Electronic pull tab machines could see increased regulation

BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) – With electronic pull tab machines expanding into every corner of North Dakota and grossing huge revenues, Sen. Larry Luick, R-Fairmount, is hoping to use some of that money to heighten the regulation of the machines.

Monitoring electronic pull tab, or e-tab, machines has proven to be more difficult than ever before.

As many other industries and casinos struggled amidst the pandemic, the use of e-tab machines for skyrocketed.

Now, a bill has been introduced with the intention to level the playing field between casinos on tribal lands and charitable organizations using e-tab machines around the state.

The Attorney General’s office usually projects about $600 million to be wagered in charitable gaming, but for this biennium that total is expected to exceed $1.8 billion.

“What we see is there’s been about a tripling in the amount of charitable gaming in the state. And as a result of this significant increase and activity, it’s really just overwhelmed our gaming division,” said Chief Deputy Attorney General Troy Seibel.

With a small staff, effectively regulating the entire charitable gaming industry has been impossible. But the organizations themselves think otherwise.

“For the past 40 years, North Dakota has developed a responsible and highly regulated system for charitable gaming to benefit charitable missions that serve your local community,” said Charitable Gaming Association of North Dakota Vice President Don Santer.

The bill would create a charitable gaming fund, cap e-tab machine payouts at 88%, and limit establishments to 10 machines per site.

Tribal gaming leaders said charitable gaming needs more regulation.

“We see them as casinos now. They advertise as casinos. So if you want to be a casino then you need to conform to regulatory standards that the casinos have in place,” said Spirit Lake Resort and Casino Gaming Commission Director Collette Brown.

Brown said their economies are struggling due to the proliferation of e-tab machines and said she’s pushing for an amendment that would give the tribes a 10% cut.

“We do want a piece of the pie,” said Brown.

She added the tribes would use the money for social services they’re struggling to fund. Tribal leaders said there’s nearly 10 bills they’re keeping their eyes on this legislative session involving issues with gaming regulation.

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