State-owned casino amendment raises opposition

North Dakota could be on the verge of allowing state-owned casinos but the iniciative has many detractors, including American Indian tribes.
US.- The change proposed to the North Dakota Constitution in order to allow state-owned casinos has raised many opponents around the state. One of the main reasons is that it will hurt tribal businesses and state’s relationship with American Indian tribes as they told lawmakers on Monday’s hearing.

Tribal and state relations came to an all-time low after intense protests against the US$3.8 billion Dakota Access pipeline’s dispute crossing under a Missouri River reservoir near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota.

There are already six casinos within American Indian reservations and the proposal only allows the eventual construction of any of the six state-owned casinos beyond 20 miles of a reservation, or 5 miles away from a city of more than five thousand inhabitants.

Mark Fox, Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman, reported that casinos grant over two thousand jobs and millions of dollars in annual revenue for Indian reservations and nearby communities. Fox explained that if more casinos were added, “one is going to have to suffer for the other.”

Besides tribal opposition, Charitable Gaming Association of North Dakota rises against the proposal. Jonathan Jorgensen, president of the board of directors, said the additional casinos also would hurt his organization, that has about 300 sites in the state. “This is not an expansion of gaming, this is an explosion of gaming,” he asserted.

Among supporters, Representative Al Carlson (R-Fargo) explained that the main reason for the proposed constitutional amendment is to establish casinos as “destination-oriented attractions” and use their profits to eliminate, or at least lessen, state sales tax and corporate income tax.

If approved by the Legislature, voters could decide the amendment’s fate in the June 2018 primary.