North Dakota House greenlights sports betting legislation, bill now moves forward to Senate

The North Dakota House approved on Thursday legislation allowing sports betting in the state. The proposal moves now to the Senate. 

A change to the state constitution is required to legalize the activity. Should the measure be approved in the Senate, the proposal will be placed on the November 2024 ballot, with residents set to decide whether or not to modify the constitution. Then, in 2025, lawmakers could decide how exactly to authorize, license and regulate sports betting in the state, reports Associated Press.

Republican Representative Greg Stemen of Fargo argued legalizing sports betting would bring in millions of dollars in revenue to the state, and provide oversight and regulation, as reported by The Bismarck Tribune. Meanwhile, opponents argued the measure would worsen gambling addictions and lead to ruined lives.

North Dakota Legislature

A House panel heard arguments last week over the measure. Jacob Thomsen, a policy analyst with North Dakota Family Alliance Legislative Action, testified against the resolution, as did Mark Hagerott, chancellor of the North Dakota University System, as the bill did not specify whether people will be able to place bets on college sports.

Pat Gibbs, national public policy counsel for the Sports Betting Alliance, said concerns could be ironed out later by future lawmakers and that the resolution “simply starts the conversation.” Stemen used a similar argument, noting to the Judiciary Committee that the passage of the resolution would not legalize sports betting, instead allowing voters to determine whether they wanted to do so.

Stemen further said the American Gaming Association estimates as many as 138,000 North Dakotans are betting over $300 million annually, including $30 million in revenues to offshore betting books. Currently, North Dakota only allows sports betting at tribal casinos within the jurisdiction.

Governor Doug Burgum

Republican Governor Doug Burgum signed agreements last year with North Dakota’s American Indian tribes that lower the legal gambling age from 21 to 19 at tribal-owned casinos, among other measures. The tribal-state agreements also allow online sports betting on mobile devices within reservation boundaries, but not outside of them.

The state’s five tribes had asked for exclusive rights to host internet gambling and sports betting outside the reservations, but Burgum rejected it because sports betting is not legal statewide.

In an official statement, the Governor 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.”