Lawmakers in North Dakota are soon reportedly set to decide whether to authorize proposed legislation that would ask voters to approve the licensing of up to six state-owned casinos with all of the new venues’ profits going to help fill the state’s current $1 billion budget deficit.
According to a report from the West Fargo Pioneer newspaper, House Concurrent Resolution 3033, which is being sponsored by Republican legislator Al Carlson, would ballot residents via November’s primary elections on whether the state’s constitution should be amended in order to allow the non-aboriginal casinos.
The current constitution of North Dakota reportedly prevents legislators from authorizing “any game of chance, lottery or gift enterprise” but it does allow charitable gaming while also permitting the state of only 758,000 people to join multi-jurisdiction lotteries. However, superior federal laws sanction the running of casinos on tribal lands and there are currently over a dozen such venues in the Midwestern state including the Sky Dancer Casino And Resort in Rolette County from the Turtle Mountain Band Of Chippewa Indians and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Prairie Knights Casino And Resort near the small town of Fort Yates.
Under the proposed measure from 68-year-old Carlson, who serves as Majority Leader in the North Dakota House Of Representatives, the state-owned casinos would not be permitted within five miles of a city holding a population of over 5,000 while the venues would additionally be required to be located at least 20 miles from any Native American reservation. The proposition would moreover establish a seven-member gaming commission comprised of experts to be appointed by the state’s governor, auditor, attorney general and legislative leaders.
“I think the voters have shown us that they’re much more open-minded after they passed the marijuana bill,” Carlson told the West Fargo Pioneer referring to Measure 5, which was approved by 64% of voters in November and legalized the use of marijuana for the treatment of some medical conditions such as cancer and hepatitis C. “It’s a revenue booster but we’re gaming all over the state. You can argue whether or not we should open it up or not but the proper way is to open it up to governance where the state has some control over it.”
But, the measure has drawn criticism from legislators who believe that any future state-run casinos would operate in direct competition with existing aboriginal venues while even Carlson has reportedly conceded that he expects his proposal to be opposed by these groups.
“We could have put gambling into the cities years ago through cooperation with the tribes but that was a choice that was made not to do that,” Democratic legislator Marvin Nelson told the West Fargo Pioneer. “So now to come and short-stop them seems mean-spirited.”