In the last 10 years, Fargo has changed. What used to be just an agricultural town in the Midwest is now a hub for fine arts, modern culture and an active nightlife.
One thing that is blatantly obvious though is that Fargo doesn’t have a casino. So why is there no gambling?
Much of this change has come from North Dakota State and the newfound technologies that have grown in the region. There is, however, a second factor that’s added in this rapid transformation: the legislative repeal of the blue laws.
Blue laws are the colloquial term for the laws that dictate morality. They’re what used to be known as Sin Laws, regulating things such as drinking, gambling and sex. Over the last 25 years, almost every single one of these laws has been removed, replaced or changed in significant ways.
Now we are all but modern when it comes to our drinking, you no longer have to worry about getting arrested for being in a homosexual relationship and of course we now can joke about the old-style brothel laws.
However, if you’ve noticed, one type of blue law is still around and enforced. That is, the laws relating to gambling. With the rest of our general societal factors having advanced to meet the rest of the country, why does the state still have archaic views on gambling?
In recent years, these blue laws around gambling have been loosened. That’s why we can do things such as pull tabs in bars. However, the biggest regulations still exist.
According to North Dakota law, only native reservations can have casinos. This is because of native sovereignty. Native sovereignty means that the tribal lands in the United States technically do not fall under the purview of state legislation. This is why native land, such as the White Earth reservation, is allowed to have casinos while the rest of Minnesota and the Dakotas are not allowed to.
So if only native lands can currently have casinos and gambling, how could Fargo possibly get this new form of entertainment?
It’s a two-part question, with two potential answers. The first would be to ignore the casino. Just focus on the gambling itself. The state of North Dakota could decriminalize independent gambling locations, effectively expanding the current rules surrounding pull tab regulations to all forms of gambling.
This would allow for bars and pubs to officially include gambling on things such as their trivia nights, traditional sporting events and of course at games like blackjack and roulette. To do this, all that would have to be done would be to repeal four sections of law written in the 1930s. The legislature could do this during any legislative session.
The second and significantly more complicated method would be to get native land in Fargo. To qualify as native land it must be owned by a recognized tribe by the Bureau of Native Affairs managed by the federal government. As of current, there is no significant land owned by a native tribe within the city of Fargo. So the first challenge is to solve that.
To go about that, the most likely answer would be for the city of Fargo to donate public land to one of the tribes indigenous to this area. Upon accepting and registering that donation with the Bureau of Native Affairs, whatever tribe takes over that land could then do with it as they see fit.
To build and finance a casino on this new land, a tribe would almost certainly have to partner with a private enterprise of some sort. Once this partnership is signed then the casino can begin being built.
Sadly, it’s not as simple as that. The reason this has not yet been done is that it would almost certainly involve a whole list of felonies to make it happen. Everything from antitrust laws to native laws would have to be violated, and more than likely a large number of people would go to prison for this.
So really if you want to be able to gamble in the city of Fargo, reach out to your legislators. It’s an election year; they’ll listen. While you’re at it, try to convince them to repeal the remaining blue laws.