New Tribal Online Gaming Rules: Impact on Sports Betting

As more states begin to legalize sports betting, the concept of state treaties with Native American tribes has received more attention. Some states that want to offer sports betting cannot do so if tribes give their consent. This is due to the different compact states with the tribes in their states. Agreements are required under the Indian Gambling Regulation Act and lay the foundation for Class III gambling on Indian soil. Federal regulations dealing with tribal online gaming and other aspects of tribal gaming are constantly being updated. The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs published its updated rules in the Federal Register on February 21, 2024. They come into force after 30 days.

The updated regulations have several significant changes compared to previous versions. Most of these are considered beneficial to the tribes.

“By updating these regulations, we will provide tribes with certainty and clarity for an industry that continues to be one of the most significant sources of economic development in Indian Country,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a news release. “Not only does Indian gaming support tribal economies, but the funds it generates also help support the vital services that tribal nations provide their citizens – from language preservation to healthcare.”

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Florida Compact brings change

One of the biggest rule changes is based on Florida’s treaty with the Seminole Tribe. The contract states that online betting is deemed to have taken place where the receiving servers are located. This contradicts previous precedents. But the DOI approved the treaty with Florida and the Seminoles. Currently, the Seminoles do not offer online casino gambling. But they do offer online sports betting across the state. The Seminoles also offer retail sports betting at their larger casinos.

The US Supreme Court can still mess things up. The plaintiffs in a federal lawsuit have asked the court to hear the case. The question is whether online betting made in the state actually constitutes betting on tribal lands. Whether the updated rules will have an impact on the Supreme Court remains to be seen.

Florida sports bettors are caught in the middle. A Supreme Court overturn would result in the end of legalization of sports betting. But there could also be an influx of legal sports betting if it becomes legal. Currently, the state’s sports betting is limited to the Seminole’s Hard Rock Bet. Many of the best online gambling sites would like to come to the state. But right now it’s basically a monopoly.

However, the rule change states that states must agree to the interpretation of bets made where the servers are located. Native Americans cannot simply begin offering tribal online gaming without obtaining the state’s consent through a treaty or amendment. This prevents people from caring about results and odds by placing online sports bets in a state that does not yet offer online sports betting.

Not all proposed changes will pass

One proposed change that did not make it into the final version was a measure that said states that offer gambling of any kind would regulate all forms of Class III gambling. Class III gambling includes sports betting, casino games and online versions thereof. The current rule, which requires states to negotiate with tribes over games currently offered, will continue to be the policy going forward.

The biggest impact will be on the tribal online gaming provisions of the updated rules. They will make it easier for states and tribes to reach agreements about online gambling and not include others. The states and tribes can negotiate treaties and do not require constitutional amendments. It could have a significant impact on states like Florida and eventually California. But it could have little, if any, impact on other states.

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