National Indian Gaming Association advances position on legal sports betting
Legal Sports Report

National Tribal Group Passes Resolution To Support Sports Betting Repeal, With Caveats

NIGA sports betting

Tribal casinos recently took their most significant step to date in support of legalized sports betting throughout the United States.

The board and membership of the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) last week adopted a resolution in support of legalized sports betting. The resolution, though, comes with a set of qualifications seeking to protect existing agreements and future interests for tribal casinos.

Even this represents a big move for the tribes, which as recently as January sounded conflicted on next steps. The shift to cautious backing of a full or partial repeal of PASPA — the ban on single-game wagering in the US outside of Nevada — came slowly for tribal gaming interests.

Getting everyone on the same page took time and cooperation

Tribal government casinos operate under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), which allows them regulatory authority over their businesses. That law requires tribes and states to enter into agreements laying out the terms of the operation.

Sports betting could present a more complicated situation. Obviously, tribes will need to decide whether to wade into the legal thicket of federal and state sports betting laws. They also could face fresh competition from newly legal operations in some states, depending on how laws are enacted in places with both tribal and commercial gaming.

Overall, NIGA chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. said “we want to be a part of it,” according to a CDC Gaming Reports article. That statement came during NIGA’s trade show in Las Vegas. Of course, tribal gaming interests vary widely on how much that’s true. While some of the largest tribes seem to be on board, tribes in more rural areas could be classified as opponents of legalization in the past.

This begins to align NIGA more closely with the American Gaming Association after some friction between the groups last year. That trouble stemmed from an AGA-affiliated website advocating a sports betting ban repeal that appeared to favor states’ rights over tribal interests. The AGA edited the site following criticism from some of the nation’s roughly 250 tribes that operate casinos.

NIGA offered the full resolution to Legal Sports Report (here) but offered no further comment.

What the tribes want in any sports betting framework

NIGA’s resolution lays out nine asks in exchange for its backing:

  • Tribes must be acknowledged as governments with authority to regulate gaming
  • Tribal government sports betting revenues will not be subject to taxation
  • Customers may access tribal government sports betting sites as long as sports betting is legal where the customer is located
  • Tribal rights under the IGRA and existing tribal-state gaming compacts must be protected
  • IGRA should not be opened up for amendments
  • Tribal governments must receive a positive economic benefit in any federal sports betting legalization proposals
  • Indian tribes possess the inherent right to opt in to a federal regulatory scheme to ensure broad-based access to markets
  • Tribal governments acknowledge the integrity and protection of the game and patron protections for responsible gaming are of the utmost importance
  • Any consideration of the use of mobile, online or internet gaming must adhere to these principles

A US Supreme Court decision in the New Jersey sports betting case — which could open up wagering in other states — could come before the end of the month, or as late as June.

Adam Candee
- Adam Candee covers sports business and news from Las Vegas. Adam is a former editor and reporter at the Las Vegas Sun, Arizona Daily Sun and KLAS-TV.