Tribes prepare in case online gambling gets OK


Dormant account
Nov 19, 2010
South Florida
Indians look to Internet
Tribes prepare in case online gambling gets OK

By Nick Sortal, Sun Sentinel

10:19 AM EDT, September 20, 2012

When it comes to gambling success, most Indian tribes don't come close to matching the Seminoles — so the prospect of making money at the push of a button sounds pretty appealing.

That's why many of the nation's 246 tribes want to get in on the ground floor of Internet gambling, says Jason Giles, executive director of the National Indian Gaming Association.

The association, which represents 184 of the tribes, gathered this week at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood to talk about gambling issues and what the future holds. And their biggest concern right now is making sure tribes don't get left behind if federal and state governments approve online gambling.

"We all realize the future of gambling is the younger generation, with online gambling and mobile apps," Giles said. "And we don't want a state-run system to get out in front of us."

At least 17 states, including Florida, have considered some form of online gambling. The options range from offering only poker to having full casinos, with blackjack and virtual slots. Nationally, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been hunting for a path to push Internet gambling through the Senate. But most experts, including Giles, say there won't be any legislative action until after the November elections.

Like many commercial casinos, which now see online gambling as a brand extension, after first fearing it as a competitive threat, the Indian tribes have come around to the idea of getting into the Internet game. The tribes, while technically sovereign nations, restrict their gambling offerings to match whatever states and the federal government says is OK for their casinos.

While Indian gambling is a $26.5 billion a year business in the United States — just a little behind commercial casinos — the notion that all tribes function as profitably as the Seminole Tribe of Florida is misplaced, Giles said.

"The top 40 tribes make 75 percent of the money," he said. That means about 200 tribes, especially those in the upper Midwest and lower-population areas such as Montana, are pretty much break-even propositions, he said.

"They are mostly there to generate jobs for the tribes," he said.

So Giles said he is worried about one proposal being circulated that would allow only casinos with 500 or more slot machines to enter the online gambling market.

"For us, that's only five or six tribes," he said.

Giles said in Canada the Kahnawake Mohawk Tribe has been successful processing Internet bets for others' online gambling sites.

"That's something that our bottom three-quarters could do," he said. Others could team up to create a greater mass of players, making for bigger poker tournaments, the way Powerball uses multiple states to increase its jackpots, he said.

Giles also said recent events have brought optimism that online gambling is on the way. That includes a December 2011 opinion by the Department of Justice that not all Internet gambling is banned by federal law. (The DOJ shut down offshore poker sites on April 15, 2011, arguing the sites violated the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and engaged in bank fraud and money laundering.)

Giles said one reason to bring the topic up this week at the tribe's midyear conference was to gather information on what the tribes wanted and to prepare tribes on how to better communicate with legislators.

"We're not at the point to come out with any specific policy," he said.

John Pappas, executive director of the advocacy group the Poker Players Alliance, said he would welcome the Indians' entry if poker is approved.

"Those who are opposed are pretty short-sighted," he said. "This is going to happen."

Seminole Tribe representatives declined comment on their Internet gambling plans. The tribe's seven casinos earned about $2 billion last year, according to one report, and the Seminoles are looking to begin negotiations on a new compact with the state. The current 20-year agreement included a five-year period of exclusivity for blackjack and other table games, for which the tribe pays $1 billion to the state.

[email protected], 954-356-4725

Copyright © 2012, South Florida Sun-Sentinel


Dormant account
Aug 25, 2005
Interesting. There are negotiations right now for a tribal purchase of a major casino in Atlantic City and New Jersey is trying to move online.
I believe it will be limited only to casinos located in New Jersey.

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