Gaming tribes back campaign against ban on sports betting

Southeastern Connecticut’s casino-owning tribes reacted favorably to a national Indian gaming group’s announcement this week that it has joined a campaign to end the federal ban on sports betting.

Asked if their tribes supported the National Indian Gaming Association’s position, spokesmen for the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes, respective owners of Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun, said they did.

The responses were predictable, given the tribes' reaction to the news in late June that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear cases involving New Jersey’s stalled attempt to legalize sports gambling at Atlantic City casinos and racetracks. A federal appeals court struck down the New Jersey law last year.

Both tribes are eager to introduce sports betting at their casinos if and when it is legalized. 

On Monday, it was announced that NIGA, which represents 184 federally recognized tribes, has joined the American Sports Betting Coalition’s campaign to repeal the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, which prohibits sports betting in all but a few jurisdictions, including Nevada. The coalition is led by the American Gaming Association, a national trade group.

“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,” Ernie Stevens Jr., the NIGA chairman, said in a statement.

“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," Stevens said. "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 ... to promote tribal economic development, tribal self-sufficiency and strong tribal government.”

The AGA recently commissioned a national survey that determined that nearly six in 10 Americans — and 72 percent of avid sports fans — are in favor of ending the federal ban on sports betting. 

Connecticut’s legislature passed a gaming-expansion bill this spring that 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 signed the measure into law.

A dozen other states also have introduced legislation related to legalization of sports betting, according to the AGA.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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