BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The coronavirus pandemic did not slow North Dakotans’ appetite for gambling, with more than $881 million wagered on games of chance in fiscal 2020, a more than 50% increase from the year before, data compiled for The Associated Press shows.
Even though games of chance at businesses were shut down for about a month beginning in late March last year to slow the spread of the coronavirus, “the pandemic has not hurt gaming whatsoever,” said Deb McDaniel, North Dakota’s top gambling regulator.
The meteoric rise of electronic pull tab gambling in the state accounted for nearly $711 million of wagers in fiscal 2020. It’s a sum that has grown nearly tenfold in just two years, data shows.
McDaniel believes gambling wagers, led by electronic pull tabs, will easily exceed $1 billion in the current fiscal year that ends June 30.
Lawmakers approved the games in 2017 but they were not launched until August 2018. There are now more than 3,300 machines scattered around the state in about 95% of cities and towns. Sioux County, home to a casino on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is the only one of the state’s 53 counties that does not have the Las Vegas-style games that mimic slot machines, McDaniel said.
North Dakota’s treasury banked more than $13 million in gambling taxes last year, or more than quadruple the amount collected in fiscal 2018. Charities split nearly $95 million in fiscal 2020, a 25% increase from the year before. That money funds everything from youth sports to programs for the needy.