
The new compacts allow the tribes some new gambling options. However, those still fall far short of what they’d asked for.
The tribes sought exclusive rights to offer internet gambling and sports betting statewide.
The usual anti-gambling voices offered predictably stiff opposition. Additional pushback came from officials representing various charitable gaming organizations in the state. They argued that tribal casinos already have enough of an advantage and that charities would suffer from the availability of online gambling.
On Dec. 2, the state announced that Gov. Doug Burgum and the chairpersons of the five tribal nations signed a new 10-year compact. It does include mobile sports betting and online casino gaming. However, these will only be permitted “within the physical boundaries of the reservations.”
North Dakota Tribal Gaming
The Tribes of North Dakota consist of five sovereign nations and one Indian community partially located in the state. The five federally recognized tribes are:
- Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate
- Spirit Lake Tribe
- Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
- Three Affiliated Tribes (Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Tribes, collectively known as MHA Nation)
- Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians
Their casinos represent the only non-charitable retail gaming in the state. These are a mixture of Class III (full casino) facilities and Class II casinos, which can offer only bingo and “electronic bingo” machines.
Gov. Burgum said in a press release:
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 changes also include some general clean-up. The new compacts have eliminated duplicate regulations and clarified certain definitions.
Aside from online gambling, the most substantial change is to the minimum age requirement for gambling at tribal casinos. This was lowered from 21 – the standard for commercial gaming – to 19, which is the minimum age for many tribal casinos in other states. Finally, the new compacts allow gamblers to place bets using credit and debit cards.
Compacts Still Need DOI Approval
Gambling opposition in North Dakota is fierce enough that mobile gaming throughout the state by the tribes might have set off a political firestorm. More importantly, though, it might have jeopardized the validity of the compacts.
Having received the governor’s signature, the new compacts now go to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) for final approval. The DOI has 45 days to approve or reject the signed compacts. If DOI takes no action within those 45 days, the compacts automatically go into effect.
Had the compacts included statewide online gambling without a corresponding change in state law, the DOI would have been likely to reject them. Florida is currently fighting a battle over precisely that issue.
However, the contentious issue in the Florida case is whether to consider a bet to originate from the bettor’s location or to take place where the servers receive it. By insisting that both bettor and servers be within the tribal territory, North Dakota avoids opening that can of worms. Unfortunately, the tribes’ prospects of profiting from online gambling are much smaller as a result.