With Michigan recently becoming the 15th state to legalize online sports betting, more are inevitably expected. Is it possible North Dakota could be the next domino to fall? We discuss the potential for it to happen, and the potential impact approval might have.
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Long a conservative part of the United States that has only ever allowed physical casinos to operate, North Dakota may not be on the verge of becoming a billboard for sports-betting progression. This is to say: North Dakota might legalize online poker by 2023.
Representative Jim Kasper has proposed House Concurrent Resolution 3012, a bill that would allow North Dakota residents to legally engage in online poker. The attempted move is significant because it only requires a simple majority vote to pass during the general election in 2022. That essentially means online poker would almost immediately become legal in North Dakota, as noted by Gambling News' Eva Ivanova.
What are the odds of this proposal passing? What would it mean for North Dakota and the future of sports betting in the United States at large? Let's break it all down.
Impact of Legal Online Poker in North Dakota
Many people might wonder why online poker isn't already legal in North Dakota. After all, they already have 28 casinos located throughout the state. Gambling is gambling.
Not to North Dakota.
They have very stringent rules when it comes to betting. Not only must it be done in-person, but it needs to be done on Native American ground. Allowing online poker would be a stark departure from that policy, one the state has so far actively resisted. The first piece of pro-online-gambling legislature was proposed in 2005, and North Dakota still hasn't expanded its stance.
But times are changing. The coronavirus pandemic has forced every state to rethink its stance on online gambling. Michigan is the latest place to take the plunge, and it won't be the last. Far from it, in fact.
Governments lost a ton of revenue over the past year while battling COVID-19. Online poker presents the chance to recoup some of that profit. More than that, it might be recession- and pandemic-proof, because players needn't visit casinos to spend their money.
Just look at New Jersey. Between 2018 and now, it has generated over $102 million in tax revenue for the state government. And while New Jersey is home to Atlantic City, the Las Vegas of the East Coast, most of its bets during that time were submitted online.
North Dakota won't rake in money on that same scale. The population is noticeably smaller. But even tinier, more rural states have been able to capitalize on the implementation of legal online betting. West Virginia, for example, has generated close to $6 million in tax revenue from this sector since 2018. North Dakota could expect similar gains.
Will North Dakota Legalize Online Poker?
Of course, states have long known the advantages of approved online wagering. These revenue projections aren't news to them. And yet, places like North Dakota have held off anyway. What gives?
Leaders in North Dakota have cited the difficulty in pinning down tax collection from online sportsbooks. Their concern is not unwarranted. So many people already use off-shore bookies that don't give states a dime.
But bettors won't as aggressively seek out those options if they have a legal one within their grasp. And setting up a tax-friendly shop doesn't take much. It should require even less effort on North Dakota's part since they already have a couple of dozen casinos in place. They can simply commission each one to create a mobile app that accepts bets. They're already taxing those places anyway, so it would be incredibly low-lift on the state's part in the grand scheme.
Still, North Dakota has typically skewed ultra-conservative. They will no green light online gambling without a fight. They may be even less likely to do it on this timeline since we should be somewhat removed from the pandemic lifestyle by the end of 2022.
On the flip side, North Dakota will be feeling the squeeze from other states. Places like Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, and even South Dakota are on track to legalize online gambling in some form over the next year. It will eventually become commonplace.
The Future of Online Sports Betting in the US
Our guess is that North Dakota will inevitably give the OK to online poker and general sports betting. It might not happen by 2023 exactly, but the trend of other states doing the same speaks for itself. They will only be able to resist for so long, particularly as they watch other states rack up the tax revenue.
And if North Dakota joins the fray, it will be only a matter of time before plenty of other places follow suit. North Dakota's conservative leanings matter a great deal here. If they board the bandwagon, why wouldn't more liberal locales like New York or California?
North Dakota's impact of legalizing online poker would be even greater on states that are similarly conservative. Think along the lines of Alabama and Utah, neither of which has any imminent inclination to do what many other states have already done. It only takes one very conservative state to warm up to the idea before others start to tumble behind them.
All of which renders North Dakota a state worth watching. If they legalize online poker by 2023, it's likely that close to 40 states in total (or more) will have passed—or have pending—some form of the legislature that legalizes online betting.
If they don't, though, it could be a sign that the United States is in for a long fight as it seeks to make online betting more mainstream.
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