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Tribes could pose threat to US sports betting repeal

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The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) has released a statement clarifying its position on sports betting in America.

The group responsible for the interests of gaming tribes joined the American Sports Betting Coalition (ASBC) last week. The American Gaming Association (AGA) created the ASBC to support the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA).

PASPA prohibits sports betting in every state of the USA except Nevada, Montana, Delaware and Oregon.

New Jersey managed to get the Supreme Court to hear its case against the 25-year-old legislation, however. Although it could fail, states and gaming groups are preparing for a successful outcome.

The NIGA Chairman, Ernie Stevens, explained in a statement that the group joined the ASBC to “enhance Indian Country’s seat at the table on this important issue.” He added that the NIGA has “not taken a position on the issue of sports betting legalisation”.

Stevens blamed the media for implying that the NIGA supported the legalisation of sports betting.

“I want to clarify that the NIGA board has not taken a position on the issue of sports betting legalisation,” Stevens said.

“We realise that legalising any new form of gaming, at any level of government, impacts our tribal gaming industry’s economic interests.”

The statement details that NIGA could not take an official position on the nationwide legalisation of sports betting without consulting all member tribes.

The NIGA represents 184 US gaming tribes, and Stevens said the group wants to ensure “tribal interests are protected”.

Steven said that the NIGA wants to avoid “negative impacts on existing tribal-state compacts and exclusivity clauses”.

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Stevens clarified that the NIGA board would discuss sports betting at the Mid-Year Conference and Expo.

“Further, there will be several panel discussions and tribal leader discussions during the mid-year membership meeting and conference.”

Tribes pushing back on sports betting

California is attempting to prepare for a successful outcome in relation to the PASPA repeal by introducing legislation which will in effect legalise sports betting in the state.

But the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), which oversees 31 tribes with and without casinos, is unlikely to support the reforms.

“We have to look at how expansion of gaming will impact our brick-and-mortar casinos, whether it’s sports betting or poker or anything else,” CNIGA Chairman Steve Stallings says.

California Assemblyman, Adam Gray, introduced the sports betting amendments on July 20. The legislation needs approval by two-thirds of the state legislature to get on the ballot and also needs to be supported by the majority of the 75 tribal-state compacts.

“But people like Gray don’t give that any consideration,” Stallings said.

“You wonder where we’re even going with this. It’s premature.

“There’s no thought being given to all these implications.

“There’s been no consultation with anyone in the industry.

“Why do this when there are so many unanswered questions?”

A tribal official revealed that there are over a dozen unique tribal compacts which feature unique provisions that may not tie in with the proposed legislation.

A prominent tribal attorney weighed in on the issue, suggesting the amendments could jeopardise pre-existing agreements.

“It’s not going to be just the tribes, right?” the attorney, who wanted to remain anonymous, asked.

“It’s going to be tribes, the card rooms and racing. That’s expanded gambling in violation of public policy and the compacts.

“Some tribes will say if the state allows sports gambling it will violate their exclusive rights under the compact.

“They’ll perhaps stop making revenue sharing payments to the state.”