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Sports betting ruling has potential for tribes with casinos

Super Bowl proposition bets are displayed on a board at the Westgate Superbook race and sports book Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Super Bowl proposition bets are displayed on a board at the Westgate Superbook race and sports book Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

American Indian tribes are welcoming an opportunity to offer sports betting in potentially hundreds of casinos across the country after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for states to legalize it.

Tribal casinos generate more than $31 billion a year in gross revenue. While adding sports books isn’t expected to boost that number significantly, tribes say it’s another source to deliver services to tribal members.

“The conversation is always, ‘Why don’t you do like Vegas?’” said Sheila Morago, executive director of the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association. “Everybody always wants to give their customers things they have asked for.”

Many tribes give a share of casino profits to states in exchange for exclusive rights to conduct gambling operations. In Arizona, the state’s share was about $100 million last year.

Some tribes believe agreements with states already give them the right to control sports betting, while others will work out the details through negotiations in compacts that vary in wording state by state.

“It’s going to be important for the tribes that their position as sovereigns and their existing compacts within their states are recognized,” said Valerie Spicer, a co-founder of the consulting firm Trilogy Group. “There’s still a lot of work left to do.”

Nearly 240 tribes operate casinos in more than half of U.S. states under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act or as commercial ventures. Some only have games like bingo or pull tabs that don’t need authorization from states. The majority of the roughly 475 tribal casinos have those games and others like slot machines, blackjack and other table games, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. Sports wagering would fall in the latter category, the commission said.

The U.S. Supreme Court on May 14 struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act on a challenge from New Jersey. The law limited sports betting to four states that met a 1991 deadline to legalize it: Nevada, Delaware, Montana and Oregon.

States now can adopt laws regulating sports betting, though some already have the legal framework in place.

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey saw the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision as a way to modernize tribal gambling compacts and potentially boost revenue to the state. Most of the tribal compacts are up for renewal in 2022.

Greg Jones was visiting a casino run by the Navajo Nation east of Flagstaff this week. He said he used to bet regularly on college football and being able to do it at a tribal casino less than an hour from his home beats traveling to Nevada.

“It’s a big pot,” he said. “Everyone should be able to dip their foot in the pool.”

Tribes in Oklahoma have been trying to get sports betting approved through the state Legislature in the last two sessions but have been unsuccessful, Morago said.

In Connecticut, the Mohegan Tribe said it’s looking forward to working with the state to legalize and regulate sports betting.

Ernie Stevens Jr., chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, said the group has been preparing tribal governments for sports betting with listening sessions outlining internal regulations and negotiations of state gambling compacts. Location and competition would be major factors in tribes’ decisions to add sports betting, he said.

“I don’t believe this is going to take the place of our slot machines, but it’s another amenity we can enjoy and people can have fun with,” he said. “And we want to be able to move forward with the overall industry.”


