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Some Tribes Excited About Internet Gaming

NIGA conference seeks to ease inter-tribal tensions

Some Tribes Excited About Internet Gaming

We all realize the future of gambling is the younger generation, with online gambling and mobile apps. And we don’t want a state-run system to get out in front of us,” said Jason Giles, executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association, last month.

This is the reason, Giles says, that many of the 184 tribes his association represents are gung-ho about the possibility of legalized online gaming—as long as tribes are given a prominent place at the table.

Internet gaming was the subject of a discussion forum as part of NIGA’s mid-year conference the association hosted at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida, in late September.

Seventeen states are considering or have considered legalizing some form of internet gaming within their borders. This activity was promoted, in part, by a Department of Justice opinion issued last December that not all online gaming is illegal under federal law. This clarified matters somewhat, since the DOJ in April 2011 acting under the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act raided several offshore poker sites in a raid known among online poker aficionados as “Black Friday.”

At the same time, Nevada’s Senator Harry Reid, majority leader, under intense pressure from the Las Vegas gaming moguls, is trying to broker a deal to push some form of legalization through his chamber.

If the federal government opens internet gaming to tribes, it could open gaming profits to the great majority of tribes who don’t make large profits from gaming. These tribes, says Giles, are concentrated in the Midwest and in states with small populations, such as Montana. Casinos in those areas mainly provide jobs to tribal members, and not much else.

That’s why most members of Giles’ group oppose a proposal that would only allow large casinos to participate in online gaming. That’s just a few tribes, he says. He points to Canada, where some tribes have been able to participate in the online gaming activities of other, larger tribes.

Tribes and commercial casino interests initially viewed internet gaming as a threat to brick-and-mortar operations. Tribes, which are not taxed on operations on their reservations because they are sovereign nations, are wary of entering into a commercial area where they might be taxed. This would make it difficult for them to compete against commercial casinos in Las Vegas, they say.

John Pappas of the Poker Players Alliance insists that tribes opposing online gaming are “pretty short-sighted,” adding, “This is going to happen.”

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