BISMARCK — North Dakota legislators, including two state representatives and a senator from Fargo, are pushing for the state to legalize sports betting and have introduced two bills in the state legislature to allow it.
The door to legal sports betting was opened in 2018 when the Supreme Court struck down a Federal ban on the practice. Many states have already moved to legalize it.
Right now, it's possible to bet on sports in North Dakota by going through an out-of-state bookmaker located where sports gambling is legal, but the North Dakota proposal's backers say legalizing it at home will keep more gambling dollars in the state.
Two proposals, House Bills 1254 and 1295, would allow licensed organizations to take bets on sporting events.
Rep. Michael Howe of West Fargo, one of House Bill 1254's sponsors, said many people already bet on sports illegally.
An estimated 97 percent of sports betting is illegal, according to the American Gaming Association, a gaming industry lobbying group.
The North Dakota Constitution requires gambling proceeds to benefit "charitable, patriotic, fraternal, religious or other public-spirited uses," and Howe said he could see those types of organizations supporting legalizing sports betting.
"I looked at it as an opportunity for charities to get on board. The state can collect some revenue off that as well," he said.
Nevada makes nearly $250 million a year from sports betting. It's unlikely North Dakota would come close to that amount, but Howe said it would still be a respectable amount of revenue for the state.
The other proposal, House Bill 1295 has similar language but would specifically legalize gambling on professional sporting events. It's sponsored by Rep. Thomas Beadle, R-Fargo, Rep. Jake Blum, R-Grand Forks, Rep. Jim Grueneich, R-Jamestown, Rep. Aaron McWilliams, R-Hillsboro, Sen. Dale Patten, R-Watford City, and Sen. Kristin Roers, R-Fargo
House Bill 1254 does not specifically legalize betting on professional sporting events. Rep. Howe is joined by Rep. Jason Dockter, R-Bismarck, Sen. Scott Meyer, R-Grand Forks as sponsors.