Northern Arapaho Tribe Pushing Ahead with Wyoming Sports Betting Effort

Posted on: October 23, 2020, 12:35h. 

Last updated on: October 23, 2020, 02:05h.

Wyoming’s Northern Arapaho Tribe is looking to leverage its status as a sovereign entity. This would allow the tribe to bring sports wagering to the Cowboy State.

Wyoming Sports Betting
Riverton, Wy., home of the Wind Star Casino. The tribal operator wants to offer sports betting. (Image: Wyoming Public Media)

The Native American group, which runs the Wind River Hotel & Casino in Riverton, says it answers to federal regulators when it comes to its gaming operations, not the state. As such, the state government in Cheyenne’s approval isn’t required for the tribe to offer sports betting.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe conducts gaming under authorization of the US Department of the Interior, and does not require state approval for sports betting,” according to a statement issued by the tribe.

The Interior Department is the regulatory agency for tribal gaming entities across the US. Northern Arapaho’s approach is clear. Its casino is regulated at the national, not state level. The 2018 Supreme Court ruling on the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) was a federal decision, providing latitude for tribes to proceed with sports betting regardless of state laws.

Wyoming Sports Betting Landscape

By area, the Cowboy State is the tenth-largest in the country. But it’s also the smallest in the lower 48 states with just 579,000 residents.

In other words, Wyoming isn’t the prize to the sports betting industry that some other states are. Additionally, the state isn’t home to any professional sports franchises, and only the University of Wyoming plays FBS football and Division I men’s basketball. Still, Wind River management believes sports betting is something its patrons desire.

If Northern Arapaho is successful in its efforts to launch sports betting, wagers will only be accepted at the casino. There won’t be an online offering, meaning companies such as DraftKings and FanDuel won’t be entering the market anytime soon. The tribe is expected to use International Game Technology’s PlaySports platform. But other than that, there won’t be other partnerships, meaning the tribe keeps a bigger slice of revenue for itself.

Familiar Tactic

Tribes using their federally regulated status to launch sports betting isn’t unheard of. It’s essentially how sports wagering came to life in New Mexico.

The tactic capitalizes not only on tribal sovereignty and the PASPA ruling but also on some states not having laws that explicitly forbid sports wagering, which is the case in New Mexico and Wyoming.

For the Cowboy State, having some form of sports wagering is practical, and it could behoove politicians there to consider more expansive policy because of geographic threats.

A tribe in neighboring North Dakota could use a similar ploy as Northern Arapaho is using to debut sports wagering there. And South Dakota voters could sign off on the activity on Election Day.

Two of Wyoming’s other neighbors — Colorado and Montana — are already on the “live and legal” roster. Meaning that after this year’s elections, the only states sharing borders with Wyoming that won’t have sports wagering are Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah.