North Dakota Sports Betting Bill Voted Down by Senate

  • North Dakota Senate voted down sports betting bill by 38 to 7
  • The bill would have legalized wagering on professional and college sports
  • This was the second attempt to pass a sports betting bill
  • Republicans dominate Senate, say sports betting will lead to addiction
North Dakota capitol
The North Dakota Senate has voted down a bill to legalize sports betting in the state.

Approved, but then killed off

The Senate in North Dakota torpedoed a sports betting bill on Monday, saying legalized sports wagering would encourage gambling problems.

The Republican-dominated Senate voted down a sports betting bill by a 38-7 vote on Monday, March 25. House Bill 1254 would have legalized betting on professional and college sports events.

Like many states, North Dakota appeared keen to legalize sports betting, following the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn the federal ban last May.

The bill was introduced in the House in January by Representative Jason Dockter. In February, the legislation was approved by the House of Representatives on a second attempt to pass it. The first round of voting was tight, with 46 votes in favor and 44 opposed. This was not enough for a constitutional majority.

North Dakota currently has no commercial casinos, so the opportunity to gamble is extremely limited.

Further debate led to a second round of voting, with 52 representatives in favor and 38 opposed. This was not enough to convince the Senate, whose members went straight to a vote without debate and killed off the legislation 38-7.

Senator Richard Marcellais, who was opposed to the legislation, said: “Sports betting is bad for social, economic and governmental policy.” Most other senators who voted against the bill cited a fear of gambling harms such as addiction.

Supporters of the bill, however, said legal sports betting would generate revenues for the state and charitable causes. The taxes could also be used to fund programs to prevent or treat gambling problems.

Contents of House Bill 1254

North Dakota currently has no commercial casinos, so the opportunity to gamble is extremely limited. The draft bill defines sports betting as a “game of chance.” If passed, it would have allowed on-premises sports betting in North Dakota. There was no provision for online or mobile wagering.

Licensing was proposed to be restricted. Tribal gambling facilities in the state would have been able to apply for a license for sports betting. Wagering would have been allowed on all sports events, whether professional or college sports.

Charitable organizations would also be allowed to offer gaming services for fundraising purposes.

Licensees would pay a variable tax rate – 1% of gross take under $1.5m (£1.15m) per quarter, or 2.5% of gross take higher than that per quarter.

No joy in South Dakota, either

Earlier this month, the House State Affairs Committee in South Dakota voted 7-3 against approving draft bill SJR 2, which would have legalized sports betting in the state. Despite being stalled, the bill is likely to be presented to the full House anyway using procedural measures.

If the House passes SJR 2, the governor needs to sign it for a referendum to permit sports betting to appear on the November 2020 ballot. The voters will then decide if they want to expand gambling in South Dakota.

Governor Kristi Noem is anti-gambling, so will need convincing to sign the bill. If the bill fails, its supporters will need to gather 33,921 signatures to ensure the question goes on the ballot.