The major question for the several states considering online gaming legislation is whether to go ahead or to wait for federal legislation. Many states are looking to online gambling as a valuable source of revenue in these difficult economic times. Like the individual states, the Native American reservations rely on income from gaming to fund many of their tribal government services and for this reason among others they do not wish to be at any disadvantage when and if online gambling becomes legal in the United States.
Income from casinos on Native American reservations contributes greatly to the economies of the tribes operating them. With all the activity in various states since the United States Justice Department issued an opinion on the 1961 Wire Act that means that online casino games and poker may no longer be illegal since they do not involve sports betting, the tribes have been waiting to see what would develop in the area of legal online gambling.
With over 15 states working on introducing some form of internet gambling the tribes recently made a move towards becoming involved in any future legal online gambling. Recently at a meeting of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee concerning developments in the gambling industry which have an impact on tribal casino operators, the chairman of the committee presented a draft bill that would enable the tribal operators to run online poker games.
This bill would make provision for licences to be issued by the Department of Commerce and the tribes would not lose their tax status or lose out in any way to commercial online or land based casino operators. Once the tribes were licensed they could then accept bets from players anywhere in the United States. The chairman of the Mohegan tribe claimed that his tribe had worked hard to develop the proposal on online gambling regulations and that “These regulations will meet or exceed the toughest regulations found anywhere in the world.”In general the tribes would prefer to have online gambling under the control of federal legislation rather than have each state dealing with internet gambling laws individually. Since a 1980s Supreme Court ruling, Native American gaming has been regulated by the federal government rather than by the individual states in which the reservations are to be found. The tribes would prefer this federal regulation to continue. Many of the large land based casinos particularly those in Nevada would also prefer to have federal rather than individual state legislation for internet gambling.