The US recently celebrated a major victory in the pursuit of legal sports betting. PASPA, the long-standing federal ban on regulated betting, was struck down after the Supreme Court ruled it unconstitutional. While this opens up a range of domestic sports gambling opportunities, there are many states that must factor in their state-tribal gambling compacts in order to get the ball rolling.
It is estimated that somewhere around 250 gambling tribes, some of which hold exclusive rights to offer some type of gambling. In these situations, states get a cut of the revenue. The tribal casinos are basically untouchable. With sports betting now free game for states, multiple legislators are keen on the opportunity to add it to their revenue stream. However, states with tribal-heavy power in regards to gambling have to include them in any conversations.
There are numerous markets where the tribes are in control of gambling. This means that sports gambling policies would have to fit their needs if there is to be any chance of them passing. Just to be clear, “fit their needs” translates to making them a significant amount of money. Tribes are not about to relinquish their control of the gambling market in order to introduce legal sports betting options.
The truth is that a lot of tribes may need more time to dissect the sports betting situation and figure out what they need. The National Indian Gaming Commission has come out in support of widespread sports betting legalization. They even published a list of conditions regarding their support.
Connecticut is a good example of a state with tribal implications to consider. The Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequot tribes control the Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino, both of which are premier gambling establishments in the state. As per the state tribal compact agreement, both tribes pay 25% of their slot revenue to the state. Both tribes have come out and said they feel sports betting would damage their slot betting revenue and put their contractual payments in jeopardy. Governor Dannell Malloy is ready to mediate any sort of collective bargaining agreement that would suit both the tribes and state lawmakers. Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council Chairman Rodney Butler also came out and said they are ready to deal.
So where does this leave Connecticut? It leaves them in the same situation as other states with Indian tribal gambling compacts—dead in the water until further notice. It already takes time to get legislation through the regular state political chambers. When tribal compacts need to be renegotiated, that window of time expands. It is a good sign that tribes are on board with sports betting. They, like everybody else, want a piece of the action. It is just a matter of figuring out how big that piece is.