Native Tribes Fight for Their Share of Sports Betting

“State officials from California to Connecticut spent last week maneuvering for control of the tens of billions of dollars in projected revenue from sports betting, and joining them was another group of powerful, and familiar, gambling operators aiming to claim their piece of the action: American Indian tribes.” Draper, Arango, and Blinder, The New York Times

Kevin Brown (left) chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, and Rodney Butler (rt.) chairmen of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council. The Boston Globe.jpeg

Excerpt: Indian Tribes Dig In To Gain Their Share Sports Betting  K. Draper, T. Arango, and  A. Blinder, The New York Times

“For three decades, federal legislation has allowed the tribes to operate casinos dominated by slot machines and blackjack tables. Now, after a groundbreaking Supreme Court decision cleared the way for states to allow betting on sports, industry experts say what may become a yearslong fight over control of sports betting will hinge on the fine print of a series of gaming agreements between state governments and Indian tribes.

In Connecticut, for example, where two federally recognized tribes, the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe and the Mohegan Tribe, operate the hugely successful Foxwoods Resort Casino and the Mohegan Sun, leaders of the organizations have insisted they alone have the legal authority to offer sports betting, according to their compacts with the state. They say the state may incur a steep penalty if it violates those agreements…

Rodney Butler, chairman of the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Council, said he had met with state legislators and representatives of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to begin negotiations. ‘We have said, ‘We want to work with you,’ Mr. Butler said. ‘Let’s work out an arrangement.’

With billions of dollars at stake, such discussions are likely to represent some of the sharpest negotiations between the tribes and government officials since 1988, when Congress passed the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. That legislation allowed federally recognized Indian tribes to offer casino-style games like slot machines, blackjack and roulette on tribal land. There are now 238 tribes in 28 states offering some form of gaming, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. Betting on sports represents a small fraction of that amount, though industry experts say the court ruling will most likely allow that to increase significantly.

In California, dozens of Indian-owned casinos generate close to $8 billion in annual revenue, the most of any state, giving the tribes enormous influence over the gambling industry…Kevin Brown Red Eagle, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, said that in the interest of expedience, he and his organization were at least willing to include the Connecticut Lottery Corporation and Sportech, the other two entities included in proposed sports betting legislation in the state, in negotiations.”

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