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North Dakota Attorney General Powerless to Stop Electronic Casino Bingo

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in North Dakota has plans to pursue a casino to be equipped with electronic bingo, and the state's attorney general's office admitted that his office cannot do anything to stop it.

At present, Turtle Mountain Band officials are pursuing the development of a new casino in the immediate south of Grand Forks. Under the law, the land must first be converted to trust land, a move that falls under the jurisdiction of the tribe.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem informed tribe officials just as much when they decided to seek counsel with him Thursday. "There's not much I could do in my official capacity to prevent a Class 2 casino of the kind they're talking about," the attorney general said, despite his objections to off-reservation gaming. However, he was quick to point out that while he doesn't, the governor still has jurisdiction over the matter. The governor has within his power the right to veto the entire proceedings.

The inclusion of the controversial electronic bingo in the Turtle Mountain Band casino stemmed from the refusal of Gov. John Hoeven to the tribe's request of adding slot machines in the casino. The addition of slot machines would have required an amendment of the state gaming compact, as Class 3 gaming devices --- like slot machines --- are not allowed in the state.

Hoever issued a statement through his legal counsel Duane Houdek that he viewed electronic bingo as basically the same in essence to slot machines. "If you're trying to simulate a casino, to make it look and feel like a casino, it is still an expansion of gambling in the state," Houdek related.

Essentially, this does not change the fact that electronic bingo does not fall under the Class 3 category, and is therefore technically legal by state gaming compact. However, the governor through this statement has made known his political position regarding the electronic bingo matter. He has the within his power the right to stop the Grand Forks casino by exercising his power to veto.

On the other hand however, attorney general's statement has provided the tribal leaders some sort of hope. At present, the tribes already have trust lands near Williston, N.D., and between Minot and Bismarck. The governor does not have the power to veto in the said trust lands, and similarly, the attorney general could not also exercise any power over the electronic bingo machines in these casinos.