Internet Gaming A Difficult Decision For Tribes

In an April 5th article in the Native American publication Indian Country author Robert Odawi Porter spells out his reasons why tribes should be opposed to internet gaming. Congress is considering the legalization of interactive gaming and tribes have invested billions in brick and mortar casinos and Porter says that tribes should be very concerned about legalization efforts. If the efforts are successful Porter says the nation’s 300 tribal casinos could lose a significant amount of business. Unfortunately not much research has been done on the subject but one study by Geiger-Johns in 2010 said that if internet gaming is legalized tribal casinos could possibly lose up to 25% of their gross gaming revenues.

Currently the tribes control $28 billion in annual gaming revenues. As Porter justifiably points out, given the past history of economic deprivation this is a major accomplishment for Native Americans. Tribal response to internet gaming has been mixed. Some tribes are actively seeking to take advantage of the opportunities and revenues that will be generated by internet gaming. These tribes see internet gaming as a logical expansion of the gaming market given recent technological advances. Other tribes see internet gaming as a very real threat.

The National Indian Gaming Association is defending the need to protect compacts between tribes and the states. Currently the state of New Mexico and the Navajo Nation are trying to reach an agreement that will protect tribal gaming interests if interactive gaming is made legal in the state. The Navajo Nation says that under the current compact they should control internet gaming in New Mexico if it becomes legal. Porter says that research shows that tribal casinos would lose business to online gaming sites. The Poker Player’s Alliance takes a different view. The PPA believes that internet poker could actually support land based casinos since as online poker players acquire more skills they will want to try their luck in a real world casino.

Some tribal leaders have a different viewpoint. The Seminole tribe started with one bingo hall in the 80’s and built it into a multi-billion operation that has benefited the whole tribe. Given the popularity of internet bingo it would be a natural move for the Seminoles to offer internet bingo in addition to their live bingo games. Not everyone can make a trip to a casino and the tribes could easily benefit from these players. While Porter makes some good points internet gaming is inevitable and the tribes should be ready to take advantage of the growing internet gaming market in the US.