Bernalillo, New Mexico – August 14, 2019 – The National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) held an important policy meeting at the Santa Ana Pueblo located near Albuquerque, N.M., to discuss Tribal sports betting and Sovereignty in the 21st Century. With the critical 2020 Elections fast approaching, Chairman Ernest L. Stevens Jr. saw a need to come together during Congress' traditional recess and discuss the impact of sports betting on Tribal Sovereignty and tribal-state politics.
The Santa Ana Pueblo is one of only three (3) tribes offering sports betting at their casino. Santa Ana Pueblo Lieutenant Governor, Simon Jay Garcia, welcomed tribal leaders and thanked them for discussing this important subject at Santa Ana. John Harte of Mapetsi Consulting provided a strong overview of where Tribes were 40 years ago and how far they have come economically and politically without sacrificing those sacred Treaties signed with the United States.
Congresswoman Debra Haaland, New Mexico's 1st Congressional District, and citizen of Laguna Pueblo was the Keynote Lunch speaker. While there may be challenging times and concerns, Rep. Haaland provided an inspirational and upbeat message to the motivated audience.
Haaland said that the 2020 elections are an essential time to come together and unite this country around our core principles again: Freedom, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
As this country's first Americans, Congresswoman Haaland urged Tribal Leaders and Tribal Organizations to start preparing now for next year's elections. She stressed that only Indian country could be counted on to uphold the Federal Government's responsibility and legal duty to Tribes. At the end of the day, Tribes are responsible to their citizens and livelihoods of the next generation.
Current Technical and Legal Challenges Facing Tribes
The full-day session included a number of panel discussions related to legislative updates and Sports betting.
Geoffrey Blackwell, Chief Strategy Officer, and General Counsel for AMERINDRisk, Mark Van Norman, of MCVN Consulting and John Harte, Partner of Mapetsi Consulting took part in the "Tribal Sovereignty & Risk Management."
Blackwell, of AMERIND, a native-owned insurance company based in Indian Country at the Santa Ana Pueblo in New Mexico, encouraged Tribal Leaders to stand their ground on Tribal Sovereignty and look to their tribal governments and agencies to protect tribal enterprises. He recommended risk pools or insurance policies to address the growing body of litigation confronting Tribal Nations. States and local counties have long implemented tort liability policies to protect their government workers from suit.
Since the Supreme Court overturned the statutes outlawing Sports Betting, Tribal Leaders have been sorting through how that decision impacts their gaming compacts with the States and their casino operations. This panel discussion entitled "Nuts and Bolts of Sports Betting: Beyond Profit Margins," included Denise Harvey, NIGA Northwest Region Delegate and Council for Grand Ronde, Richard Frias, Founder - Frias Indian Law, New Mexico Indian Gaming and Victor Rocha, Pechanga.net.
One of the longest and enduring challenges to Tribal Sovereignty is the power to tax activity on Indian Reservations. Richard Frias, of Frias Consulting and works on gaming in New Mexico, provided a comprehensive presentation on the interplay between the fair treatment of Tribes under their existing compacts and implementation of sports betting. He stressed that at the end of the day, Tribal Governments and their operations must wholly own and operate their sportsbooks.
The "Sports Betting Operations and Technology" panelists included Richard Chissoe, Chairman of the Pueblo of Sandia Tribal Gaming Commission and Max Bichsel, US Director of Kambi.
Santa Ana Sportsbook and the Future of Indian Gaming
At the end of the day, Santa Ana Pueblo provided a tour of their state-of-the-art sportsbook. Santa Ana's Sportsbook was implemented as a gaming amenity in less than 60 days with the help of Mr. Vic Salerno, President of USBookmaking. Mr. Salerno has over 40 years in the sports betting business and is eager to showcase the accomplishments of Santa Ana Pueblo.
Mr. John Cirrincione, Chief Executive Officer of Santa Ana Star, briefed Tribal Leaders on how Santa Ana integrated the sports betting experience with the rest of the casino floor. Santa Ana designed and developed their sportsbook to meet the needs of their customer base while ensuring compliance with all Tribal regulations and any National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) concerns. Mr. Cirrincione urged attendees to measure their customer's appetite for sports betting and seek out the right fit for your tribal operation.
Chairman Stevens stated, "Our work here today and the information provided by these esteemed panelists will help promote and strengthen the sovereign rights of Indian country. As Tribes look to the future, these types of intricate economic and technological issues are likely to continue to further impact their economic future. Tribes like the Santa Ana Pueblo, and the Mississippi Choctaw to name a few are blazing a new path on economic development and what future Tribal casinos might look like.” Stevens, concluded, "This movement in Indian Country is greatly enhanced by all tribes working together, understanding the ins and outs and characteristics of this new industry. While everybody understands the need to work together, many individual tribes have been working a long time in anticipation of welcoming this new amenity to tribal government gaming."
The National Indian Gaming Association will continue discussing Tribal Sovereignty in the 21st Century at our Mid-Year Conference from September 16-18 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, CT. We hope you can join us at Mohegan, and we look forward to continued dialogue and input from Tribal Leaders throughout Indian Country.