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Gov. Burgum won’t oppose, or push for legal sports betting

December 20, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Gov. Doug Burgum won’t stand in the way of an attempt to bring legal sports betting to North Dakota but he won’t advocate for it either, a spokesman said.

North Dakota is one of many states attempting to capitalize on the U.S. Supreme Court’s lifting of a federal ban on sports gambling. Two Republican lawmakers, Reps. Jason Dockter of Bismarck and Thomas Beadle of Fargo, are crafting separate legislation that would allow sports betting, hoping to generate revenue for the charitable gambling industry and the state.

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the first-term GOP governor has not reviewed the draft legislation but he “is open to looking at ways to potentially capitalize on the national change.”

North Dakota voters and lawmakers, once hostile to expanding gambling, have done an about-face in recent years, adding more games of chance that have helped grow it to a quarter-billion-dollar annual industry.

Legislatures in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island already have legalized sports betting. And several states already have sports betting bills set for consideration in early 2019, including Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

Legislation by Dockter and Beadle had not been filed as of Thursday, but they say it will be ready when the Legislature convenes on Jan. 3. Dockter’s bill would permit gambling on college and professional sports, while Beadle’s would allow only the latter.

Neither proposal at present specifies how much sports betting would be taxed, how it would be regulated or how much revenue is expected to be generated.

Both men said the odds are fair that lawmakers would adopt one of the proposals, but expected some opposition from some of their colleagues and the public.

“I think it will be very popular but there is a segment of the population that will come out against gaming no matter what, and that will come out once the legislation comes about,” Dockter said.

“Any time you try adjusting gaming laws, you usually have some pushback,” Beadle said. “But I believe this is a conversation worth having.”

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