Online Gambling Hearing by Indian Affairs CommitteeBy: Ryan Alders, Saturday November 19th 2011
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There were two key online gambling hearings held in the United States this week. One was before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade with regard to the bill sponsored by Representative Joe Barton seeking to legalize only online poker. The other was the hearing on online gaming in the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Washington D.C. The simple conclusion that could be drawn from the second hearing was that American Indian tribes want to have a major role in any legislative and regulatory policy making on online gambling.
In the Committee on Indian Affairs representatives of two Indian tribes presented different stances on the issue. Bruce Bozsum, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe, was in favor of regulated online gambling. He, however, added that any online gambling law should protect tribal rights and give tribes the opportunity to compete on a fair and level playing field. Bozsum claimed that Indian tribes were capable of competing on an equal footing with anyone else. Bozsum was against state wise regulation because that would provide head starts to small groups. He mentioned Nevada and New Jersey by name. Tribal online casinos should be allowed to accept wagers from players in non-tribal lands. Non-regulated online casinos and poker rooms should be closed down.
Glen Gobin, vice chairman of the Tulalip Tribes in Washington State, opposed online gambling because it threatened the flourishing land based Indian casinos. Gobin pointed out that Indian land casinos will generate over $260 billion in 10 years, which is many times more than the reported $41 billion which online gambling is expected to generate. Therefore the potential gains from online gambling were not worth the risk it posed to existing Native American gambling interests. Gobin did not agree with
National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) Chairman Ernie Stevens, however, agreed with Bozsum. He averred that the Indian tribal governments were justified in voicing their concerns. He said that any online gambling legislation should recognize that tribes can operate and regulate gaming. He went further by stating that tribal revenue should not be taxed by federal or state governments, that legislation should honor tribal gaming compacts and that Congress should not amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
Others who spoke at the hearing included Penny Coleman, an attorney for Coleman Indian Law, and Poker Players Alliance Chairman Alfonse D'Amato. In his closing remarks, Senator Daniel Akaka said that he wanted more hearings to discuss the regulation of online gambling its impact on Indian tribes. He said, "This is a complex issue, and I think we're only scratching the surface."
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