  1. Ducey wants to “modernize” tribal gaming compacts for exclusive, predatory Class III gaming, and is using the carrot of sports gaming to try and get the tribes to the negotiation table prior to the exploration of ALL 17 “standard form” compacts between 2022-2027. Arizona never should have had compacts. Symington signed the first compacts (’92) noting he was doing so under duress of the IGRA provisions. Those provisions were later found to be unconstitutional (’94-’96), so Fife danced a little jig and was touting “the end of tribal gaming in Arizona”. But in ’96, one audacious tribe east of Scottsdale, with their casino already built but no compact, put “the fairness initiative” on the ballot, which easily passed, giving the Pima Maricopa tribe their “standard form” compact like the other tribes already had. They still had to sue the State to make it happen, because since Statehood Arizona has been a non-gambling state. US Congress required the abolishment of all casinos in the Arizona and New Mexico territories as a condition to statehood. Despite the fact that the State has approved the lottery, dog and horse racing, charitable bingo… the State never wanted or envisioned allowing the predatory slot machine empire to infiltrate our backyards, nor other casino style gambling like blackjack, other pit table games… But the biggest problem we have is that the tribes collectively and effectively used the “private citizens” initiative to “negotiate” with the “Governor” “in good faith” in 2002 with Prop 202… a compact so one-sided it could have only been written by one side, which is was. The poison pill clause needs to be repealed and replaced with the 1993 language, which didn’t abrogate the STate’s sovereign authority and right to regulate poker, daily fantasy sports, sports betting, or ANY type of gaming activity that has gained public acceptance. The tribes usurped our ability to petition our representatives to license and tax cardrooms, or specify that daily fantasy sports are an amusement (See Driggs video on the legislature website a couple years back). We need to have a constitutional referendum to prohibit ANY outside government, quasi-sovereign, or domestic dependent nations, from using the private citizens initiative to “negotiate” any treaty, agreement, contract or compact. Why? Because (a) US Congress intended for good faith negotiation to happen between the tribes and State for Class III gambling, (b) Arizona legislature intended for the “Governor” to have the sole authority to negotiate and execute those compacts on our behalf, (c) we elect our representatives to do these things for us, because we, the general electorate, don’t know squat about Indian law, moribund reservations, case law that gives tribes special privileges and protects them like no other class of citizen, (d) while tribal mouthpieces like Morego and Spicer love to tout the $80M that tribal gaming generates for the State each year, that money goes to a special slush fund created by the tribes thru Prop 202, it’s not general fund money. And it’s based on a laughable 1-8% sliding scale that only sees about 4% of the “Net Win” deposited into that fund each year. Connecticut is on the other end of the spectrum, receiving 25% of slot machine revenue. Arizonans were defrauded by Prop 202. There was no negotiation in the “all or nothing proposal” of Prop 202, which didn’t come from “the tribes”, but rather, the tribal leaders exercising their right to initiate a petition as AZ citizens. Doesn’t that mean that their special protections as tribes are voided, in the very least, doesn’t that mean we were defrauded through omission of this status and what it means? How did signature gatherers petition for sigs on Prop 202? “Want to sign a petition to save/continue tribal gaming in Arizona”? Since the dawn of time, humans have liked to gamble. We don’t want to have to drive 4-5 hours to Vegas to get our slot fix. Let’s relegate it to America’s Killing Fields, and contribute to the ongoing genocide of the Native American cultures and tribes by making them our bookies and shills. Shame on us. Tobacco and Rum and plague laced blankets, forced winter marches wrapped in barbed wire… that wasn’t enough. Now we can sit back and wring our hands and cry “indigenous tribes are killing themselves, drugs, health issues, poverty, alcoholism, pedophilia… what can we do to help them before they disappear completely?

    It’s sad. And shame on us. But that doesn’t change the fact that they pulled a fast one in 2002. The Deuce had better be on his A game and remove the poison pill clause of exclusivity in any new compacts. Amusement gambling events are taxed at ~12%. Shouldn’t the tribes be taxed that same rate WITHOUT exclusivity? Or if they want the exclusivity over Class III gaming, then shouldn’t we be getting sharing more in line with what CT has negotiated? 24% for exclusive Class III gaming Net Win, and 12% for non-exclusive Class II gaming activities, which can ALSO be regulated for non-tribal entities? Poker, Sports Betting, Daily Fantasy Sports… these publicly accepted forms of gambling don’t belong to the tribes. Give them back. Give us back our regulated gambling exclusion.

    Think about how $240M to $450M sounds for education and other needs… versus the paltry $80M we get now.

  2. bradley taylor hudson

    It is good that Indians have a way to recoup some of the losses from broken treaties and centuries of abuse. The problem with getting it from gambling is that it then is paid by poorer people, not the rich who benefited most from abusing Indians. Gambling is just another way to transfer debt and responsibility onto those less able to afford it.

  3. After reading this article, I have two questions:
    1. Where is the Statutes at Large for U.S.C. Title 25-INDIANS?
    2. Where does the $20-billion each year in taxpayer dollars go for these faux federally recognized Indian tribes to support 1.7-million enrolled tribal members?

  4. John Schnaubelt

    Tribes only make $4 for every $10 spent in their casinos. (NIGC stat).

    Gaming revenue is supposed to be used exclusively for tribal governments and public welfare programs on the moribund reservations.

