ICE North America: Tribes slow to add sports betting

May 15, 2019 5:00 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports
May 15, 2019 5:00 PM
  • Buck Wargo, CDC Gaming Reports

BOSTON – The executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association expects tribes will eventually pool resources across state lines when it comes to sports betting.

Jason Giles appeared on a panel discussion Tuesday at ICE North America to discuss the evolution of the U.S iGaming and sports betting market. Tribes nationally have been reluctant to renegotiate state compacts when it would be required for adding both sports betting and iGaming.

Jason Giles, National Indian Gaming Association

Two tribes in New Mexico and one in Mississippi were the first to adapt sports betting and Giles admits the roll out has been slow. Ultimately, he said, the number will pick up since it’s only been a year since the U.S. Supreme Court allowed sports betting to proliferate.

It’s been a big contrast to states along the East Coast such as New Jersey, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Giles said tribal sports betting is more likely to get a head start where compact renegotiations are not required. For the time being, betting will likely take place on tribal grounds only.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and U.S. Wire Act would prohibit tribes from pooling across state lines, but it could start by tribes within a state doing so to lessen risks, Giles said.

This week, tribes from Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota will meet to discuss pooling sports bets.

Don’t look for tribes, especially rural ones, to make a push for mobile wagering, however, Giles said.

“Those rural tribes have invested in large land-based casinos, and they’re going to want customers to drive to come up and not be able to sit home and put bets in from there,” Giles said. “I hate to break it down for rural versus urban but for a lot of America that seems to be a big divide. For Indian country, we’re right in the middle of that because our customer base is everything for a lot of tribal casinos. It’s not like the Borgata in New Jersey or casinos in Las Vegas. It’s people that they know and see visit over and over, and they would not want to see that person now say I can do everything at home and not drive 35 to 40 minutes to the casino.”

Michael Pollock, managing director with Spectrum Gaming Group, said no one should see it as moving land-based customers to mobile. Some of that is going to happen. But casinos need to add a younger demographic to their database.

“You get to come Tuesday night for a steak dinner because they earned it,” Pollock said. “It requires a mobile license to the land-based casino.”

Giles said Nevada might be the model that tribes adopt because people have to go inside the casino to load their account and then can gamble from home.

“We’re going to need mobile to get rid of the illegal markets,” Giles said. “They have to offer something better than the illegals because of the ease for them doing that.”

Pat Garofalo, a representative with the Minnesota House of Representatives who has led efforts to legalize sports betting in his state, said people shouldn’t be surprised that tribes across the country are moving slowly on sports betting and iGaming. Tribes will deliberate many issues and Minnesota tribes have opposed off-reservation gambling.

“There not in a hurry,” Garofalo said. “They’re patient in learning. They’re willing to take a step back and look at the bigger issues. If it’s good today, it will be good in a week, and a month and in a year it will still be good.”

He introduced a bill earlier this year that allowed betting on professional and college sports at tribal casinos only. The state would get a half-percent cut of wagers. Other proposed legislation would legalize sports betting at horserace tracks and via mobile wagering.

Garofalo said the government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers in the gambling space and disrupt an entire industry. No one benefits from that, he said.

Garofalo said one of the objectives in legalizing when it comes to sports betting is defunding organized crime.

Lawmakers make a mistake when they consider sports betting legislation by already spending money before it comes in and setting public expectations too high. A Republican, Garofalo said it should be about a low tax and fee structure and revenue to cover the cost of regulation.