National Sports Betting Efforts May Conflict with Tribal Agreements

by Jim Hall

Sports BettingWhile several states would like to see sports betting legalized on a federal level, American Indian tribal agreements may stand in the way.

For some time now, New Jersey has been fighting to see sports betting offered in their state. Legal action has been taken and the case set to be heard by the United States Supreme Court. Other states have joined the battle in support of New Jersey as well as to be able to offer sports betting as well. However, for some states, it seems these efforts may be fruitless as legal experts have pointed out that American Indian tribes gambling agreements may be in conflict.

Tribal Governments Legal Standing

According to Legal Sports Report, as many as 244 tribal governments are in operation based on the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Some tribes have the ability to operate state wide while others are limited to operating casinos, etc. So, essentially the problem is that to expand gambling beyond what is offered by tribal governments under the IGRA could place agreements between tribes and states at risk. Hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue could be lost based on regulatory structure changes.

Legal sports betting on a federal level would most likely be complex and possibly controversial in states where tribal gaming is offered based on the IGRA and commercial gambling is controlled by the state. There are some states that have compacts with tribal interests and gaming is only allowed on tribal lands. This may also cause a problem.

What Would Need To Happen?

If sports betting were to become legal across the board, most tribal officials and state officials would have to come together with regulators to look at compact language. The language of compacts varies from state to state and most would need to make amendments and revise the revenue share agreements.

The Justices of the United State Supreme Court are set to make a decision in regards to the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act by early next year. Several states alongside New Jersey, like Mississippi, Connecticut and Oklahoma has similar laws in place to be able to offer sports betting if a federal change is made.

The latest state to introduce legislation involving sports betting is California. Assemblyman Adam Gray proposed a new measure almost two weeks ago in order to set the state up to offer betting if changes are made. With the constitutional amendment, the state would be able to authorize sports betting if federal law were to allow the activity across the US. A state constitutional amendment already exists that would give tribes in California casino exclusivity.

And of course, there are going to be those who are opposed to any changes in sports betting laws. In California, the California Nations Indian Gaming Association consists of 31 tribes, some that have casinos and some that do not, that are believed to be in opposition of an expansion within the gambling industry of the state. The group is set to meet later on next month. The group wants to see how an expansion of gaming would impact the land based venues.

As we mentioned, changes would require reorganizing of tribal agreements. In California, if Gray’s amendment were to pass, a ton of compacts would have to be reviewed. There are currently 75 in existence in the state.

For now, we will have to wait and see what develops in regards to the decision by the Supreme Court. Will sports betting finally come to fruition across the US? Or will the court decide to uphold the PASPA and bettors will be out of luck once again?