Future Federal Online Gambling Bill, AKA the Indian Removal Act of 2013

In the 18th and 19th centuries, European colonists introduced measles, smallpox, cholera, yellow fever, and many more devastating diseases to the Native American population. This drastically diminished the Native American population and annihilated entire villages.  In addition to this, the arrogant attitude of the ever-growing whites led to the embarrassing and unfortunate “Indian Removal Act” of 1830.

That’s all ancient history now, and we have made amends to our Native American brothers and sisters by allowing them exclusive rights in most of the country to own and operate and profit from land based casinos.  So now the various American Indian tribes in the US are all set because daily they syphon money away from the descendants of the pale faced devils of old, right?
Not so fast.
Last year the Indian Affairs Committee held a Senate meeting to discuss the implications of online gambling and how it would affect tribal gaming revenues.  Tribal leaders believe they are entitled to a share of the revenue from online gaming in the US.  They believe this is only fair since the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA) gave native groups the right to run and regulate gambling from their own lands and (they believe) online poker networks would cut in partially to their land based casino revenues.  (For the record, I think the opposite is true, and I think the heyday of online poker in the early and mid 2000s supports my position.)
According to Hartley Henderson at the Off Shore Gaming Association (a fine organization of which I am a member), there is absolutely no question that native groups rely on gaming revenue to support their infrastructure.  Native groups take in $26.8 billion in revenue annually from native casinos and native gambling accounts for 40% of all casino revenues in the U.S.  If native groups were to lose that source of revenue, where would they turn to pay for their infrastructure, health care etc.?  Gambling law guru professor I. Nelson Rose also contributed some worrisome theories to the discussion, including the idea that state interests could shut out tribes by making online gambling unaffordable to them.  For example, Rose believes that California will demand $100 million for a gambling license which will effectively weed out all the smaller tribes. Caesars, Party Gaming and perhaps some of the larger tribes could afford that fee but most of the smaller tribes will be shut out.
Tribal leaders have stated that “Indian nations not only demand a seat at the table, we insist that we already own our own table. And we should not have it stolen from us as has too often been the case in the past.”  One added that U.S. history is filled with “immoral and illegal confiscations of native property and wealth.”
Personally, I believe a healthy online gambling environment drives business to land based casinos, so this may be much ado about nothing.  On the other hand, we may be heading for our second Trail of Tears.

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