Wyoming Tribe Prepares to Launch Sports Wagering Without State Legislation

Wyoming Sports Wagering Without State Legislation

  • Northern Arapaho Tribe plan offers sports betting in Wyoming without state legislation
  • At this juncture, all sports betting restricted to tribal casinos without online wagering
  • Past attempts adding sports betting without state approval have met with mix success

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Despite no formal regulatory approved plan or legislation, the Northern Arapaho Tribe announced that they will bring sports wagering to Wyoming.

The Northern Arapaho Tribe Plan

The Northern Arapaho Business Council (NABC) announced the Tribe’s plans to offer sports wagering in a press release on October 14.

The NABC said:

With the addition of well-regulated sports betting, our Northern Arapaho Tribe has an important opportunity to enhance the gaming experience at our facilities while generating increased revenue to help fund vital programs and services for the Arapaho people.Tribal gaming officials and the Northern Arapaho Gaming Agency are currently taking the appropriate steps to allow wagers on sporting events, an amenity we are excited to make available to patrons of the Wind River Hotel & Casino and our other Tribal gaming establishments.

According to Wyoming’s Northern Arapaho Tribe, they do not require approval from the state to expand its activities to include sports wagering. An accompanying press statement said: “The Northern Arapaho Tribe conducts gaming under the authorization of the US Department of the Interior and does not require state approval for sports betting.”

As result, this means sports betting could be coming to three casinos owned and operated by the tribe, including the Wind River casino venue in Central Wyoming without formal state approval.

Tribal History Without US State Approval

There is no clear answer yet whether Native American tribes require US state approval to bring sports wagering to their casino menus.

A few tribes have successfully achieved sports wagering without state approval including the Santa Ana Star Casino in Bernalillo, New Mexico. The Santa Ana Star is owned by the Tamaya Nation tribal community. Other tribes were also able to introduce sports wagering in New Mexico, including the Buffalo Thunder Resort, owned and managed by the Pueblo of Pojoaque Corp tribe, and the Isleta Casino near Albuquerque, which is regulated by the Pueblo of Isleta.

Other attempts by states have not ruled out as successfully. Early in 2020, the state’s Supreme Court ruled against Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt as he attempted to add sports betting to several new tribal compacts.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) establishes three classes of games with a different regulatory for each:

  • Class I gaming is “traditional” Native American gaming and social gaming for minimal prizes.
  • Class II gaming includes bingo, pull tabs, punch board, tip jars, instant bingo, and other games similar to bingo.
  • Class III gaming includes all forms of gaming that do not fall under the first two classifications. Generally, Class III is referred to as casino-style gaming. In the Code of Federal Regulations, sports betting is defined to fit in the Class II category.

The Question of Online Sports Betting

Especially during our ongoing Covid-19 restrictive times, the continued domination for online wagering is a pervading issue.

Currently, it seems that plans will call for bettors to place wagering inside one of the Northern Arapaho’s three casinos in Wyoming. Thus far no Native American tribe has attempted to take the ancillary step of introducing online wagering without formal state approval.

Federal legislation was introduced in 2019 allowing sports wagering with servers restricted to the Native American reservations. Bill HR 5502 was introduced by New York Rep. Anthony Brindisi but was eventually referred to the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States and has not subsequently progressed

A similar path of onsite sports wagering only is also being pursued in North Dakota. Like the Northern Arapaho Tribe plan, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians is preparing to bring sports betting within their state.

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Larry Gibbs

Expert on Sports Betting Industry

Larry Gibbs is both a seasoned journalist and a respected online gaming industry consultant. His wry commentary & sharp analysis have appeared in numerous top gaming and sports wagering publications. He has also served as Vice President of US Gaming Services, a marketing research organization with 15 years of experience in US online wagering. He has spoken at noted gaming industry conferences including G2E, GiGSE, and NCLGS.

Email: larry.gibbs@wsn.com