North Dakotas Spend Nearly Double on Electronic Zippers | North Dakota News
By JAMES MacPHERSON, Associated Press
BISMARCK, ND (AP) – North Dakotas invested more than $ 1.3 billion in electronic pull-tab machines in fiscal 2021, nearly double the amount spent in the previous fiscal year, according to state data.
According to the state attorney general’s office, which oversees gambling in the state, players have already wagered more than $ 563 million in the first four months of the current fiscal year in the machines that mimic Las Vegas style games.
Deb McDaniel, North Dakota’s leading gambling regulator, believes zipper activity should easily set a new record this year.
“We are on the right track,” she said.
Lawmakers approved the games in 2017, but they didn’t launch until August 2018. There are now more than 3,700 machines in more than 700 bars and other locations in 51 of North Dakota’s 53 counties, according to data provided by the State.
The coronavirus pandemic has done nothing to slow the meteoric rise of “e-tabs” in the state, although other games of chance such as bingo cards, paper pulls, blackjack and other games saw a 26% drop in activity compared to the fiscal year. 2019 to $ 174 million.
The North Dakota Treasury accumulated more than $ 25.5 million in gambling taxes in the previous fiscal year, nearly double the amount collected in fiscal 2020 and three times the sum of fiscal year 2019.
Charities will share roughly $ 130 million this year, up from nearly $ 95 million in fiscal 2020, which is a 25% increase from the previous year. This money funds everything from sports for young people to programs for the needy.
The popularity of the games was on display at the AMVETS club in Bismarck on Tuesday, where a handful of mostly older players were drawn to the brightly lit machines while other club members ate a special hot beef lunch.
Louis Ressler, a 72-year-old Vietnamese army veteran, said he has been playing the games at least twice a week since their introduction. It was up $ 100 after betting on lunchtime on Tuesday, but was quickly losing ground.
“I’m going to bring some home today – you have to know when to stop,” he said.
Ressler, a widower and retired heating and air conditioning repairman, said almost everyone he knows plays e-tabs, but everyone ends up losing.
“I can count on one hand guys I know who don’t play,” he said. “I know guys who say they’re ahead in this game, but they really aren’t. You’re just not moving forward playing this.
Ressler said he was a regular at a casino on the Standing Rock Reserve, about an hour’s drive from his home in Mandan, but had only been there once since leaving the electronic zippers.
“Why? I can go to any bar in this city and play now,” he said.
While the proliferation and popularity of gaming has swelled state coffers and been a boon to charities, it has also raised concerns about gambling addiction and the impact on Native American casinos.
The North Dakota legislature this year mandated that e-pull tabs and other charitable games contribute $ 40,000 per year to gambling treatment programs. Previously, it was only funded by the state lottery at about $ 320,000 per year.
Lawmakers also funded seven additional positions in state government to help regulate gambling.
McDaniel said casinos on North Dakota’s five Native American reservations are feeling the effects of electronic zippers, possibly losing 60% or more of their revenue. Tribes are not required to publicly disclose their income.
Tribal chiefs say casinos fund many social programs and are generally the top employers on reservations.
Legislation pushed by tribal chiefs to limit the number of e-tab machines, and another bill to make them look less like slot machines, failed in the Republican-controlled legislature this year.
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