American Indian tribes are embracing the chance to offer their customers a brand new game in the years ahead — sports betting.

Las Vegas sportsbook
Many American tribal casino operators are gearing up to fight for their rights to dominate sports betting in their respective states.(Image: AZPM News)

In a 6-3 ruling, the Supreme Court overturned the federal law�that for more than 25 years prevented most states from offering legal wagering on sporting events. The decision opens the door for individual states to create a regulatory framework for sports betting. Many have been hard at work for months, already putting that framework into place.

Sports betting revenues would only stand to add to the nearly $31 billion that tribal casinos rake in annually. And that would increase taxes collected at local, state, and federal levels. In 2015, California tribal casinos paid $7 billion into to state coffers. Oklahoma tribes, by comparison, contributed $3.8 billion.

Who Needs Vegas?

Sports betting wouldn’t overnight become tribal casinos’ biggest revenue source, but it would go a long way towards keeping happy customers on their properties.

“The conversation is always, ‘Why don’t you do like Vegas?'” Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Executive Director Sheila Morago told the Associated Press. “Everybody always wants to give their customers things they have asked for.”

However, much remains to be sorted when it comes to how the games will run, and who potentially has what rights to how much of the projected market. Some are already staking their claim to having exclusive rights for future sports betting.

Sovereign Sports Betting

There are 240 tribes operating 474 Indian casinos across 28 American states where they’re legal. Some of them — California and Arizona, for example — have bartered away the exclusive rights to casino-style games in exchange for the tribes kicking back a healthy share of casino profits.

In those states, the question becomes: if wagering on sports is legalized, how exactly will it be offered? And will sports betting ultimately be considered a casino-style game, giving some tribes exclusivity rights by compact?

Many tribes believe the agreements they currently have in place with state legislators already afford them that opportunity.

�Expansion of gaming is a slippery slope,� said Steve Stallings, chairman of the California Indian Gaming Commission. �Tribes feel like they have somewhat an exclusivity to it. When the state or other interests violate that, then tribes are concerned.�

National Indian Gaming Association chair Ernie Stevens Jr. told NBC News that tribes have been preparing for this day, studying compacts and regulations to determine how they apply to sports betting, and training leaders for negotiations that are likely to ensue. .

In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey is already openly pondering potential new deals that would give Indian casinos certain exclusive casino rights in exchange for a bigger piece of revenues. It’s easy to see how the SCOTUS ruling could be a win-win for both sides, even if it takes some negotiating to get there.

“This ruling gives Arizona options that could benefit our citizens and our general fund,� Ducey said to the Arizona Capitol Times.

Whatever happens, tribes across the states are ready for it.