As more states prepare legislation to legalize sports betting in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act last year, Native American casino operators are rethinking their strategies.
“Tribes enthusiastically welcomed the decision in May but since then, the regulatory challenges and low-margin nature of the business have sunk in,” reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Many [Indian casinos] need state approval to add sports betting to their offerings. … Some casinos only have games like bingo or pull tabs that don’t need state approval. But the majority of them also have state-authorized slot machines, blackjack and other table games, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission. Many tribes share a portion of casino profits with state governments in exchange for exclusive rights to conduct gambling operations within their states.”
Such casinos have become a $32.4-billion-a-year segment of the U.S. gambling industry, according to the paper, with approximately 475 casinos operated by almost 240 tribes.
Tribal casinos started small three decades ago, but they have grown to become an annual $32.4 billion segment of the U.S. gambling industry.
“There’s a broad spectrum in Indian Country covering two extremes: Tribal nations that would not benefit at all [from sports gambling], and on the other end, tribal nations that would significantly benefit,” Jonodev Osceola Chaudhuri, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, told Philly.com. “Those are largely business decisions that each tribe will have to make given its own economic landscape and its unique market realities.”
In September, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians reportedly became the first tribe outside of Nevada to offer sports betting — right in the heart of college football country. “We are basically two hours from Tuscaloosa, Ala.,” Neal Atkinson, the tribe’s director of gaming, told Philly.com. “And then, we are just an hour from Mississippi State. We have Ole Miss just to the north of that, and we have Southern Miss — they’re not SEC, but they are a player. We are not that far from Louisiana.”
Since then, according to the same article. “only the Santa Ana Pueblo near Albuquerque, N.M., has followed the Choctaw’s effort into sports gambling. Neither tribe was required to obtain additional state approvals.”