Native Tribes Across Country Split on Legalized Gambling

Posted on April 30, 2019

Up until recently, a combination of Las Vegas and Native American tribes held a monopoly on the US gambling industry. Last summer, that changed when the US Supreme Court ruled that a previous ban on sports betting was unconstitutional.

In the immediate wake of that decision, states began legalizing and regulating sports betting. While this may sound like an undeniably positive event, not everyone looks at it this way.

Native American tribes who monopolize the casino industry in many states did not take kindly to this decision. The reason for this being that legalized sports betting might mean less visitors, especially if betting is allowed online.

Most tribes have made efforts to stop the legalization of sports betting in states where they own many casinos. Some tribes do support legalization, but only if there are assurances that they can retain their gambling monopoly.

Tribes are Typically in Control

According to the Allentown Morning Callsix states have joined Nevada in offering legalized sports betting since last summer’s decision. It is believed that 20 additional states are looking to follow suit, but progress is often difficult to come by.

Minnesota is a perfect example of this. There is a bill aimed at legalizing sports betting that just made it through  committee, but will likely not go much further. Thanks to intense opposition from Native tribes, it is believed that the bill is as good as dead already.

The tribes claim that their monopoly on gambling is the only viable means of economic growth the tribes have. John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association said it plainly.

He said that gambling

is the only successful economic development tool the tribes have ever had.

Minnesota tribes operate more than 20 casinos and have made millions upon millions in political contributions. What this does is get politicians on their side, fighting for their cause.

This is exactly the type of thing we are seeing in other states as well, where politicians refuse to cross the wishes of a tribe.

With how much revenue legalized sports betting would bring Native casinos, it is interesting that they oppose it so vehemently. If you dig a little bit deeper, it begins to make sense. The fear is not legalized sports betting itself, but rather the idea that this will lead to online sports betting.

Tribes are concerned that if people are able to place bets from their phone, they will have no need for their casinos. While this is mostly conjecture and not proven in the least, it is a fear people are latching onto.

Opposition from Across State Lines

If you go to Texas, the story is a little different but ultimately the same. In Texas there exists a single sports betting bill that is almost certainly going to fail. Rather than it fail thanks to opposition from Texan tribes, tribes from Oklahoma and Louisiana are funding the opposition.

This may seem odd, but makes sense when you dig deeper. Tribal-owned casinos in Oklahoma and Louisiana fear that
legalization of sports betting in Texas might mean less revenue for them.

As a result, they have been donating heavily to Texan politicians and it seems to be paying off.

Not All Tribes Oppose Legal Sports Betting

While it may seem that all Native, casino-owning tribes oppose legal sports betting, that is not true. In New Mexico, for example, two Native-owned casinos began offering sports betting immediately

following the Supreme Court decision. Though they were not given permission from the state, those operations remain in business.

In the Carolinas, the Eastern Bank of Cherokee Indians is supporting a bill that would allow for sports betting at their casinos. The same is true in Connecticut.

Though legalization efforts remain ongoing, this does well to highlight the confusing landscape of sports betting in the US.

In some states, like Pennsylvania, sports betting was legalized in what seemed like a blink of an eye. Other places, as we have just highlighted, seem to be in for long, drawn out legal battles. All things considered, however, it seems as though things are generally moving in the right direction.

Sports betting—legal sports betting—is more widely available now than it ever has been, and that grows
truer by the day.

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Cheryle Kaus

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