Tribes welcome U.S. Supreme Court's decision to take up sports gambling

On the day their third-casino bill became law, southeastern Connecticut’s casino-owning Indian tribes also welcomed news Tuesday that the U.S. Supreme Court had agreed to hear cases this fall that could lead to the legalization of sports gambling throughout the United States.

The court announced that it would consolidate two cases in which lower courts ruled that a federal ban on sports gambling pre-empted a 2014 New Jersey law that sought to allow such wagering at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks.

“We are pleased the Supreme Court has agreed that it should hear this important case,” Kevin Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, owners of Mohegan Sun, said in a statement. “And we are hopeful (the justices’) decision will provide further encouragement for Congress to take the steps necessary to create a safe and regulated sports wagering marketplace in the United States that will protect the players and the sports themselves.”

“Mohegan is well poised to thrive in such a regulated marketplace,” Brown said.

A spokeswoman for the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, which owns Foxwoods Resort Casino, also expressed hope that the nation’s highest court will roll back the ban on sports gambling.

“We hope New Jersey's case has a favorable outcome,” Lori Potter, the Mashantuckets’ director of communications, said. “As gaming becomes increasingly competitive throughout our region, sports betting is a lucrative opportunity that would generate hundreds of millions in much-needed tax revenue for the state of Connecticut as well as tribal governments.”

A gaming-expansion bill passed this session by the Connecticut legislature calls for the commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection to “adopt regulations ... to regulate wagering on sporting events to the extent permitted by state and federal law.” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has yet to sign the bill.

Connecticut is among about a half-dozen states that have taken steps to prepare for the legalization of sports gambling.

The federal law banning state-authorized sports gambling, the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, or PASPA, has applied to all states except those that allowed sports gambling at the time the law was enacted — Nevada, Delaware, Oregon and Montana. It also has prevented tribal casinos from offering sports gambling.

New Jersey’s attempts to legalize sports gambling prompted lawsuits by the National Collegiate Athletic Association and professional sports leagues. The 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the law last year.

During a conference call with reporters, Geoff Freeman, president and chief executive officer of the American Gaming Association, said he believes PASPA would have to be repealed before the National Indian Gaming Commission could adopt sports-gambling regulations and for casino-owning tribes to introduce sports gambling on their reservations.

Freeman said the Supreme Court’s decision to take up the matter is a “nail in the coffin” for PASPA.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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