NEW TOWN - The Three Affiliated Tribes is planning to offer riverboat gambling on Lake Sakakawea.
Tex Hall, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said the tribes would be the first in the state to offer this type of gambling. He said the Spirit Lake Nation already has it in its compact but has not offered it to patrons.
Hall met July 27 with state and other tribal officials at their initial negotiation meeting for new gaming compacts for the Three Affiliated Tribes and other tribes.
Hall asked that riverboat gambling be added to the new compact for the Three Affiliated Tribes.
The Three Affiliated Tribes' current compact expires in December, said Glenda Embry, public relations officer for the Three Affiliated Tribes.
"With the oil boom and increased economics, our customers and patrons are asking for it. Along with the beautiful Lake Sakakawea, a riverboat gambling and dinner cruise is another feature that 4 Bears Casino could offer along with the new hotel and restaurant expansion," Hall said Tuesday.
The plan is the riverboat would stop at recreation areas from the 4 Bears area to Charging Eagle Bay, Embry said. She said the riverboat would make stops picking up customers along the way.
4 Bears is the casino and lodge that the Three Affiliated Tribes owns and operates west of New Town and is located at the north part of the Fort Berthold Reservation. Charging Eagle Bay is in the south part of the reservation in the Twin Buttes area. The tribes have owned and operated the 4 Bears Casino & Lodge since the early 1990s.
Jerod Tufte, Gov. Jack Dalrymple's legal counsel, said the Three Affiliated Tribes were the only tribe with a change to the riverboat gambling provision.
He said the existing compacts allowed the Spirit Lake Tribe to conduct gambling on Devils Lake but, to his knowledge, that tribe has never done that.
"The argument that Tex made to the governor was essentially one of fairness," Tufte said. He said Hall pointed out if one tribe is able to do it, then they should have similar treatment for another tribe.
Tufte said after the meeting he made the changes to the compacts that were agreed upon, and some minor and technical changes as well. "Those drafts went out to the tribes this morning (Monday)," Tufte said.
He said tribal officials will need to review the drafts and then present them to the tribal councils.
Tufte said the riverboat gambling on Fort Berthold "is limited to the boundaries of the Fort Berthold Reservation. "(The)Current compact allows for trust lands within the reservation and this simply allows them on any navigable waters within the reservation they can conduct the same gaming," he said.
He said the language used is the exact language Spirit Lake Nation already has in its compact.
Hall said the riverboat would be a once in a lifetime experience for customers. He said it would allow customers an opportunity to enjoy the splendid views and panoramic scenes of the area while they dine and enjoy a cocktail before beginning a night of gambling under the stars.
Hall said they hope to get the final language approved as soon as possible so tribal officials can begin to look at riverboats that fit the area.
Tufte said it will be at least a month before the documents are reviewed and then signed by the chairmen and the governor.