Indian Gaming Association Latest to Join Coalition to Legalize Sports Gambling

On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court agreed to tackle the hotly debated question of whether the federal government should be able to prohibit states from legalizing sports gambling. The lawsuit commenced six years ago, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie implemented a state law that would enable New Jersey casinos and racetracks to offer sports wagers. That New Jersey law was then challenged by the NCAA and “Big Four” of professional sports leagues, the NFL, NBA, MLB, and NHL. The opposition argued that the N.J. law is incompatible with the federal Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PAPSA). PAPSA prohibits all states from licensing, sponsoring or authorizing sports betting except for Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and Montana, who were grandfathered in by the law.

On Monday, July 31, 2017, the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) joined a growing list of supporters who now support the legalization and regulation of sports gambling on a state by state basis. NIGA chairman, Ernie Stevens Jr., said in a statement “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 for Tribal Government Gaming to promote tribal economic development, tribal self-sufficiency and strong tribal government.”

Native Americans are now the latest to join a coalition that includes industry groups, law enforcement and elected officials, including the Fraternal Order of Police, the National District Attorneys Association, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and the National Conference of State Legislatures. For the law enforcement members of the coalition, sports gambling is an issue related to federalism and consumer protection. Wisconsin Attorney General, Brad Schimel, stated “[t]he rampant illegal sports betting that currently exists continues to fuel other criminal activities and provides no consumer protections. In addition, they argue that repealing PAPSA would generate much needed tax revenue for states, help law enforcement of after truly criminal outfits, and would also protect the integrity of sports fames.

As the controversy over sports gambling has started to make recent headlines, studies show that Americans are all for legalizing sports gambling. The coalition cites to a recent study which found that nearly 60 percent of Americans, as well as 70 percent of “avid” sports fans, want to see the federal ban repealed. Professional sports have also shown to have taken a significantly softer stance on sports gambling as well, as both the NHL and NFL voted to place permanent franchises in Las Vegas, the U.S. gambling capital. Commissioners for the MLB and MLS have also called for a reexamination of gambling in their respective sports. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has even openly advocated for federal legalization.

With all the support for the legalization of sports gambling, NFL commissioner, Roger Goodell, remains a staunch opponent. Goodell called the potential for a legalized marketplace a “major risk” for the NFL only a few days after owners overwhelmingly voted to approve the Raiders move to Vegas. Goodell stated the NFL will “have to make sure that we continue to stay focused on making sure that everyone has full confidence that what you see on the field is not influenced by any outside factors.”

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