  5. Tribes only make $4 for every $10 spent in their casinos. (NIGC stat).

    Gaming revenue is supposed to be used exclusively for tribal governments and public welfare programs on the moribund reservations.

    Codified here: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/pagedetails.action?packageId=USCODE-2011-title25&granuleId=USCODE-2011-title25-chap29-sec2710

  6. John SChnaubelt May 18, 2018 at 7:30 am. John, if you will do some homework and answer my question posted above, you will discover U.S.C. Title 25-INDIANS does not exist…ergo, the whole “Indian” stuff is a hoax.
    “Where is the Statutes at Large for U.S.C. Title 25-INDIANS?” My simplified question of “Where is the Statutes…” comes from my more lengthy question:
    “Where is the proclamation ratified by the voters of the United States that amends our Constitution to make the health, welfare, safety, benefits, capacities, metes and boundaries of a select group of U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” distinguishable?”

  7. John Schnaubelt May 19, 2018 at 7:12 pm-Tribes only make $4 for every $10 spent in their casinos. (NIGC stat). Gaming revenue is supposed to be used exclusively for tribal governments and public welfare programs on the moribund reservations. Codified here: tps://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/search/pagedetails.action?packageId=USCODE-2011-title25&granuleId=USCODE-2011-title25-chap29-sec2710

    1.Your post is trapped in the same fatal assumption by non-Indian U.S./State citizen that Title 25-INDIANS is Constitutional…it is not; and yet, no one has provided any Statutes at Large for U.S.C. Title 25-INDIANS to prove that U.S.C. Title 25-INDIANS complies with our Constitution.
    2. Where does the $20-billion in taxpayer dollars given every year to a select group of 17-million U.S./State citizens with “Indian ancestry/race” who are enrolled members in faux Indian tribes?

  8. Paul, fatal assumption? No. Vetted in courts, case history, as case law? Yes. Title 25 is as constitutional as Title 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which covers commerce with the Indian Tribes. IS that what you’re having trouble finding? IF not, what isn’t complying with the constitution in your argument? The fact that INDIANS exist as a recognized and protected group? I’m not sure what your argument is, if not Title 25 and Title 1 of the US Constitution. if it’s NOT constitutional (Title 25) or (Title 1) then please, explain to my WHY it is not constitutional in your opinion (1).

    2… where does the $20B go? IGRA requires that tribal gaming revenue is earmarked exclusively for specific purposes related to governance of the tribe by the tribe. You want to know how its spent? Talk to the tribes. Just like you can ask Arizona or the US Government or Mexico or VEnezuala how they spend their taxpayer dollars.

    Unless you can clarify your issue, with a specific complaint… not “Where’s the statute that makes this constitutional”… rather, explain why you don’t think it IS constitutional. That might help me to better explain, or understand, your position. Cuz I think we’re on the same side here.

  9. Paul, here’s a good google search to answer your second question “how do tribes spend gambling revenue”

  10. John Schnaubelt: Nope. The singular question I have posed remains: “Where is the Statutes at Large for U.S.C. Title 25-INDIANS? No one to date has provided an answer to my question including the Arizona judiciary who was presented with this question: “Where is the proclamation ratified by the voters of the United States that amended our Constitution to make the health, welfare, safety and benefits of a select group of U.S./State citizens distinguishable because of their “Indian ancestry/race?” That question was presented to the Arizona Supreme Court and has not been answered.

  11. John Schnaubelt: In a single answer reply to your post: “Paul, fatal assumption? No. Vetted in courts, case history, as case law? Yes. Title 25 is as constitutional as Title 1 of the U.S. Constitution,…” Where is the Statutes at Large for U.S.C. Title 25-INDIANS? is the nullification answer to all of this federal Indian programs…no one has answered it yet in any Article III Court where presented.

  12. John Schnaubelt; I have posted 3-replies over the last 3-days…none have been posted to this article.

  13. Really nice blog ! please keep up good work again.thanks

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  15. Amazing things share by these article .Thanks for sharing .Please keep up good work again…???

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