A resolution that would have allowed casinos to be constructed in North Dakota outside of reservation lands was defeated yesterday in a major fashion. Lawmakers voted against House Concurrent Resolution 3033 by a vote of 28-63, a bill introduced by Al Carlson, the House Majority Leader.
If the resolution had been able to gain ground and be passed into law, it would have allowed for as many as six casinos (state-owned) to be created off reservation lands. The casinos would have been located away from larger cities in the state.
In a last ditch effort to see the bill move forward, changes were made by Carlson to allow no more than six private casinos, all of which had to be located away from the reservations, at least 40 miles in distance. Additional restrictions on location were not included in the change. The measure would have seen the industry regulated by a state commission.
Even if the resolution had been passed by House lawmakers, voters would have had to approve an amendment to the state constitution in the general election of 2018 for the bill to move forward in becoming law.
Tribes and charitable gaming groups have been in opposition of the resolution since it was proposed, with individuals representing both sectors testifying against the original form of the resolution earlier this month. Both the charities and tribal groups feel that allowing such gaming options would cut into their revenues.
Currently, casinos are only allowed on tribal lands in the state via federal law. Charitable gaming and the multi-state lottery offerings are available due to the state constitution. According to the Bismarck Tribune, Mark Fox, the Chairman of Three Affiliated Tribes, stated that the vote on Thursday was the best decision for all parties involved. In the past, Fox had stated to lawmakers that casino revenues used by the tribes would be greatly diminished if the state were to allow casinos off-reservation lands.
Charitable Gaming Association of North Dakota President Jonathan Jorgensen was happy with the vote, stating that people have a limited amount of income that is used for entertainment and some of that money was going to go away from the charitable gaming and be spent at privately owned casinos via the measure.
Carlson introduced the resolution just a short time ago and saw trouble from the start. The lawmakers of the House chose to extend committee deadlines many times in March before the bill was able to reach the floor this past week. A ‘do not pass’ recommendation was handed down twice by the House Judiciary Committee, most recently during the resolutions amended form on Monday.
During the debate before the vote, only four lawmakers made public comments. Representative Shannon Roers Jones was concerned that the resolution seemed to be a response to protests connected to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.
Carlson stated that it was not created in retaliation towards the tribes and that the resolution would give Legislature the ability to choose whether to allow casinos. Carlson stated that the decision by the House should not be whether or not lawmakers are in favor of gambling but whether or not voters should have a say in the matter.
The Representative stated after the vote that he did not expect the resolution to pass and that Legislature still has a great deal of work to do this session on big-ticket items.