Questions Remain After National Indian Gaming Association Joins AGA’s American Sports Betting Coalition

Two months after the group was formed, the American Sports Betting Coalition (ASBC) has brought the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) on board.

The ASBC was launched by the American Gaming Association (AGA) in June to lobby for the legalization of sports betting on the federal level – specifically through repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) of 1992.

Charter members of the ASBC include a wide range of sports betting stakeholders, including the AGA’s Illegal Gambling Advisory Board, the Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the Major County Sheriffs Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Conference of State Legislatures.

In adding the NIGA – which represents 184 gaming operator tribes nationwide – the ASBC broadens its base of support.

Ernie Stevens Jr., who serves as chairman of the NIGA, issued a statement announcing the new alliance.

“We are pleased to announce that the National Indian Gaming Association will be joining the AGA’s Coalition on Sports Betting, which will enable us to coordinate with and provide feedback to the AGA with regard to tribal gaming concerns as the coalition advances its policy objectives.”

But Stevens Jr. was quick to note that the NIGA isn’t necessarily joining the ASBC out of support for sports betting regulation, but rather to remain at the center of any federal reforms that would impact their own gaming ventures:

“Of chief concern to NIGA is to ensure that tribal interests are protected, particularly avoidance of any negative impacts on existing compacts and exclusivity clauses.

As one of the key stakeholders in these discussions we want to ensure that if legalized, our members have the opportunity to offer this activity as part of their overall entertainment package and as an additional source of revenue for tribal government gaming to promote tribal economic development, tribal self-sufficiency and strong tribal government.”

For his part, AGA president and chief executive officer Geoff Freeman pointed to the NIGA as an important factor in tipping the scales towards a PAPSA repeal:

“We have a window of opportunity to get this done and the National Indian Gaming Association is critical to making it happen.

Tribal engagement will help to move the needle forward and as the industry further unites, we will be able to end the failing ban on sports betting and allow our industry to grow.”

While the newfound support of the NIGA is noteworthy, the group doesn’t represent every tribe with gaming interests.

In total, 480 gambling venues across 29 states are operated by 244 tribes – leaving 60 tribes outside of the NIGA’s purview.

Several well-known gaming operators – such as the Mohegan and Mashantucket Pequots of Connecticut, the Seminole Tribe of Florida, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, and the Morongo Band of Mission Indians in California – are counted as AGA / ASBC supporters.

But the California Nations Indian Gaming Association (CNIGA), a coalition consisting of 31 tribes, has come out against any expansion of legalized gambling.

And the Washington Indian Gaming Association (WIGA), which encompasses 25 tribes, is currently studying the issue before deciding on an official stance.

Opponents of PAPSA repeal claim that legalizing sports betting – which isn’t covered by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) of 1988 – would violate state gaming compacts.

These divisions prompted Legal Sports Report to ask the AGA how its ASBC intends to form a consensus among tribes, to which spokesperson Steve Doty responded with the following pledge:

“We want to work with the tribes, Ernie Stevens and NIGA to find a solution that works for everybody.”