New rules proposed by the federal government could make it easier for Native American tribes to acquire land for casino development. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is a principal player between the government and the Indian tribes. It has brought forward certain proposals to help tribes expand their gambling operations.
Expansion of retail and online betting
The new rules could expand both retail and online gambling. As of 2022, there were 523 tribal casinos in the U.S. Michigan already has 27 Indian gaming casinos owned and operated by 12 federally recognized Native American tribes. Play Gun Lake Casino is a successful example of a land-based casino that also offers online gambling.
What prompted the proposed rule changes?
The proposed rule changes were introduced late in 2022. The federal law that regulates tribal gaming was enacted 35 years ago. Since then gambling has grown considerably and there are many state-taxed commercial casinos. The US online gaming market has also exploded.
Bryan Newland, Interior Department assistant secretary who oversees Indian Affairs, says the federal government has a responsibility to protect tribal sovereignty and strengthen the economic self-sufficiency of tribal communities. Tribal revenue has grown considerably since the institution of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. Before this, there wasn’t a regulatory framework for Indian gambling. The introduction of many state-taxed commercial casinos has created competition between the states and tribal casinos.
A proposal would allow tribes to negotiate state-wide iGaming contracts. According to the proposal, a server accepting remote bets on tribal lands could be considered on-reservation. It could include forms of online gambling such as blackjack, roulette, and sports betting. Some of the best casino games include blackjack and roulette. Sports betting is also becoming increasingly popular all over the U.S.
In Florida, a gaming compact with the Seminole tribe in 2021 gave it control over nationwide sports betting. The tribe owns the Hard Rock entertainment brand. A federal lawsuit is now in process to challenge the compact. The claim is that the compact violates federal law because it allows gambling off tribal lands. Online sports betting in Florida is now on hold.
Another proposal would make it easier for tribes to acquire land. This would involve the U.S. government moving property into trusts on their behalf. The Interior Department would evaluate the benefits of off-reservation land to a tribe even if it was far away from a reservation. This proposal does not directly address using the land for casinos but there are fears that it could facilitate the introduction of off-reservation tribal casinos.
Opposition to the proposals
Commercial gambling competitors and state and local government leaders are opposing the proposals. Their concerns are that they will lose out on tax revenues and have less control over where casinos are developed. Republican state attorneys general sent a letter outlining objections. They believe the proposed regulations would lead to an unprecedented expansion of tribal gaming and give state governments less ability to enforce policies to control gaming.