Casino-operating tribes influence sports Gambling debate

Native American tribes have emerged as key players in the debates over whether states should legalize sports together with some opposing the idea since it may threaten others and their casinos supporting legalization but only as long as they retain a monopoly.

In many countries, tribes are fighting with sports gambling or taking a go-slow approach since they fear it may induce them to reopen decades-old agreements that give them exclusive rights to run casinos and offer forms of betting.

“The tribes have a major-league chair at the desk,” said Bill Pascrell III, a lobbyist for gaming interests that are seeking legalized sports gambling throughout the country.

Six states have joined Nevada in permitting sports gambling since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year opened the door to its expansion. Legalization has been considered in more than 20 others.

Back in Minnesota, a bill seeking to legalize sports cleared its first hurdle before this year, passing a committee in the state Senate. But that’s likely to be as far as it belongs, in large part as it is opposed by the state tribes.

Gambling”is the only powerful economic development tool the tribes’ve had,” John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association, told the committee.

The tribes, that operate 21 casinos and have millions in campaign donations, are especially concerned about allowing sports gambling on mobile devices, that they fear could invite wider net gambling that could threaten their own casinos.

In Texas, the sport is almost sure to expire. It was released by a Democrat, the minority party, at a state where casino operators from Louisiana and Oklahoma have donated tens of thousands to keep betting out. Two Oklahoma tribes have given more than $5 million to Texas officeholders and candidates.

Sports gambling measures and Washington state are also known as longshots, mainly due to opposition or tribal ambivalence.

In some states where tribal gaming is prevalent, sports gambling bills have never been introduced. That is true in Oklahoma, as well as California and Florida, which are still home.

But elsewhere, casino-operating tribes are the ones leading the legalization efforts.

Even the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes have rights to casino gaming and are operating together with the governor’s office to include sportsbooks. Sportsbooks that were running were begun by The two casinos in New Mexico even though the tribes received explicit permission.

Back in North Carolina, a bill pushed by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians would allow the tribe to provide betting online and horse races at its casino near Great Smoky Mountains National Park, without forcing it to create any substantial concessions.

The law has so far sailed through committees in the state Senate, although conservative religious groups have cautioned about the risks of gambling. The tribe is among the state’s top political contributors.

“They have been incredibly excellent stewards of the revenue, and it’s changing that community,” he explained.

Like other successful interest groups, tribes make sure they have access through gifts to lawmakers and governors. Governments have donated more than $114 million to political committees and candidates over the past decade, based on an Associated Press analysis of information.

In certain countries, such as California, letting sports would call for a constitutional change. That and reluctance usually means that the NBA’s Sacramento Kings will have to wait possibly indefinitely, allowing the group dedicated for that goal inside the Golden 1 Center stadium to gaming in a bundle.

Arizona is the case of a country where tribes will be the critical players in the legalization argument but are on opposite sides.

The Navajo Nation is pushing for a step that would provide tribes the exclusive right to run sports gambling off their reservations in exchange for sharing winnings with the state. Tribes could place betting kiosks in clubs and non-tribal pubs.

But Arizona tribes oppose the laws, saying it could hurt casinos online reservations.

Lawmakers in many states aren’t eager to drive the matter from tribes without assistance, said Hilary Tompkins.

“It’s not worth the pain of participating in a fight with all the tribes within their states,” Tompkins said. If nations”open the doorway to non-tribal sports gambling, the tribes will say,’We are going to lower our revenue for you.’ And that may wind up in court”

Minnesota state Sen. Roger Chamberlain, chairman of the tax committee that passed this season’s sports betting bill, acknowledged that it will be nearly impossible for the step to succeed without backing in the tribes.

“They’ve got momentum and so are telling folks they don’t want it to go anywhere,” he explained. “I believe that is a little unfair, but we’re prepared to converse with them and guard their interests.”


Mulvihill reported in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.


Follow Karnowski at and Mulvihill in