Tribal Internet Gaming

Pari Esfandiari, 

Internet gaming was a hot topic during the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA)’s Mid Year Conference. The two day conference took place on September 18th-19th . The event brought together over 500 tribal leaders and gaming professionals at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

 

The focus was on the draft Tribal Online Gaming Act (TOGA). The draft bill was released in anticipation of Senator Reid’s iGaming bill. “TOGA does give tribes the right to participate in the iGaming if Congress legalizes it and revenue generated from such a business would not be subject to tax”. It aimed to generate input from tribes to ensure that the ultimate federal version would meet the needs of tribal communities. But many tribal leaders chose to ignore the Act. Never-the-less TOGA brought the concept of iGaming to the attention of tribal leaders who are now involved in a debate on how to be prepared and deal with the complexities of online gaming.

 

On the second day, Senate Indian Affairs Committee who drafted TOGA, held a listening session to discuss the proposed bill.  NIGA doesn’t have an official position on any of the Internet bills floating around Capitol Hill. But the organization has called for more tribal consultation and has listed a set of principles that they want lawmakers to consider. Jason Giles, NIGA executive director explained; we want to collect information on tribe’s requirements at the same time we aim to prepare tribes for better communicate with legislators. His clear message was “We all realize the future of gambling is the younger generation, with online gambling and mobile apps,” tribes concern is not online gaming. The problem is a state-run system attached to it that has little understanding of tribal issues.

 

For example “one proposal being circulated that would allow only casinos with 500 or more slot machines to enter the online gambling market”. that’s only five or six tribes. The rest are hardly make a profit and are there to generate jobs. They will be left out. In contrast, with right approach their economy could be boosted. Giles draw lessen from Canada; where Kahnawake Mohawk Tribe has successfully process Internet bets for others’ online gambling sites. Giles saw it as an opportunity for small tribes in US to forge alliances to increase their income.  Other issues of concern that have been expressed seem to be proposed background checks of members of a tribal governing authority, and the lack of controls on consortium amongst others.

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