Since the North Dakota legislature legalized e-tabs back in 2017, tribal casinos have been seeing a rapid decline in revenue while charities are reaping the benefits. That has tribes raising an alarm.
“It’s no small thing for us,” said Mark Fox, Chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, It’s of dire concern, at a minimum.”
Each of the five tribal nations in the state has its own casino facility. Casinos “are very delicate entities crucial to the survival of our tribes,” said Scott Davis, the executive director of the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission. “Without them, things would be really tough — tougher than they are now.”
Unfortunately for the tribes, the e-tabs may be too popular to fight. In July of last year, the North Dakota State Gaming Director, Deb McDaniel, credited these e-tabs with helping to push tax revenues far ahead of projections. It was revealed that $8.9 million was raised through gaming taxes in the first 23 months of them being legalized. This increase the total budget for those two years by more than 25%.
In the first nine months after these tabs were legalized, more than $410 million was spent on electronic pull-tabs. This led to a huge increase in revenue for charities as well as for the treasury, which both benefited from the sales.
Charitable Gaming Association head Janelle Mitzel has estimated that these e-tabs will increase the amount of money sent to charities by as much as 50%, increasing that revenue to $69 million. “These are doing fantastic,” Mitzel explained. “They have been wonderful for charities.”
This is good news for charities, but not so much for the casinos. “Myself, my tribe, are gravely concerned with the electronic pull-tab systems, e-tabs, in the state of North Dakota,” said Collette Brown, gaming commission executive director for the Spirit Lake Tribe, during the Strengthening Government to Government Relations Conference in Bismarck in January.
She pointed out that these casinos provide an employee payroll of about $80 million each year, which has a significant impact on the surrounding communities. However, those numbers may be in jeopardy if something isn’t done to assist the casinos to regain their previous revenues.