The number of electronic pull tab machines is expanding faster than many expected

By  | 

Tribal casinos have previously been the main place to gamble in North Dakota. But, since the Legislature legalized electronic pull tabs in 2017, the machines are popping up almost everywhere.

Counts taken through December 31 measured more than 2,000 e-tab devices throughout the state of North Dakota. Those machines are in more than 500 sites and in all but two counties in the state. About 200 charitable organizations are eligible to run the machines.

Income from e-tabs has increased from more than $2 million in 2018 to about $16.5 million in 2019.

"The unintended consequences of this whole scenario is the popularity. It's through the roof, I see it. I see it," said an electronic pull tab machine user Jim Krance.

But while the charitable organizations are profiting, the tribal casinos who rely on that revenue to fund community programs are concerned. Collette Brown says the Spirit Lake Casino has seen a 42 percent drop to their bottom line.

"It's taken a huge hit on them, we're probably going to have to look at closing some of the resources here," said Brown, gaming commission executive director for Spirit Lake Casino and Resort.

The Attorney General's Office is also struggling. Their gaming division that once only monitored five casinos, is now attempting to regulate and audit every e-tab machine in the state with only six workers.

"Charitable gaming since it's been put back in place has grown much faster and quicker than anybody ever thought it would, it's generating more dollars than anybody ever thought it would, and we just need to get caught up with the enforcement," said Sen. Dwight Cook, R-Mandan.

The Gaming Division says the organizations can use 60% of their profit to fund their program and gaming, but 40% must go directly to charity. Right now, some are exceeding that amount.

Last year, charitable gaming's net proceeds were about $9.3 million, a 90% increase from the year before. Yet only a little more than $5.6 million was donated to charity, a mere 26% increase from the year prior.