Proposed sports betting measure resurfaces; North Dakota voters would decide
Voters would get the measure in the November 2024 general election
BISMARCK — North Dakota voters could legalize sports betting next year under a proposed measure.
The House Judiciary Committee on Monday, Jan. 10, heard House Concurrent Resolution 3002, brought by Rep. Greg Stemen, R-Fargo. A similar measure passed the House in 2021, but failed narrowly (twice) in the Senate.
The measure would amend the state constitution — which requires a public vote — and would "authorize sports betting to be conducted in the state and licensed and regulated by the state." Voters would get the measure in the November 2024 general election if the Legislature approves.
Stemen said sports betting is already taking place in North Dakota, technically illegally and without a regulatory framework; according to American Gaming Association data he cited, as many as 138,000 North Dakotans are betting over $300 million annually, including $30 million in revenues to offshore betting books. Such offshore entities are in Panama, Latvia and Antigua, he said.
"If it's already happening, let's regulate it, let's provide oversight, let's put consumer protections in place and allow legitimate American gaming entities to partner with the state, and so that the people who are doing it have some protections built in," Stemen told the Tribune.
Sports betting generally encompasses online wagers placed on professional and college sports, even on outcomes as simple as a coin flip, Stemen said.
North Dakota's state government could initially garner over $3.5 million annually in tax revenues from sports betting, he added. A 10% tax rate "is a common number," he said.
Stemen said the 2025 Legislature would enact enabling legislation if voters receive and approve the measure next year.
"Let's do this one step at a time," he said.
North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott opposed the measure. He cited campus presidents' concerns of sports betting undermining the integrity of games, bringing "massive negative implications to our students," and putting the safety and welfare of students and their families at risk.
The chancellor also asked that the measure exclude college and university athletics from sports betting, should it advance.
Thirty-five states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico authorize some form of sports betting, according to Sports Betting Alliance National Public Policy Counsel Pat Gibbs.
The U.S. Supreme Court in 2018 struck down a 1992 federal law that stopped states from authorizing sports betting. The 2019 Legislature killed bills to authorize sports betting in North Dakota.
Tribal-state agreements allow online sports betting within physical boundaries of American Indian reservations sharing geography with North Dakota.
The House panel did not immediately act on the proposal.