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State lottery limits sought

BISMARCK -- North Dakota legislators Wednesday began sorting out conflicting wishes of supporters and opponents as they set up the state's lottery.


BISMARCK -- North Dakota legislators Wednesday began sorting out conflicting wishes of supporters and opponents as they set up the state's lottery.

They face decisions on marketing (should children be screened from ads), age (18 or 21) and whether adults will be allowed to give tickets to children as gifts.

But one thing is certain: They must set up a lottery or face possible legal action, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem warned the House Judiciary Committee.

"In the end, we have to come up with a bill?" asked Rep. Lawrence Klemin, R-Bismarck.

"If you fail to do that, I'll represent you to the best of my ability," Stenehjem said, as laughter erupted in the hearing room. "But you'd give me a very difficult assignment."


Voters overwhelmingly approved a lottery in November, amending the state constitution by initiated measure.

House Bill 1243 will set up the lottery.

State gambling regulators predict tickets won't be on sale until Jan. 1, clearing at least $1.7 million for the state's treasury between then and June 30, 2005. In 2005-07, it will bring in at least $2.6 million, they said.

The Judiciary chairman, Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Pettibone, invited comments on the bill by first cautioning opponents to remember the election is over.

"I would like to remind you that the issue of a lottery itself has been solved," he said. "We are going to pass a lottery bill."

Opponents want to raise the minimum age to play from 18 to 21, said Warren DeKrey of Bismarck, chairman of the North Dakota Council of Gambling Problems and a member of Citizens Against Legalizing the Lottery.

Take out the emergency clause and restrict the state to one game only, the Powerball, he said.

DeKrey also asked that 10 percent of the net proceeds be devoted to treating gambling addiction, not the 1 percent called for in the bill.


"As gambling increases in North Dakota, we can expect more and more gambling problems," he said.

Former Gov. Art Link and others also testified in favor of openness in the lottery operation. "I want the light of day to shine on the way it is operated. What is there to cover up?" Link said

Andrew Varvel of Bismarck asked the committee to bar adults from giving tickets to minors. No laws allow adults to purchase cigarettes or liquor for minors, he said.

He also argued for strict rules on advertising, saying youngsters in a store to buy candy should not be subjected to lottery marketing. He also asked that joining the lottery be a local option. Communities that don't want the lottery should not be forced to offer it, he said.

Rep. Andrew Maragos, R-Minot, the main force behind the lottery initiative, responded that during the campaign opponents often said, "What part of 'no' doesn't Andy Maragos understand?" in reference to earlier failed lottery attempts.

"I want opponents of the lottery to understand what the word 'yes' means," he said.

The North Dakota Grocers Association, North Dakota Hospitality Association and North Dakota Petroleum Marketers Association spoke in favor of the bill.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Janell Cole at (701) 224-0830

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