By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Due to a recent Supreme Court ruling, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is considering getting into the sports betting industry. States and federally recognized American Indian tribes can now operate sports betting enterprises following a 6-3 Supreme Court decision earlier in May in the case of Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association which was combined from a separate petition, NJ Thoroughbred Horsemen v. NCAA.
“The Eastern Band was pleased with the Supreme Court decision and we are exploring our options in regards to sports betting,” said Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed. “This is an amenity that our guests have expressed an interest in and one that we would like to offer. We will have to meet with Governor Cooper’s office on this issue. When I met with him in April he agreed to discuss options with us should the Supreme Court rule in support of sports betting.”
He added, “The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians is considering many opportunities to advance economic development for the Tribe. I am confident the Tribal Gaming Enterprise will consider options and make an informed decision in a timely manner”
Brooks Robinson, Harrah’s Cherokee regional senior vice president and general manager, commented, “We, at Harrah’s Cherokee, are obviously very interested in the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding sports betting. Keep in mind that Harrah’s Cherokee operates under conditions set forth by a gaming compact established between Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and the State of North Carolina. Any change in that agreement is a subject that can only be addressed by the Tribe.”
Caesars Entertainment, Inc. operates several sports betting operations, or sports book as they are many times referred to, at properties in Nevada including Harrah’s Laughlin Race & Sports Book and Harrah’s Last Vegas.
The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) has supported the idea of tribes getting into the sports betting field for several years. Following the Supreme Court’s ruling, Ernie Stevens Jr., NIGA chairman, said in a statement, “We are encouraged by today’s decision by the Supreme Court that paves the way for responsible sports betting. As a major stakeholder, the National Indian Gaming Association joins the American Gaming Association (AGA), sports leagues and law enforcement to ensure and support a safe regulatory setting, adhering to the principles set by tribes and preserving tribal rights under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and existing Tribal-State gaming compacts.”
He added, “Indian country has diverse economies that will be impacted by the federal or state legalization of sports betting, and as a significant stakeholder our gaming tribes look forward to being at the table in establishing the critical regulatory framework that will minimize the negative impacts of sports betting on tribal casinos, permitting tribes to conduct sports betting in the same manner as non-tribal operators and in line with the principles established by tribes.”
The AGA called the Supreme Court ruling a “victory” and said in a statement, “Today’s ruling makes it possible for state and sovereign tribal nations to give Americans what they want: an open, transparent, and responsible market for sports betting. Through smart, efficient regulation, this new market will protect consumers, preserve the integrity of the games we love, empower law enforcement to fight illegal gambling, and generate new revenue for states, sporting bodies, broadcasters and many others. The AGA stands ready to work with all stakeholders – states, tribes, sports leagues, and law enforcement – to create a new regulatory environment that capitalizes on this opportunity to engage fans and boost local economies.”
In a letter to Congress, dated May 22, Geoff Freeman, American Gaming Association president and chief executive officer, wrote that it would be “unwise, unnecessary, and out of step with public sentiment” if federal lawmakers were to enact legislation and policies to regulate sports betting.
“The gaming industry is already one of the most-regulated in the country, and state and tribal regulators have decades of experience effectively overseeing gaming operations within their jurisdiction,” Freeman wrote.
He continued, “For now, the reality is that sports betting has been occurring nationally on a massive scale in this country for decades in an illegal market that provides zero protections for consumers or sports’ integrity. The result of bringing betting activity into a legal market, under state regulatory oversight, will enable increased transparency, integrity and consumer protections, while creating jobs and additional tax revenues.”
At the heart of the Supreme Court case was the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA), also known as the Bradley Act, which placed a federal ban on sports gambling with the exception of a few states, the main one being Nevada, which were grandfathered into PASPA.
In the majority 31-page opinion in the case of Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito addressed tribes, “With the enactment of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988, 25 U.S.C., casinos opened on Indian land throughout the country. Some were located within driving distance of Atlantic City, and nearby states (and many others) legalized casino gambling. But, Nevada remained the only state venue for legal sports gambling in casinos, and sports gambling is immensely popular.”
He concluded the opinion by stating, “The legalization of sports gambling requires an important policy change, but the choice is not ours to make. Congress can regulate sports gambling directly, but if it elects not to do so, each state is free to act on its own. Our job is to interpret the law Congress has enacted and decide whether it is consistent with the Constitution. PASPA is not.”
All four of the major pro sports organizations in the United States issued statements following the Supreme Court’s decisions including the NBA, NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball, and the NCAA.
The statement from Major League Baseball, which has had several high-profile betting incidents in its history, says, “As each state considers whether to allow sports betting, we will continue to seek the proper protections for our sport, in partnership with other professional sports. Our most important priority is protecting the integrity of our games. We will continue to support legislation that creates air-tight coordination and partnerships between the state, the casino operators, and the governing bodies in sports toward that goal.”
Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, said in a statement following the Supreme Court ruling, “Our fans, our players, and our coaches deserve to know that we are doing everything possible to ensure no improper influences affect how the game is played on the field. This week’s ruling by the Supreme Court has no effect on that unwavering commitment. We have spent considerable time planning for the potential of broadly legalized sports gambling and are prepared to address these changes in a thoughtful and comprehensive way, including substantial education and compliance trainings for our clubs, players, employees, and partners.”