Tribal Casino Operators Cautiously Support Federal Sports Betting Ban Repeal

Posted on: May 16, 2018, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: October 5, 2018, 12:13h.

Numerous tribal casino operators say they want in on the game of sports betting after the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) repealed the longstanding federal ban this week.

tribal casino sports betting PASPA
National Indian Gaming Association Chairman Ernest Stevens is directing his tribal casino members to fight for their sports betting rights. (Image:

On Monday, SCOTUS issued its opinion that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) is out of bounds with the Constitution on anti-commandeering interpretations of the Tenth Amendment. That means states like New Jersey, which brought the appeal, are now free to dictate their own sports betting rules.

Under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), federally recognized tribes are permitted to operate Class I and II gaming on their sovereign land. But for the all-important Class III games (slot machines, table games), the Native American groups must enter into operational compacts with their respective states.

Associated Press writer Felicia Fonseca spoke with various Indian groups and gaming commissions, and the general consensus was that the majority support SCOTUS’ repeal of the sports betting ban.

“The conversation is always, ‘Why don’t you do like Vegas?'” Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Sheila Morago explained. “Everybody always wants to give their customers things they have asked for.”

Revised Compacts

Class I and II gaming under IGRA bestows few gaming options that would attract much of a crowd. The two classifications include games like bingo, punch boards, and pull tabs.

Class III is a broad definition that includes everything not in I and II. It’s also where sports betting falls.

Before tribal casinos can presumably build and operate sportsbooks, they’ll need to first revisit their state gaming compacts. According to the AP, nearly 240 tribes operate about 475 gaming locations across the country.

“I don’t believe this is going to take the place of our slot machines, but it’s another amenity we can enjoy and people can have fun with,” National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Chairman Ernest Stevens opined. “And we want to be able to move forward with the overall industry.”

Connecticut’s Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Indians, both of which are NIGA members, have said they’ll seek sports betting authorization from the state.

But in Arizona, Governor Doug Ducey (R) said he would support allowing the state’s 55 off-track betting facilities to operate sports betting. Lawmakers in California have hinted that they might motion to ask voters whether they want to allow Indian casinos, as well as cardrooms and parimutuel facilities, to operate sportsbooks.

“Expansion of gaming is a slippery slope,” Steve Stallings, chairman of the California Indian Gaming Commission asserted. “Tribes feel like they have somewhat an exclusivity. When the state or other interests violate that, then tribes are concerned.”

Tribal Demands

The NIGA, an 184-member coalition that seeks to protect and preserve tribal sovereignty and economic self-sufficiency, recently adopted a resolution that sets out various directives for tribes to use in negotiating their sports betting rights.

The Native American group says principles that “must be included in any proposed legislation” contain regulations that assure sports betting revenue at tribal facilities not be subjected to taxation.

The NIGA has called on its members to support the repeal of PASPA so long as new legislation, whether on the federal or state level, protects Indian gaming rights.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, as well as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, are calling on Congress to set federal regulatory guidelines for sports betting in the wake of the SCOTUS decision. The two powerful sports execs favor a national framework over a state-by-state approach, which Silver said would be a “hodgepodge of regulations.”