A view of the gaming floor at ilani, the gaming facility owned by the Cowlitz Tribe in Ridgefield, Washington. Photo: ilani

Tribes continue to weigh impact of Supreme Court ruling on sports betting

Tribes across the nation are welcoming the opportunity to engage in sports betting following a landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme Court even as legal and policy issues remain unresolved.

Some, like the Oneida Nation in New York, are already moving forward in states where sports betting is legal. But others must wait before taking action, because they games they offer are often linked to state law.

“Obviously we’re encouraged at the opportunity, but it’s very early right now.” Muscogee (Creek) Nation Casinos CEO Pat Crofts told Mvskoke Media, the tribe's news service.

The Muscogee (Creek) Nation might not have to wait too long to move forward. Lawmakers in Oklahoma are expected to take up sports betting in 2019, CNHI News Service reported.

“We’d be naïve if we didn’t believe that sports betting is already happening within our borders right now,” Oklahoma State Sen. Greg Treat (R), who serves as the Majority Floor Leader in the Oklahoma Senate, told CNHI.

Indianz.Com on SoundCloud: Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association- U.S. Supreme Court - December 4, 2017

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act authorizes tribes to offer the same types of games that are legal in a state. But provisions in existing Class III gaming compact might not automatically cover sports betting so amendments would be needed.

"It's going to be important for the tribes that their position as sovereigns and their existing compacts within their states are recognized," Valerie Spicer, a consultant who is the former executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association, told The Associated Press. "There's still a lot of work left to do."

Class III gaming usually means revenue sharing. States are often eager to tap into tribal gaming proceeds and it's likely that they will pressure tribes for a cut as sports betting becomes more prevalent.

In exchange, tribes often demand some form of exclusivity. Otherwise, the entire premise of a Class III gaming compact is undermined.

"Expansion of gaming is a slippery slope," Steve Stallings, the chairman of the California Nations Indian Gaming Association told the AP. "Tribes feel like they have somewhat an exclusivity to it. When the state or other interests violate that, then tribes are concerned."


The Supreme Court's decision in Murphy [Christie] v. NCAA and New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc. v. NCAA held that the federal government cannot engage in "commandeering" when it comes to states. That is, they cannot force a state to act in a particular way when federal law has not directed an outcome.

The court determined that the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA), which purported to outlaw sports betting, didn't actually do so, especially since it carved out exceptions -- most notably for Nevada.

“We’re watching and waiting. We’ll work with other tribes, and we’ll have to chart out a path and see where it goes,” Chairman Bill Iyall of the Cowlitz Tribe told The Columbian. The tribe's ilani gaming resort celebrated its first anniversary last month.

Read More on the Story:
Legislation to legalize sports betting expected in 2019 (CNHI News Service May 18, 2018)
Court ruling paves way for legalized gambling in Va. (The Winchester Star May 17, 2018)
U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of sports gambling (Mvskoke Media May 16, 2018)
Sports Betting Ruling Has Ripples for US Tribes With Casinos (The Associated Press May 16, 2018)
ilani looks at sports betting (The Columbian May 15, 2018)
Oneida Tribe unsure if it will pursue sports betting following Supreme Court ruling (The Green Bay Press-Gazette May 15, 2018)

Some Opinions:
Editorial: Supreme Court ruling opens the door to legalized sports casino gambling in Oklahoma (The Tulsa World May 16, 2018)
Mike McFeely: Step right up and place your bets — soon (The Jamestown Sun May 15, 2018)

U.S. Supreme Court Decision in Murphy v. NCAA:
Syllabus | Opinion | Concurrence [Thomas] | Concurrence / Dissent [Breyer] | Dissent [Ginsburg]

Supreme Court Documents:
Oral Argument Transcript: Christie v. NCAA / New Jersey Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association, Inc. v. NCAA (December 4, 2017)

Related Stories:
Oneida Nation already lining up sports betting after Supreme Court ruling (May 15, 2018)
Supreme Court opens the door for sports betting for states and for tribes (May 14, 2018)
Cronkite News: Supreme Court decision could open doors to legalized sports betting (May 2, 2018)
Supreme Court takes up sports betting case whose outcome could impact tribes (December 4, 2017)
Gaming group promotes tribal interests in Supreme Court sports betting case (September 5, 2017)
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)

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