MHA Nation Chairman strongly opposes state-run casino proposal in committee hearing

By  | 

BISMARCK, N.D. - ​North Dakota has five casinos in the state, each one is on the state's reservations.

The state's constitution prevents casino gaming off native land, but one proposal would drastically change that.

Not only would a proposed constitutional amendment allow for casino gaming in the state, it would allow the state to have a major say in their operations.

Outside of oil and gas on the Fort Berthold Reservation, casino gaming is a huge contributor to native nations pockets.

"It's our catalyst. It's our vehicle for change. It's the pulling up of the boot straps that we always hear people say, why don't those Indians pull themselves up by the boot straps? So we do. We conduct our gaming and we're darn good at it," said Mark Fox, MHA Nation chairman.

Tribal leaders think this would drastically hurt their wallets, but lawmakers say this vote coming regardless.

"We have to realize that initiated measures come along and if we are going to control situations, I believe it's what's best to control by us instead of reacting to what we get," said Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo.

"I think it would be great. I'm a poker player, I would love to sit and watch TV and see the Heartland Poker Tour operating in a beautiful facility in North Dakota. I think it's free advertising," said Larry Treleaven, supporting the measure.

But opponents say an expansion of casinos could hurt charitable gaming as well as force the need for more services.

"You'll be looking at more law enforcement. Which I know, people have brought up this question. How will that be paid for? Slot machines are the crack cocaine of gambling," said Jonathan Jorgensen, Charitable Gaming Association of North Dakota.

The bill is expected to change slightly as it moves through the legislative process, including expanding how far outside of major cities the casinos would be required to be built.

If the measure passes both the House and Senate, North Dakotans will get a chance to vote on it, but when is still up for discussion. Governor Doug Burgum, R-N.D., does not have an opportunity to veto resolutions like this, but has said he opposes it. ​