Inside The New Tribal Sports Betting Bill In Congress

Posted on December 24, 2019

A New York Congressman has introduced legislation regarding sports betting, and Legal Sports Report obtained the text of the bill that has not been previously released.

But the bill is not the kind of sweeping sports betting regulation that has garnered some chatter on Capitol Hill in recent years.

Instead, it’s a more narrowly tailored bill aimed at clearing up potential issues with online sports betting as it relates to Native American tribes.

What the tribal sports betting bill says

The bill — HR 5502 — was introduced last week by Rep. Anthony Brindisi, but the text of the bill has not yet been posted on Congress’ website.

Legal Sports Report obtained a copy of the legislation; you can see the bill here.

The long title of the bill explains its purpose:

To remove Federal barriers regarding the offering of mobile sports wagers on Indian lands when the applicable State and Indian Tribe have reached an agreement, and for other purposes.

The mechanics of the bill are quite simple, defining how an online bet would intersect with federal law — the IGRA:

For purposes of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (25 U.S.C. 2701 et seq.) only, a sports wager made through an interactive sports wagering platform shall be deemed to be made at the physical location of the server or other computer equipment used to accept the sports wager.

The bill goes on to state that a wager takes place entirely on tribal lands if:

(1) the person placing the sports wager and the server or other computer equipment through which the sports wager is accepted are in the same State; and

(2) the applicable State and Indian Tribe have entered into a Tribal-State compact under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act authorizing the placing of sports wagers through interactive sports wagering platforms.

Why is the bill needed?

It’s not entirely clear that the bill would be needed for tribes to offer online sports betting, but it would certainly clarify how tribes can participate.

Some believe that online betting taking place on servers existing on Indian lands fits the language of the IGRA; however, this new legislation would make that abundantly clear.

The bill could help smooth out potential issues in states where tribes support sports betting but have IGRA concerns.

Brindisi, for his part, represents the district that includes Turning Stone Resort, operated by the Oneida Indian Nation. That likely means the Oneida think this bill would allow them to offer statewide online betting.

New York has not yet legalized online sports betting, but physical NY sportsbooks are legal at the state’s commercial and tribal casinos.

More on tribes and sports gambling

Not much has been done at the intersection of tribes and online betting so far.

  • Michigan, which just legalized sports betting, allows tribes to participate in statewide online wagering as commercial operators under the new law.
  • In Oregon, tribes can potentially move into online sports betting because the state’s lottery has launched an app. However, tribes and the state of Oregon appear to believe that online betting conducted by tribes must take place only when a bettor is physically on tribal land.
  • There are tribes in New Mexico and Mississippi offering sports betting, but only at casinos.
  • California has considered legalizing online poker going back more than a decade, but has never passed legislation.

Here’s more on tribal compacts and sports betting.

Other Congressional efforts on sports betting

Potential legislation from Sens. Chuck Schumer and Mitt Romney has not yet surfaced.

A new report also indicated that another senator was working on a bill that would create an agency that would deal with wagering and amateur athletes.

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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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