Tribes remain variable in push for legal sports betting
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American Gaming Association To Make Its Sports Betting Pitch To Tribes At Conference

AGA sports betting pitch
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A rollout of legal sports betting in many states will take the cooperation of gaming tribes. The American Gaming Association will hope to bring more of them on board with that effort at the National Indian Gaming Association conference on Thursday.

The AGA, sports betting and tribes

Sports betting was already set to be a major topic of conversation at this week’s gathering in Phoenix of tribes that offer land-based gaming around the country.

But one panel on Thursday — Sports Betting in the U.S.: What it Means for Tribal Gaming — will bring the issue into clearer focus. It features a representative of AGA and the NIGA chairman, Ernie Stevens Jr.

NIGA earlier announced that it had joined the American Sports Betting Coalition in its push to repeal the federal ban on sports wagering, PASPA. But Stevens later clarified that his group did not universally back a repeal of the federal law, but instead joined the group to “monitor” its progress and provide a tribal perspective.

At Thursday’s panel, the AGA said it would “discuss how the two organizations can continue to work together to overturn the failing federal ban on sports betting” in a media advisory.

Tribes figuring out what they want to do on sports betting

The conference comes at a key juncture for sports betting in the US and tribes’ place in the future.

A decision in the US Supreme Court New Jersey sports betting case looms in 2018. New Jersey could win, with the federal ban being struck down as unconstitutional. If that happens, it leaves an uncertain landscape of how states will attempt to deal with it.

Of course states can leave a ban in place, but many jurisdictions with casino gaming and lotteries will eye legalization. If they do, tribes are trying to figure out how they fit in, and how it would work under federal tribal gaming law. Indeed, implementation in states with tribal gaming could be tricky.

The best argument for tribes embracing sports betting…

It’s going on anyway. Offshore online sportsbooks easily access the US market despite the federal ban.

This has been the AGA’s core argument for ending the federal ban that doesn’t really ban sports betting at all. All the “prohibition” really does is stop US companies from getting into the sports betting business. And it prevents state and tribal governments from realizing the revenue and opportunity that sports betting offers.

Of course, the same argument has not always resonated in states with tribal gaming that have also considered online poker and casino regulation.

Thursday’s panel will be a step toward tribes figuring out how they want to address the possibility of sports betting in their states.

Dustin Gouker
- Dustin Gouker has been a sports journalist for more than 15 years, working as a reporter, editor and designer -- including stops at The Washington Post and the D.C. Examiner.
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