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North Dakota sports betting debate ends with a whimper as Senate quickly rejects bill

North Dakota State Bison guard Chris Quayle (13) is guarded by Duke Blue Devils forward Zion Williamson (1) and forward RJ Barrett (5) during the second half in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament at Colonial Life Arena. Bob Donnan / USA TODAY Sports

BISMARCK — North Dakota senators overwhelmingly rejected a bill legalizing professional and collegiate sports betting Monday, March 25.

House Bill 1254 was prompted by the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling unconstitutional a federal law that largely outlawed sports betting. Proponents argued it would generate money for charitable gaming organizations, addiction services and state coffers.

The bill, sponsored by Bismarck Republican Rep. Jason Dockter, would have allowed charitable gaming organizations to offer wagers on the outcome of athletic events.

The head of the North Dakota University System, however, came out against the bill after consulting with campus presidents. Chancellor Mark Hagerott previously said allowing bets on collegiate sports could lead to tampering with athletic events and put added pressure on student athletes.

The NCAA "opposes all forms of legal and illegal sports wagering, which has the potential to undermine the integrity of sports contests and jeopardizes the welfare of student-athletes and the intercollegiate athletics community," according to its website.

The bill failed with no debate on the Senate floor in a 38-7 vote. Belcourt Democratic Sen. Richard Marcellais said sports betting is "bad for social, economic and governmental policy."

Dockter's bill was one of two sports betting bills introduced this session. The House already defeated legislation limiting bets to professional sports.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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