Posted 3/07/17 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
When government starts running short of revenue, like what is happening currently in North Dakota, elected officials start looking for ways to find new money.
And apparently that was Republican House leader Al Carlson’s thought process when he decided to introduce House Concurrent Resolution 3033, which if enacted, would amend the state’s constitution for the building of up to six state-owned casinos.
While the Legislature will no doubt wrestle with the merits of owning and running casinos, the bigger question is does the state really want to use state money in this manner. While there are those who think of gaming at casinos as just another form of entertainment, there is no denying that gambling creates a myriad of social problems and associated costs incurred by government.
As proposed by the resolution, which still hasn’t been assigned a hearing date in the state Legislature, the new casinos would be built on state-owned land and be located at last 20 miles from an Indian reservation and at least five miles from a city of 5,000 population or more.
Maybe Carlson’s resolution was a way of taking a jab at the state’s Indian Reservations for their support of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Maybe he thinks that now is the time for the state to go into competition with the five tribe-owned and operated casinos operating in the state. Maybe he thought that more casinos would be a big revenue center for the state.
But Carlson is wrong in all three of these scenarios.
First, the DAPL protest wasn’t supported by all of the state’s Indian Reservations. And even if the tribes supported the protesters, it would be wrong for the state to respond in this manner.
Second, the state has no business competing with private businesses, whether they are casinos or not. The state, technically, has the financial resources to drive any competition out of business.
Third, while casinos may be a revenue center, they also contribute heavily to the costs of providing social programs.
I was against North Dakota entering into compacts with the state’s Indian Reservations that allowed them to build casinos. The tribe’s argument at the time was that it would create jobs and income for tribal members. As promised, it did create jobs and revenue for the tribes. But those casinos also created all of the social problems that opponents said would follow, which now the state and local governments are on the hook to pay for.
But like it or not, those five Indian-operated casinos are here to stay.
The question is how many more casinos can North Dakota sustain?
While HCR3033 will no doubt be heard in committee in the next couple of weeks, hopefully it will fall on deaf ears. The last thing that North Dakota needs is more casinos.