West Fargo Rural Fire Department fined, barred from gaming sites
West Fargo's Bordertown Bar and Grill and Bar Nine are also suspended from gaming for a year.
WEST FARGO — The West Fargo Rural Fire Department was fined and barred from conducting gaming at two West Fargo bars, which were also suspended from hosting any gaming for one year, after investigators determined they had committed significant violations of state gaming laws.
North Dakota Attorney General Drew Wrigley fined the West Fargo Rural Fire Department $20,000 with $5,000 suspended for five years and barred it from conducting gaming activity at the Bar Nine and Bordertown Bar & Grill in West Fargo, effective immediately.
Wrigley also ordered the suspension of gaming at Bar Nine and Bordertown Bar & Grill for one year, effective July 1. The two bars are owned by Nasser Hammami.
Hammami could not be reached for comment Thursday, June 16. A call to West Fargo Rural Fire Department Chief Steve Baron was not returned as of press time.
Wrigley said an investigation found the bar owner had been participating in the gaming activities at the two sites, which is prohibited by law.
"All the gaming activities have to be conducted by the charity itself," Wrigley said.
He also noted unlicensed raffles and other games had been conducted at the bars.
North Dakota Century Code prohibits conducting games of chance which directly benefit the host business. The host also cannot influence the determination of prizes or conduct unsanctioned raffle activity.
The sites, or lessors, are paid rent by charities that conduct gaming at their location.
According to state law, "A lessor cannot operate games of chance or interfere with or attempt to influence the organization’s selection of games, determination of prizes, or disbursement of net proceeds."
While the West Fargo Rural Fire Department is barred from hosting gaming at the two bars, the charity has other sites where it can continue to hold gaming.
"At the other sites where there were not violations found, (the rural fire department) can continue to operate," Wrigley said. "These were their strongest sites, where they had the most charitable revenue."
No gaming at all will be allowed at Bar Nine or Bordertown for one year, Wrigley said. That includes all gaming such as bingo, machines, games of chance or raffles.
Although not required, Wrigley met with the West Fargo Rural Fire Department and Hammami earlier this week. He said they all agreed to accept the terms of the violation.
"It's a significant sanction for someone in those situations," Wrigley said. "It will have a significant impact on them."
Wrigley said his office has a duty to protect the integrity of the gaming industry. Only nonprofit charitable or public-spirited organizations may conduct games of chance.
"Our objective is to assure compliance but also proactively provide a deterrent to others," Wrigley said. "They weren't in compliance, hence the sanction. We're going to be continuing to step up these operation investigations, and we will have periodic spot checks. It's critically important for gaming to maintain its positive reputation. For that to happen, you have to have compliance and public trust."
The West Fargo Fire Department became its own city department with paid, full-time firefighters in 2018. The West Fargo Rural Fire Department remained a separate nonprofit volunteer department covering the rural areas.