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Racing facility under scrutiny

BISMARCK - The North Dakota Racing Commission wants the operator of the Fargo horse track to prove it is collecting bets and paying out winnings in off-track betting it sponsors as year-round fundraising.

BISMARCK - The North Dakota Racing Commission wants the operator of the Fargo horse track to prove it is collecting bets and paying out winnings in off-track betting it sponsors as year-round fundraising.

Commissioners and their attorney said at Tuesday's meeting they want to be assured Horse Race North Dakota, not its simulcast service provider, is conducting the gaming. Records should reflect that it is the charity paying the winning bettors, not the simulcast service provider, they said.

Chairman Jim Arthaud said after the meeting that Racing Commission officials don't suspect any wrongdoing. They just want records of betting through Horse Race North Dakota to be "transparent" so there are no questions.

"We're just verifying that everything is being done as it's supposed to," said Racing Director Randy Blaseg. "This is nothing more than, as regulators, we are on top of things."

In North Dakota, only charities and other nonprofit public-spirited organizations can conduct gambling and all net proceeds must go to their operations or to another public-spirited cause.

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The state-licensed simulcast service provider that brings signals from race tracks across the country to Horse Race North Dakota's off-track betting sites - Lien Games Racing -is not allowed to conduct the gaming it facilitates for charities.

Horse Race North Dakota's lawyer, Jonathan Garaas of Fargo, promised complete cooperation in turning over any records the commission seeks.

"You're going to get everything you want," Garaas said.

Commissioner DeAnn Pladson said Lien Games has assured her of the same cooperation.

"The kind of reconciliation reports you're requesting do exist," Kevin Hall of Lien Games told commissioners.

Blaseg and Arthaud said the questions are about Lien Games and Horse Race North Dakota because the largest percentage of the horse betting wagers in the state are through Horse Race North Dakota.

Also at Tuesday's meeting, commissioners were advised they need to write new administrative rules and have them in place by Aug. 1 - even though the normal state rule-writing process would typically take until January.

The commission has used interim rules for most of its 18-year existence, as allowed by state law. That is an informal process that doesn't require the same public meetings and other steps other state agencies are required to use.

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But this year's Legislature removed the commission's authority to operate under interim rules, Peterson said, and that new law takes effect Aug. 1. On that date, all the interim rules will expire. He advised commissioners to write new rules and apply for emergency implementation because the commission can't have a period during which it has no rules.

The commission began working through its rule book Tuesday and will continue at a June 26 meeting.

That will be Arthaud's last meeting. His five-year term expires on July 1 and he is ineligible for reappointment.

Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Forum. She can be reached at (701) 224-0830 or forumcap@btinet.net

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