A sports betting room in Las Vegas, Nevada, one of the four states where the practice has been deemed legal. Photo: Alan Kotok
Legislation | Litigation

Gaming group promotes tribal interests in Supreme Court sports betting case



Tribal sovereignty is being hindered by a long-running ban on sports betting, the American Gaming Association is telling the nation's highest court.

The Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act bans sports betting except in four states. The federal law, which dates to 1992, unfairly prevents tribes and citizens in the remaining 46 from determining whether they want to regulate the practice, the brief to the U.S. Supreme Court argues.

“The 24-year-old federal ban – which is breathing life into a $150 billion illegal sports betting market — threatens the integrity of games, presents fundamental questions about states’ sovereignty to define their own laws and combat crime within their borders, and prevents fans from engaging with the sports they enjoy in a safe, legal way," Geoff Freeman, the president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association, said in a press release announcing the filing of the brief.

The National Indian Gaming Association hasn't taken a position on sports betting and only a few individual tribes have openly stated their desire to offer sports betting in their territories. But the brief points out that a number of tribes belong to the AGA, whose leaders formed the American Sports Betting Coalition to seek a repeal of the 1992 law.

"In 1992, just a handful of states with Class III Indian casinos were in operation," the brief reads. "Today, tribal gaming is in twenty-eight states across the country and revenues reached near- ly $30 billion last year—an increase of 1,731% from 1992 when total revenues at Class II and III casinos were just $1.63 billion."

The Supreme Court will be hearing a pair of sports betting cases in the fall. The outcome will determine whether the 1992 law is constitutional.

Separately, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey), who has been an ally to tribes on economic development, health care and other initiatives, is drafting a bill to repeal the ban, Dave Palermo reported for Legal Sports Report. He spoke with numerous tribal officials and lobbyists who believe Indian Country might support the legislation.

Sports betting is on the agenda for NIGA's upcoming conference in Phoenix, Arizona. "We will ask some of the sharpest minds in the industry about the earning potential and the $149 billion black market," a description of the September 21 session reads.

Related Stories:
Indian Country warms up to legislation to repeal federal ban on sports betting (August 21, 2017)
National Indian Gaming Association clarifies position on sports betting coalition (August 8, 2017)
National Indian Gaming Association backs effort to legalize sports betting (August 1, 2017)