A bipartisan group of Congressmen recently filed a bill to expand opportunities for sports betting on tribal lands. HR 5502, sponsored by Democratic US Rep. Anthony Brindisi was presented in front of Congress last week.
What is the bill all about?
The bill aims “to remove Federal barriers” that prevent online sports betting in tribal areas where the tribes and states have compacts allowing these wagers. The bill was filed last Thursday but its content is not available online yet. It was co-sponsored by Democratic Brian Higgins and Republicans Paul Gosar and John Katko.
Brindisi is from New York where his local district includes lands where Oneida Nation tribes reside. The tribe already runs three casinos in the state. His district also includes Seneca Gaming Corp. casinos in Niagara and Buffalo. Tribal casinos in Oregon, New York, New Mexico, and Mississippi already offer sports betting to users. The state of Michigan will also join the list soon as it has already approved a sports wagering bill, making it the 20th state in the US to do this.
The state of North Carolina will also be added to the list soon. California’s tribal authorities are also planning to hold a referendum to allow sports betting in their race tracks and casinos. Given their financial and political prowess, it is likely that the issue will be taken to referendum.
What do existing laws state?
The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) suggests that all tribal casinos that hold Class III gaming compacts can set up sportsbooks but only in states where sports betting is allowed. To help their cause, the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Indians in the state of Indiana tried to establish a compact with the officials for its South Bend casino.
The federal regulators will be the biggest barrier in this case since they do not interpret the IGRA to allow online gaming, even in tribal areas, with different sovereignty rights. Sports betting attorney Daniel Wallach clarified that the federal officials would need convincing as their interpretation doesn’t open the door for online betting. The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) has not started offering a mobile sportsbook for this reason.
America’s tribal gaming industry has experienced exponential growth in recent years. In the 2018 fiscal, their gross gaming revenue was $33.7 billion, which marked a 4% increase in revenue. Their GGR increased for the third consecutive year last fiscal.