The rapid proliferation of electronic pull tabs has ignited a debate in North Dakota, sparking discussions about the future of charitable gambling within the state and the need for effective regulation of these Las Vegas-style gaming machines.
Senator Myrdal Pushes for Clarity in North Dakota’s Gambling Laws
Functioning similarly to traditional slot machines, the electronic pull-tab machines made their debut in 2018 after receiving approval from the Republican-controlled Legislature.
Addressing the concerns on e-tabs appropriate locations and operators, Republican State Senator Janne Myrdal, who chairs an interim legislative panel responsible for a comprehensive yearlong study of charitable gambling issues, emphasized the importance of aligning with the original intent of the state’s laws. She explained that certain things had gone off course and that they were beyond the scope of what the state laws were meant to cover.
Myrdal expressed her hope that the study’s outcomes would provide practical solutions by the next legislative session scheduled for 2025, reported the Associated Press. She particularly highlighted the significance of determining appropriate locations for these electronic gambling machines.
In July, North Dakota’s Attorney General, Drew Wrigley, reached a settlement with three gambling equipment distributors, namely Western Distributing Company, Plains Gaming Distributing Inc., and Midwest Gaming Distributing Inc. These distributors were accused of breaching the state’s charitable gambling regulations, resulting in a $125,000 fine.
Legislators Raise Concerns Over E-Tab Expansion in North Dakota
During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers voiced worries about the presence of these machines in certain establishments, especially gas stations, which could potentially allow minors access to e-tabs. The widespread distribution of these machines, with over 4,700 units across the state, has also raised concerns regarding tribal nations’ interests, the regulation of these devices, and the potential for money laundering.
In the last fiscal year ending on June 30, e-tabs generated nearly $2 billion in gross proceeds from cash and replayed winnings, contributing $205 million to various charitable causes, including just over $72 million earmarked for specific charitable purposes.
While state law traditionally did not dictate the locations for charitable gambling, e-tabs began appearing in select gas stations and convenience stores due to a liberal interpretation of the term “alcoholic beverage establishment.”
To address this issue, the bill initiating the study provided a revised definition, excluding gas stations, convenience stores, grocery stores, and liquor stores. However, this new definition fails to account for other establishments, such as hair salons and indoor golf centers, which can serve and dispense alcohol.