BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A North Dakota legislative panel refused to change a rule Monday that creates a moratorium on electronic pull tab machines at gas stations and liquor, grocery and convenience stores.
Lobbyists and some lawmakers have promised that the issue will come up again in the next legislative session that begins Jan. 3.
The 14-member, bipartisan Administrative Rules Committee supported the North Dakota Gaming Commission vote in May to alter the definition of a bar to clarify where the Las Vegas-style games that mimic slot machines will be allowed.
Attorney General Drew Wrigley and Deb McDaniel, North Dakota’s top gambling regulator, have said that idea for the rule change is to clarify and preserve what they believe was the intent of the Legislature in 1994 when it defined a bar as a “retail alcoholic beverage establishment where alcoholic beverages are dispensed and consumed.”
The new rule specifies that a bar does not include gas stations and liquor, grocery and convenience stores. A bar in a hotel, bowling alley or restaurant could still have the machines, under the new definition.
Fargo Republican Rep. Andrew Marschall and gambling industry lobbyist Scott Meske argued the Legislature should decide the rules, not a regulatory body.
“I think we’re skipping the process,” Meske said.
Jamestown GOP Rep. Bernie Satrum said he believed some businesses placed the e-tabs in their establishments, calling it an “abuse of the ambiguity” in the law.
McDaniel, the state’s gambling regulator said at least five gas stations and convenience stores in the state have the machines on site.
The businesses are located in Bismarck, Grassy Butte, New Salem and Glen Ullin. Those businesses will be allowed to continue offering the games until the Legislature decides the matter.
North Dakotans poured almost $1.75 billion into the machines in fiscal 2022. There are about 4,400 machines operating in the state.