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Pechanga tribe uncertain about legalising sports betting in US

Tribal Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians
Tribal Chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, Marc Macarro.

California’s Pechanga tribe aren’t sold on the benefits that a regulated American sports betting industry could bring.

In fact, the chairman of the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians, Marc Marcarro, has revealed that the projected benefits, discussed at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) last week, have been oversold.

Marcarro spoke at the G2E, where the American Gaming Association (AGA) who is behind the push to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), also discussed the topic.

While AGA has previously reported that the illegal sports betting industry is worth more than $USD150 billion per year, Marcarro stated that the figure is derived from reports performed around 20 years ago.

“We’re all looking at the same limited amount of data, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot there,” he said.

“We need some new studies, we need some analytics, we need something quantifiable.”

Meanwhile, a recent report by Eilers and Krejcik Gaming found that a regulated sports betting industry could be worth more than $6 billion a year, with just over 30 states likely to amend legislation if PASPA is repealed. The report also found that if all 50 states legalised sports betting, it would be worth between $7 and almost $16 billion.

The report also found that the illegal betting industry is likely worth around $50 to $60 billion, a number significantly less than the AGA’s findings.

California is among several other states which have already amended legislation authorising sports betting, should the Supreme Court approve the repeal spearheaded by the state of New Jersey.

But the Pechangas have reportedly gotten in the way of the state attempting to legalise and regulate online poker since they believe one of the biggest online poker sites in the world, PokerStars, should be banned from any future markets. The tribe believes the company should be banned from operating in the state due to its “bad actor” status, which means it continued to accept Americans after the enactment of the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA).

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Marcarro said he wants more research done before tribes make a decision about whether to support any regulatory changes.

He added that his experience with the online poker regulation process has pushed him to question everything when it comes to a gambling expansion.

Marcarro also revealed that he doesn’t believe regulating the sports wagering industry would be beneficial to tribal casinos, which legally operate in America and act as a primary source of revenue for the tribes.

“There were wild estimates out there about the world of liquidity of these things, and by last year [online poker estimates] were down by 75 percent,” he said.

He added that he wouldn’t be surprised if the sports betting operators reported a similar decline in numbers after the initial regulation changes.

He addressed suggestions that sportsbooks attract people to American casinos, stating that the claim remains “anecdotal” and still needs to be proven by proper research.

Convincing American tribes to get on board has been the toughest feat thus far for the American Sports Betting Coalition (ASBC), which is an organisation created by the AGA that is responsible for fighting for the repeal to allow individual states to legalise sports betting.

The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), the independent regulatory body responsible for the country’s tribes, announced it would be supporting the ASBC a few months ago. However, the NIGA then released a statement clarifying that it had joined the group to learn more about the issue and provide a voice for American tribes.