Gaming compact signed; tribes ‘hopeful,’ but wary of the future

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 6:51 PM CST
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - Last week, North Dakota’s American Indian tribes signed new gambling compacts with the state.

The agreements are largely aimed at expanding gaming on the reservations.

After many months worth of discussions between Governor Doug Burgum and leadership with the tribes that share land with the state, there are new rules surrounding gambling on the reservation. As a result of the new gaming compacts, the legal gambling age is now 19 at tribal-owned casinos, gamblers can now make online sports bets on reservations, and they can use credit or debit cards to place bets.

MHA-Nation Chairman Mark Fox says he has mixed feelings about the new gaming compacts.

“We’ve got some hope because the compact is renewed, but right now we’ve got a lot of difficult days ahead of us,” said Fox.

That’s because Fox says it doesn’t address the main gaming issues facing the tribes. Namely, the recent expansion of charitable electronic pull tabs across the state.

“It’s got some good, positive things in there. But it does nothing to eradicate or minimize the impacts of expanded gaming on the outside of the reservations in the state,” said Fox.

Of course, people in the business of charitable pull tabs don’t see an issue with that.

“My personal experience of walking into some of the casinos around the state, there are no shortage of people in seats playing their slot machines. I don’t personally think they’re hurting as much as they say they are,” said Brook Lyter, president of FPN gaming.

But Fox says the situation is significantly more dire than that.

“With new compacts, it gives us hope to reinvest, revitalize our gaming to try to attract customers back, but if that doesn’t happen, I believe it’s just a matter of time that ultimately, most of the tribes will have to close their doors in a few years,” said Fox.

Fox says since the pandemic began, the tribes have lost 70% of their employment and revenue.

Each of the state’s five tribes have pledged $25,000 for gambling addiction programs, as part of the new agreements.