BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - A House committee on Wednesday endorsed a resolution that would allow North Dakotans to decide if sports gambling should be allowed in the state.
The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee gave the bipartisan resolution a “do-pass” recommendation. It now goes to the full House for consideration.
“The only way to legalize this is to put this to a vote of the people of North Dakota,” said West Fargo Republican Rep. Michael Howe, who sponsored the resolution. “I feel the majority of North Dakotans want this.”
If approved by both chambers, the measure could appear on the November 2022 ballot, Howe said.
A bill that sets rules for the gambling operations will be forwarded by the legislative committee to the full House without an endorsement.
The bill was amended to exclude gambling on college sports after North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott told the committee that all the presidents of the state’s 11 colleges and universities had voiced concerns, but he did not elaborate.
Howe told the committee any “concerns of student athletes potentially ‘throwing a game’ are completely unfounded.”
“Legalized sports wagering will actually make it harder to fix games,” Howe said. “Once legalized, sports wagering will be monitored, and any irregular activity will be easily detected. It is easier to fix games in an unmonitored environment, in which money flows under the radar. ”
North Dakota is one of about two dozen states attempting to capitalize on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that lifted a federal ban on sports gambling.
North Dakota voters and lawmakers, once hostile to expanding gambling, have made an about-face in recent years, allowing more games of chance, but the Legislature defeated bills two years ago that would have allowed sports betting.
Backers say sports betting would generate revenue for charitable causes and the state, including its compulsive gambling treatment program. Opponents, including the chairman of the judiciary committee, GOP Bismarck Rep. Larry Klemin, worry about expanding gambling in the state and believe it could cause more gambling addiction problems.
North Dakotans also could put the matter to a vote themselves with an initiated measure. North Dakota’s Constitution gives citizens the right to bypass the Legislature and put a constitutional amendment directly on the ballot.
GOP Gov. Doug Burgum won’t stand in the way of the attempt to bring legal sports betting to North Dakota but he won’t advocate for it either, a spokesman said Wednesday.
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