The Pueblo of Santa Ana launched a sportsbook at the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel in October 2018, becoming the first in New Mexico to do so. Photo: Santa Ana Star

Sports betting moves slowly amid concerns from tribes in several states

A landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door for states to offer sports betting but only a handful have done so amid concerns in Indian Country.

Since the May 2018 ruling, only six states besides Nevada have legalized sports betting, The Associated Press reports. More than 20 others are still debating the issue but a number of key states aren't going to bother until tribes come on board.

“It’s not worth the pain of engaging in a fight with the tribes in their states,” attorney Hilary Tompkins, a citizen of the Navajo Nation who was the first Native woman to serve as Solicitor at the Department of the Interior, told the AP.

As for tribes, it appears only three have joined the industry. The first was the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, later joined by the Pueblo of Santa Ana and the Pueblo of Pojoaque, both based in New Mexico.

Elsewhere, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is supporting sports betting in North Carolina. In Connecticut, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation and the Mohegan Tribe are supporting similar legislation, the AP said.

But sports betting bills in Arizona, Minnesota and Texas are considered non-starters due to tribal concerns, the AP reported. Lawmakers in Oklahoma, California and Florida -- which are home to the largest Indian gaming markets -- haven't introduced bills at all.

Through compacts with states, most tribes have been promised some form of exclusivity to Class III gaming, a category that includes sports betting, along with slot machines, table games and related offerings. Some share revenues with their respective states in exchange for that guarantee.

Tompkins tells the AP that if states “open the door to non-tribal sports betting, the tribes are going to say, ‘We’re going to reduce our revenue to you.’ And that could end up in court.”

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