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Congress Sets Online Gambling Hearing Regarding Tribes

The rights of Indian tribes in any federal online gambling legislation will continue to be considered as the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs has scheduled its third hearing to take place next week on Thursday, July 26.

The meeting is entitled the “Regulation of Tribal Gaming: From Brick & Mortar to the Internet” and will discuss the possible addition of online gambling regulations to the existing land-based tribal casinos. A list of witnesses expected to testify has not yet been released, but should be forthcoming in due course prior to the pow-wow that will be available for viewing via webcast at 2:15 p.m. next Thursday from room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Building.

The same committee met twice previously, the first time in November last year with the topic of debate being the “Future of Internet Gaming: What’s at Stake for Tribes?” At that hearing, many tribes were unconvinced that online gambling would increase tribal revenue, believing instead that casinos on Indian reservations would be hurt by online gambling legislation. It is believed that since that hearing eight months ago, more tribes have come around to embrace the additional source of revenue that online poker and gambling is expected to bring. However, some tribes have yet to be swayed on the matter.

The second Indian Affairs committee hearing was held in February and examined the “U.S. Department of Justice Opinion on Internet Gaming: What’s at Stake for Tribes?” This meeting concerned itself with the December ruling by the DOJ that found the 1961 Wire Act to pertain only to sports wagering. Coming from this hearing was the recognition of the unestablished laws on whether Indian tribes can accept wagers from gamblers located away from tribal reservations and casinos. Permitting Indian tribes to host online gambling sites will undoubtedly require a proper interpretation of current gambling laws, as well structuring new regulations.

Some tribal leaders feel that whatever happens with online gambling legislation–either on a state or federal level–Indian tribes are likely to be shafted or pushed aside and not given their due. This point was made at the February hearing by Robert Odawi Porter, President of the Seneca Nation of Indians, when he testified, “In recent years, big gaming and state regulatory interests in Nevada and New Jersey have pushed for federal legislation that would give them monopolistic control of internet gaming in the USA. They are determined to shove Indian gaming away from the table. Indian nations not only demand a seat at the table, we insist we already own a table and should not have it stolen from us.”

Despite Porter’s fears, it seems obviously clear that tribal gaming interests will certainly by included in Internet gambling legislation. These Senate oversight hearings are being scheduled for that very purpose, to ensure that Indian tribes are recognized.



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Charles Rettmuller

Charles has been an avid poker player for a number of years, both live and online. He holds a degree in journalism and previously worked as a reporter for a Chicago-based newspaper. Charles joined the PokerUpdate team in early 2012 and writes daily news articles for the site.