- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 20, 2019

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s Republican-led House reconsidered and passed legislation Wednesday that would allow legal betting on college and professional sports, reflecting a relaxation of anti-gambling attitudes in recent years in the highly conservative state.

The bill got the support of representatives Wednesday morning but fell two votes short of the 48 needed for approval. The measure passed 52-38 on a second vote in the afternoon, before lawmakers were set to adjourn for their midsession break.

It now heads to the GOP-controlled Senate for consideration.

A separate bill that would allow gambling on professional sports only was defeated by a wide margin Wednesday.

North Dakota is one of many states attempting to capitalize on the U.S. Supreme Court’s lifting last year of a federal ban on sports gambling. Legislatures in Nevada, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island already have legalized sports betting. And several states have pre-filed sports betting bills for early 2019, including Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia.

Backers said sports betting would generate needed revenue for charitable causes and the state, including its compulsive gambling treatment program.

Jamestown Republican Rep. Bernie Satrom, during debate on the House floor, said the measure will not allow the state to “gamble our way to prosperity.”

West Fargo Republican Rep. Michael Howe said North Dakotans already are placing sports bets online.

“It’s already occurring in North Dakota,” Howe said. “Let’s keep that money in North Dakota for charities, addiction services and tax revenue.”

Minot GOP Rep. Dan Ruby said the measure was an expansion of gambling in North Dakota, and “yet one more way for people to become addicted.”

A provision to fund counseling for compulsive gamblers in the bill is a feeble attempt to “alleviate the problem we are going to exacerbate,” Ruby said.

North Dakota residents have changed their opinion of gambling over the years. Voters decisively approved a statewide lottery in 2002 after rejecting three lottery measures during the previous 12 years. Along with charitable gambling - pull-tab tickets, bingo cards, blackjack and other games - it’s become a quarter-billion dollar annual industry.

The House earlier this month passed legislation that would allow betting on previously recorded horse races, a move opponents said would effectively open the door to casino gambling because the machines run fast like regular slots and can be as addictive.

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