North Dakota lawmakers clarify where electronic tables can work

Published on: December 6, 2022, 12:57 p.m.

Last updated: December 6, 2022, 01:09.

A North Dakota legislative panel has clarified where electronic clapboards can operate.

North Dakota Charity Games
A bank of clapboard electronics in a bar in North Dakota. A North Dakota legislative committee has upheld a moratorium issued by the state Gaming Commission that restricts non-on-premise liquor licensees from incorporating electronic charitable gaming terminals into their businesses. (Picture: KX News)

North Dakota legalized charitable gaming in 1994. The legalization of these small games of chance was designed to provide nonprofit and community organizations in the state with increased donations through gambling.

In the decades since charitable gaming became legal, nonprofits and the game manufacturers they work with have gotten creative by designing innovative products that closely mimic Las Vegas-style slots. Today, electronic flip terminals feature many of the same bright colors and sounds as traditional slots.

In fiscal year 2022, North Dakotans poured nearly $1.75 billion into electronic flip cars. The North Dakota Gaming Commission says about 4,400 terminals operate across the state, mostly in bars, restaurants and other commercial businesses where alcoholic beverages are dispensed and consumed.

During the fiscal year, the terminals generated approximately $130 million in revenue for state charities. The charity games also provided the state coffers with more than $25.5 million in tax revenue.

Limitations on charity games

North Dakota’s Charitable Gaming Act of 1994 said such gaming devices could operate in any “retail liquor establishments where alcoholic beverages are dispensed and consumed.”

Over the years, some business owners have interpreted this definition to qualify any state-licensed liquor establishment to host charitable electronic gaming machines. State officials say the machines have recently been seen in gas stations and grocery stores that sell beer and liquor.

In May, the North Dakota Gaming Commission voted 3-2 to clarify the definition of where such charitable games can operate. The state gaming regulator said only businesses that rely primarily on on-site alcohol sales can host the machines.

“I’ve never thought of a gas station or a convenience store as a bar — that’s not what anyone envisioned,” North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley told the state Gaming Commission in May , before their vote to initiate a moratorium on other non-bars. entities that incorporate the controversial terminals into their businesses.

Supreme Gambling Commission Legislature?

This week, North Dakota’s 14-member Administrative Rules Committee adopted the Gaming Commission’s gambling moratorium recommendation.

The commission agreed that only businesses that serve alcohol for consumption on the premises can host the machines until the Legislature provides further clarity. The topic is expected to be deliberated when the North Dakota Legislature meets next month for the 2023 session.

State Rep. Andrew Marschall (R-Fargo) and gambling lobbyist Scott Meske opined that the Rules Committee allows a state regulatory agency to dictate the law.

I think we’re missing out [legislative] process,” Meske commented to Associated Press.

Native American tribes in the state that operate Class III tribal casinos will likely welcome the electronic pull tab moratorium.

The Five Gaming Tribes say the proliferation of charity gaming devices is cutting into their gaming revenue. But North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R) last month refused to allow tribes to obtain iGaming privileges to offset alleged charitable gaming losses.

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