Congressmen File Bill That Removes ‘Federal Barriers’ for Tribal Casinos to Launch Online Sports Betting

Posted on: December 24, 2019, 10:19h. 

Last updated on: December 24, 2019, 11:06h.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers filed a bill last week in Congress that would expand sports betting opportunities on tribal lands.

Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong places the first bet at the Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino’s retail sportsbook earlier this month. Four Congressmen are sponsoring legislation that would clear hurdles for tribal casinos to offer online sports betting. (Image: Michael Mroziak/

H.R. 5502, sponsored by U.S. Rep Anthony Brindisi (D-New York), seeks “to remove Federal barriers” against online sports betting in tribal areas where state and Indian officials have a compact allowing such wagers.

The complete text of Brindisi’s bill, which was filed on Thursday, was not available online Tuesday.

The bill already has three cosponsors: US Reps. John Katko (R-New York), Brian Higgins (D-New York), and Paul Gosar (R-Arizona).

Brindisi’s New York district includes lands where the Oneida Nation resides in central New York. The tribe runs three casinos in the state. Higgins’ district includes two Seneca Gaming Corp. casinos in Buffalo and Niagara.

Tribal Sports Betting Snapshot

Tribal casinos in Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, and Oregon currently offer sports betting. Michigan may soon join the list, as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed a sports wagering bill into law last week. North Carolina passed legislation earlier this year allowing its tribal casinos to offer sports betting.

Tribal authorities in California are pursuing a referendum that would allow sports betting at their casinos and at race tracks in the state.

Per the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), tribal casinos with Class III gaming compacts in states where sports betting is allowed can set up sportsbooks. That’s why, earlier this year, officials from the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians started discussions with Indiana officials about establishing such a compact for the tribe’s casino in South Bend.

However, as sports betting attorney Daniel Wallach noted on Twitter earlier this week, federal regulators do not interpret the IGRA as allowing online gaming, even within its sovereign areas.

As a result, according to the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), no tribal gaming authority has started offering mobile sports betting.

Tribal gaming is an industry that has seen steady growth in recent years. In fiscal year 2018, the casinos reported combined gross gaming revenues of $33.7 billion, the third straight year revenues increased by four percent. While gaming executives do not see retail sportsbooks as big revenue generators, they claim that brick-and-mortar sportsbooks do help attract a new, younger clientele to their establishments.

Adding online sport betting apps would allow the tribal venues to tap into the same revenue streams that commercial casinos in such states as New Jersey, Iowa, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Nevada have available to them. In some states, the handle from mobile sports betting far outpaces retail wagering.

Kambi, Seneca ‘Ready’ for Online

The Oneida tribe offers sports betting through an agreement reached with Caesars Entertainment. The Seneca tribe has a partnership with Kambi Group plc.

When Kambi and Seneca announced their partnership last month, Max Meltzer, Kambi’s chief commercial officer, told that while the agreement included mobile, there were still some issues that need to be addressed before they could release the online sports betting app.

We’re awaiting the passage of enabling legislation before a mobile and online offering can go live,” he said. “Needless to say, we will be ready when it does.”

Seneca Gaming opened its first retail sportsbook at its Buffalo Creek Casino on Dec. 13. Four days later, the company celebrated the opening of its brick-and-mortar lounge at the Allegany Resort and Casino. This Friday, the company plans to open its third and final sportsbook at its Niagara Resort and Casino.