'Historic horse racing,' no -- electronic pull tabs, yes -- for now

Apr 5, 2017

Rep. Andy Maragos (R-Minot).
Credit ND Legislature

Rep. Lawrence Klemin (R-Bismarck).
Credit ND Legislature

Supporters call it a game of skill. Opponents say it’s nothing more than a slot machine.

And the House narrowly agreed with the latter view – defeating a bill that would have allowed betting on “historic horse races.”

Under the bill, you could bet on a previously run horse race. The races would be available through electronic devices. And those devices would only show the last moments of those races.  The bill would have allowed those machines in up to 10 locations across North Dakota, and those places would have to have authorized off-track betting.

Rep. Andy Maragos (R-Minot) said the bill could actually benefit the state’s horse racing industry.

"It (horse racing) was hrting for a while, it's kind of stabilized, and now we have to help it grow," Maragos said. "I believe this bill and what it has to offer will help the horse racing industry grow."

Supporters also argued it is not growing gambling. But Rep. Lawrence Klemin (R-Bismarck) called it “an historic expansion of gambling.”

"Wghat's next -- historic car races," Klemin said. 'Historic dog races? Historic political races?

46 House members voted “no” – 45 house members voted “yes.” It needs 47 to pass. The House could reconsider its action.

Meanwhile, the Senate has approved a bill to allow “electronic pull tabs.”  Sen, Carolyn Nelson (D-Fargo) said it is not an expansion of gambling – rather, just a modernization.

"The old version can still be had, just like you can still get your old box games out of Monopoly or anything else you've ever played," Nelson said. "It's the same rules, but they're now electronic."

The bill passed 35 to 12. It goes back to the House to see if it agrees with Senate changes.