Thanks to the oil-fracking industry, North Dakota in the 2010s is experiencing a Gold Rush-like wave of population growth for the first time in its history. Unemployment is virtually non-existent in most areas of the state, both old folks and newcomers find themselves with lots more disposable income, and bursting of this natural-resource bubble seems far away. U.S. history has shown us that these are the optimal conditions for the rise of gambling activity.
Against this boom trend, however, is North Dakota’s low population, lack of metropolitan areas and major markets for top-level sports. While massive spikes in population have proved sustainable in some bits of America such as California and Colorado, the truth is that, for every Denver there’s a Deadwood, for every Florida, there’s a Nome.
Whichever way this state goes when the fracking boom is over (likesay, 2025) will certainly shape betting on football in North Dakota.
Betting in North Dakota
North Dakota was carved out of the settler-occupied Dakota Territory and incorporated into the U.S. as a state in 1889. Entering the ‘’States at a point in time of high anti-gambling sentiment thus colored North Dakota laws on gambling for the first 90 years or so of its statehood. Illegalized from the start were all games of chance until the 1970s, as North Dakota legislators followed the conservative path of nearly every state.
Though regulations for pari-mutuel betting were introduced into law in the 1930s, North Dakota has never had an outstanding thoroughbred racing industry; this continues to this day. For example, the state’s two race tracks – the Chippewa Downs and the ND Horse Park – offered a combined 14 live race dates in 2017.
In 1976, charity gaming and bingo were allowed, but the real change to gambling in North Dakota came in ’88 with the passage of the Indian Gaming and Regulatory Act (IGRA), a federal law allowing casinos and bingo halls to be established on Native American reservation land. By 1992, five tribes had signed compacts with the state government. In 2013, further expansion of the compacts led to establishment of all types of bingo and casino gaming in Native American-run casinos, including poker – though the cap on this game is $25 per hand.
At this time, state law additionally provided for the licensure of casinos on non-reservation land in North Dakota, beginning with (as is usual) installation of hundreds of games at the state’s two race tracks. Wagering on simulcast horse-racing events at these sites was also legalized, followed thereafter by OTB sites. Daily fantasy football and other sports betting is legal as well.
Football in North Dakota
NFLbets supposes you’ve heard of Carson Wentz, he who after, likesay, 1¾ seasons, has won over Philadelphia Eagles fans, any North Dakotan worth his or her salt, NDSU alums and much of the media and blogosphere judging by the general hype. (On the other hand, have you seen his replacement for the 2017 playoffs, Nick Foles? So, ah, yeah.)
Just how the injury thing plays out for Wentz remains to be seen, but ol’ Carson certainly could be on the path to heading up (so to speak) North Dakota’s Mount Rushmore of sports heroes. Born in North Carolina but raised from three years old in Bismarck, all Wentz would do in high school was graduate top of his class, while playing DB and QB on the football team, plus baseball and basketball when possible.
No surprise that the pride of North Dakota high-school sports would go on to play ball for the very pride of North Dakota football itself: The NDSU Bison, soon to become known as a dominant force in FCS football in the 21st century. Wentz redshirted his first season in what would be championship win no. 1 of five consecutive for the Bison. In his two seasons as a starter – the second interrupted by a broken wrist – his record was 20-3, including 2-0 in FCS championship games.
Hearing of the five consecutive titles would lead one to believe that the present is quite the unprecedented golden age for NDSU Bison football, but twice before has NDSU dominated their level such as in the Wentz days. From 1965 to ’69 dude, the Bison won three second-division titles, including back-to-back titles under future New England Patriots head coach Ron Erhardt. And from 1983 to ’90, NDSU won a ridiculous five Division II championships. Through the 2017 season, the Bison have garnered 13 Division II/FCS titles, six of which capped undefeated seasons.
And the glory of the Bison hardly stops with Wentz, either: In week 1 of 2016, an Omaha-born junior named Easton Stick was at the helm when NDSU became just the fifth lower-division school to beat a top 20-ranked FBS-level team by shocking the Iowa Hawkeyes in Iowa City, 23-21.
Nevertheless, the high-profile rise of Wentz coincides nicely with the emergence of NDSU as not merely a Division I-A/FCS football power, but a school capable of producing NFL-ready players; heck, the CFL’s been bringing over Bison alum for 25-some years now, and, up through Wentz, 18 Bison have played in more than one NFL season.
Betting on Football in North Dakota
Now this is the big question. Normally in a boom time in America, local politicos and/or hustlers get to work in promoting the possibilities of betting – in their own divergent ways, of course. The current wave of near-total employment and influx into North Dakota would imply, given the history of gambling in most states, that “vice” industries in general would see an uptick in the 2010s.
And yet, after the expansion of the law itself in 2013, a massive increase in casino venues has not been seen, perhaps due to the relatively disproportionate amount of gambling outlets to citizenry: In this 47th-most populous state, 14 outlets offer any combination of casino games, horse racing, poker and more. About the only form of gambling not freely allowed at North Dakota casinos and racetracks is sports betting…
Tell you what, though: With its network of OTB outlets already in place, North Dakota can certainly claim to be one of the few states with the infrastructure in place to allow traditional betting on football nearly immediately.
So let’s see … Economic opportunity, a dominant local football team and the seeming willingness to decriminalize betting on football? Sounds like North Dakota may be a great place to live in the 2020s – if you can stand the winters.