North Dakota aims at legal online poker by 2022

Jon Pill
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Posted on: February 11, 2021 4:12 pm EST

A new bill has been put forward in North Dakota that could lead to legal and regulated online poker in the state.

However, players in the Peace Garden State might want to hold off on getting too excited right away as the process may take a couple of years.

The path from this bill to players being able to log in is a long and winding one. Even in the realm of poker legalization, N.D. has a good long ways to go. And that’s if everything goes smoothly.

First off, House Concurrent Resolution 3012 would alter the state constitution to make “virtual” gambling possible. However, passing the resolution doesn’t actually legalize online gambling. Instead, it allows legalization to be put on the ballot in the 2022 mid-terms. At that point, it’s in the hands of the voters.

If the good people of North Dakota vote in favor of legalization, the most likely next step is for the state legislature to draft the relevant laws and regulations. A regulator will then have to be jury-rigged from scratch. And operators will have to apply for licenses.

Then it will be time to shuffle up and deal.

Segregated pool or MSIGA?

The people pushing for legalization appear to be eyeing up the Multi-State Internet Gaming Agreement with hopeful eyes.

Representative Jim Kasper, the man who introduced the bill, for example said outright: “If the people of North Dakota pass this constitutional amendment, we’d be able to join a multi-state compact.”

Kaspar continued, “We could be playing with New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Las Vegas and some of the other states in real-time. So the question is do we want the people of our state to have the choice to vote whether or not they want to authorize live internet poker in North Dakota?”

His position, therefore, is that if there is a market for it, then the state should make sure that market can operate. The bill is careful to ensure that the state can join the MSIGA pool with New Jersey, Nevada, and Delaware should they want to go in that direction.

While Pennsylvania is not yet a member of MSIGA, it is expected to join the other three states, just as soon as they are sure the DOJ’s Wire Act memo will stay dead.

The most prominent voices against the resolution are, unsurprisingly, the brick and mortar concerns in the state. In particular, the Turtle Mountain Tribe, which owns the Skydancer and Grand Treasure casinos, has come forward to express concerns about online poker moving funds out of the state.

In practice, while company profits may be earned out-of-state, operators are likely to still be taxed in state. So the real aim in killing the bill is most probably to minimize competition.

Maintaining a segregated player pool may be a way to assuage these complaints. Especially if online sites must partner with an in-state brick and mortar as is the case in some other states. However, that is a long way off for now.

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