Point of View host, Chris Berg, had on Senator Lonnie Laffen (R – District 43) to discuss a proposal to create six new state run casinos in North Dakota. The proposal is a constitutional referendum that would be voted on by the people. Among other things, Sen. Laffen denied that the idea is racist. In fact, he says he began working on the bill "long before" the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) became a major issue.
According to Laffen, he believes that this idea was coming to North Dakota through the initiated measure process anyhow. Yet he provided no evidence to support that claim, other than to say that we already have the lottery and now medical marijuana as a result of voters desires through initiated measure.
While Laffen may well be telling the truth in his statement that he was working on this "long before" DAPL became an issue, I’m not so sure that settles whether this is a proposal of retaliation for some others. For example, the bill was introduced by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, who also introduced House Bill 1304 to outlaw the wearing of masks during a protest. That law actually passed both legislative chambers and has since been signed into law.
Currently, the only casinos allowed in the state of North Dakota are those on Native American Indian reservations. The proposal Sen. Laffen is responsible for would not only permit six state-run casinos to be built, but they could be built as close as 20 miles to the aforementioned reservations. Now, call me crazy, but that is pretty close. And I think it’s fair to say that were a casino to be built within 20 miles of a reservation, it would severely impact Native American casinos.
Aside from the issues of whether the constitutional referendum is racist or retaliatory, there is the issue of whether it’s even appropriate for the state to be in the casino business at all. I say no.
If casinos are to be permitted off of reservations in the state of North Dakota, then they should be built, staffed, and ran by private business entities. The state already has it’s fingers in places where it doesn’t belong. Let’s not add to the list by jumping into the casino industry.
I completely understand that many North Dakotans are still upset about the DAPL protests. The #NODAPL crowd not only caused horrific amounts of unrest for Morton County and Bismarck-Mandan, but it has also cost the state around $35 million. Yet, I hope that we don’t respond with a knee-jerk reaction to thrust ourselves into an industry that the state has no business getting itself into.