On Wednesday, the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee endorsed a resolution that would allow North Dakotans to decide whether they want to see sports betting in the state. The full House will take it up for consideration now. If approved by the House and the Senate, North Dakota sports betting would appear as soon as the 2022 ballot.

While commenting on the resolution, West Fargo Republican Rep. said, “The only way to legalize this is to put this to a vote of the people of North Dakota.” Michael Howe, who sponsored the resolution, said that “the majority of North Dakotans want this.”

A legislative proposal that devises rules for the sports betting operations will be forwarded by the committee to the full House without an endorsement.

College Sports Excluded

The bill was amended to exclude betting on college sports following concerns against the proposal. North Dakota University System Chancellor Mark Hagerott told the committee that the presidents of the Peace Garden State’s 11 colleges and universities were against college sports betting. However, Hagerott did not specify those concerns.

During the meeting, Howe noted that any“concerns of student athletes potentially ‘throwing a game’ are completely unfounded.” On the other hand, he added that legalized sports betting would actually make it harder to fix games. “Once legalized, sports betting will be monitored, and any unusual activity will be easily observed. It is easier to fix games in an unmonitored environment, where money flows under the radar.”

North Dakota Eying A Piece of the Pie

North Dakota is among the two dozen US states seeking to capitalize on the US Supreme Court’s landmark decision of 2018, which effectively struck down PASPA, paving the way for each state to formulate rules on sports betting within its jurisdictions.

The Peace Garden State voters and lawmakers, once against expanding sports betting, have a recent change of heart. Supporters maintain that sports betting in North Dakota would generate needed revenue for charity and the state, including problem gambling treatment programs. On the other hand, opponents like GOP Bismarck Rep. Larry Klemin, the chairman of the judiciary committee, fears expanding gambling in North Dakota could lead to more gambling addiction. Meanwhile, GOP Gov. Doug Burgum has indicated his neutrality over the sports betting regulation, saying he will neither oppose the legalization efforts nor advocate it, a spokesman said Wednesday.

The North Dakotan law authorizes its citizens to bypass the state legislature and place a constitutional amendment directly on the ballot. Therefore, the sports betting proposal could be put to the vote by the state residents themselves using an initiated measure.

How Have We Reached Here?

The North Dakota House Judiciary Committee heard testimony last month on proposed legislation seeking to allow sports betting in the state. Sponsor Rep. Jim Kasper kicked off his testimony in support, stating HB 1234 requires heavy amendment. In addition to the bill, he drafted the constitutional amendment that would put sports betting to voters’ discretion. He believed that the North Dakotans are already sports betting, arguing that legalizing it will only benefit the state from the activity that is already taking place.

As many as twenty states now allow some form of sports betting, while some, including South Dakota, have voted to allow sports wagering but have yet to implement it. A 2019 sports betting bill was passed in the House but failed in the North Dakota Senate.

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