Six state-owned casinos have been proposed by North Dakota’s top House Republican. The proposal might anger Native American tribes, especially at a time where relations are already testy following the dispute over the Dakota Access oil pipeline.
North’s Dakota’s five Native American reservations hold the only casinos in the state, which are vital to the tribes’ economies.
According to some lawmakers, the proposal put forward by Fargo Rep. Al Carlson, to add six state-owned casinos, comes as payback for the millions of dollars the state bore due to the Dakota Access pipeline protests.
On Thursday, Fargo Democrat representative, Pam Anderson said that it’s without a question another direct consequence of the pipeline protests.
However, Carlson stated that his idea isn’t against the Native American tribes, but it’s a way to establish casinos as a touristic destination for the state. The profits of which would be used to reduce, or eliminate, both state tax and corporate income tax.
Several lawmakers don’t think the proposal will pass, but it has already harmed the state and Tribes relationship.
Some North Dakota tribes have opposed the pipeline, which was supported by the state. They set up a protest camp near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation to stop the construction of the pipe which they claim threatens their drinking water and cultural sites. Thousands of people from across the U.S joined the protest.
Tribes source of income:
General Manager of the Four Bears Casino on the Fort Berthold Reservation, Patrick Packineau, stated that North Dakota already has enough casinos and that new casinos would cannibalize the existing market. Packineau wouldn’t comment on the political aspect behind Carlson’s proposal.
The Fort Berthold Reservation, which is occupied by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes, produces about 20% of the 1 million barrels of oil produced daily in North Dakota. However, Packineau said the casino is still important to the reservation, his casino alone employs 300 people.
Other North Dakota reservations don’t have oil and rely heavily on casinos to provide jobs and revenue.
Payback for protesting?
Legislation aimed at pipeline protesters, including increasing penalties for rioting and trespassing was passed by North Dakota’s overwhelmingly male and nearly all-white Republican-led Legislature. These were among the first bills signed by Republican Gov. Doug Burgum who was elected last November.
At his state-of-the state address, Burgum promised a “fresh start in our relations with all tribal nations who live with and among us”.
Several bills were terminated due to the Legislature, they intended to heal the wounds created by the protests. Such as one that required “cultural competency training” for lawmakers and another that would have allowed tribal flags from the state’s five tribes to be on display in the Capitol.
The Legislation is a proposed constitutional amendment, if approved by the lawmakers, it would be presented to voters. It doesn’t need the governor’s approval but Burgum issued a statement indicating he opposes the idea.