Electronic Pull-Tab Issues Debated in North Dakota Lawmakers’ Final Session Days

April 23, 2023 | Lottery News

BISMARCK, ND (April 22, 2023) — According to a local media report fundamental issues related to electronic pull tabs to remain undecided in the Legislature, with days dwindling for lawmakers to reach an agreement on legislation about the machines that have proliferated since first appearing in the state in 2018 after being approved by the 2017 Legislature.

The ‘Bismarck Tribune‘ reported two lawmakers who have been influential on the legislation this session to have ties to a businessman connected with e-tab distributors that are the subject of an attorney general complaint on gambling violations.

Three e-tab distributors with ties to Mandan businessman Dave Wisdom are the subject of a civil regulatory complaint filed last week by North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley.

Wrigley alleges a scheme involving the Wall of Honor nonprofit as an “enticement” to get bars to use electronic pull-tab machines provided exclusively by the three companies, and to influence bars into switching charitable gambling organizations.

Wrigley seeks to revoke the distributor licenses of Western Distributing Company, Plains Gaming Distributing Inc. and Midwest Gaming Distributing Inc., fine them $120,000, and impose another $5,000 fine against Western for allegedly loaning startup money to an American Legion post.

Wisdom in 2020 gave $7,000 and $395 to the reelection campaigns of Reps. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, and State Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, respectively. The two lawmakers worked on a House subcommittee that spearheaded the amendments to Senate Bill 2304.

North Dakota has 4,500 electronic pull-tab machines at 800 sites statewide. The machines generated nearly $1.6 billion in proceeds in the fiscal year 2022, paying out about $1.4 billion in prizes and netting about $200 million for charitable uses.

The bill

Senate Bill 2304 is now a vehicle for many of the issues related to the machines, a bill key lawmakers say will find its way to a House-Senate conference committee to resolve differences.

The state House of Representatives on Wednesday in a 53-40 vote passed the bill with amendments resurrecting legislation the Senate had defeated, related to increasing rent for the machines, allowing the machines in establishments with on-sale liquor licenses, and increasing the limit of expenses small charities can deduct from their proceeds.

Those components would mean bar owners would collect more rent money, establishments other than traditional bars could have e-tabs, and a lesser percentage of proceeds would go to charitable purposes.

House debate on the bill drew bipartisan concerns about how it might expand gambling in North Dakota and for reviving legislation the Senate previously rejected.

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SOURCE: The Bismarck Tribune.

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