New Gaming Compacts Prevent North Dakota Tribes from Offering Online Casino Gaming

Five North Dakota tribes own Class III gaming licenses. But, the 10-year compacts that they signed with Governor Doug Burgum (R) prevent them from providing online casino gambling.

The governor decided to forgo the five Native American tribes’ iGaming privileges. They run several local tribal casinos and their new compacts will run between 2023 and 2033.

Class III gaming compacts permit native tribes that the federal government recognizes to run Las Vegas-style table games and slot machines. Also, they can provide sports gambling on some reservations. Even so, the Three Affiliated Tribes (Arikara, Hidatsa, and Mandan nations), Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Spirit Lake Nation, Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Nation, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians’ compacts will expire next month.

North Dakota’s gaming law requires the governor to choose tribal gaming compacts’ conditions. Burgum had stated earlier that he would consider allowing the tribes to offer iGaming when the nations claimed that the introduction of charitable electronic pull-tab machines, which resemble traditional slots, adversely affected tribal gaming. But, he stated on Wednesday he believes that his administration lacks the mandate to provide tribes with online casino privileges.

The Charities’ Victory

North Dakota has a limited commercial gambling sector, as it only concentrates on charitable gaming and the state lottery. Yet, Native tribes state that the charitable casinos, which ought to share net gaming proceeds with nonprofits and state-approved charities, are poaching Indian casinos’ clients.

Burgum promised to improve North Dakota’s relations with local tribes in his governorship. But he dismissed some claims in October from charitable gaming operators that iGaming would have an edge over nonprofits. They claimed that electronic pull tabs raked in $73 million in 2021.

The governor added that permitting the tribes to operate online casinos would negatively impact charitable gaming. He adds that he lacks the sole mandate to allow tribal iGaming in North Dakota.

Some Native tribes desire to broaden online gaming to other non-reservation boundaries. But Burgum stated that the law lacks a clear path for him to allow a broad gaming expansion. Instead, he intends to renew five Class III gaming compacts using the current contracts’ terms.

North Dakota tribes have tax-free gaming, a rare privilege found in states that have signed Class III compacts with tribal nations. The state requires tribes to meet its regulatory costs to enhance safe and fair play in tribal casinos.

Possible Amendments in the Compacts

The governor is adamant about allowing the tribes to venture into online casino gambling soon. Besides, existing compact terms with the state’s five gaming nations have provisions for future amendments in the state and federal laws.

Florida’s Legal Case Might Affect North Dakota’s Tribal Gaming

The Seminole Tribe and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis(R) made new compact terms in 2021 that allowed the tribe to offer online sports gambling and casino gaming. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Bureau of Indian Affairs filed the lawsuit, and it endorses state Class III compacts with recognized tribes to approve new contracts.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich agreed with the plaintiffs, the Bonita Springs Poker Room and the Magic City Casino, last November, that the DOI erroneously approved Seminole’s compact. He added that it contravenes the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which the plaintiffs claimed it allows the tribes to provide Indian gaming in their sovereign territories. The lawsuit is ongoing as DeSantis, and the Seminole Tribe accuse the tribes’ online sports gambling and iGaming of violating IGRA.

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