North Dakota Lawmaker Introduces Sports Betting Resolution

A resolution soon to be introduced by North Dakota state Rep. Michael Howe (l.) would let voters decide if sports betting should be legalized in the state. The resolution has strong bipartisan support, Howe says.

North Dakota state Rep. Michael Howe will introduce a resolution that would allow voters to determine if sports betting should be legalized. Howe said the resolution has extensive bipartisan support. Lawmakers would be required to endorse the resolution in an up-or-down vote.

However, residents also could initiate a measure to put the issue on a ballot as early as next year. North Dakota’s constitution gives citizens the right to bypass the legislature and put a constitutional amendment directly on the ballot. If the measure is approved, lawmakers would then establish rules for sports betting in the following legislative session, Howe explained. “The general public would have overwhelming support for sports betting,” Howe said.

Two bills that would have allowed sports betting in the state were rejected two years ago. Those bills were poorly written, Howe stated. Supporters claimed sports betting would generate revenue for charities and for the state. Those opposed said sports wagering would lead to more problem gambling with no funds earmarked for treatment services.

In 2002, North Dakota overwhelmingly approved a statewide lottery, which, along with charitable gambling has become a multimillion-dollar annual industry. Howe stated, “It’s not as taboo as it once was. The general public has embraced it now. A lot of people are already doing it on their phone illegally. Why not let North Dakota have a piece of that pie? Why not have it here and regulate it here?”

A spokesman for Governor Doug Burgum said the governor take a neutral stance on the issue.