The Northern Arapaho Tribe in the state of Wyoming is aiming to bypass the local legislative process and bring a legal sports betting platform to their state. The state itself currently doesn’t currently permit any type of legal sports betting, but the Northern Arapaho Tribe is citing their sovereign rights and their ties to federal regulators, not state ones with regard to its gaming operations.
The Northern Arapaho simply feel that their casino operates and is regulated by National, entities, not state ones – the Interior Department has jurisdiction over tribal gaming across the US and gets precedence in deciding whether the Trible can offer legal sports betting on their land. Their position essentially makes state law irrelevant in their eyes.
As a result, the Northern Arapaho Business Council (NABC) announced that they would pursue sports wagering in a press release on October 14. Among other things, that release 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”.
What a Northern Arapaho Tribe Legal Sports Betting Platform Would Look Like
Legal sports betting in Wyoming would start out as a retail-only platform with no mention of a mobile side anytime soon. The retail-only sports betting would take place at all three of Northern Arapaho Tribe land-based casinos including the Wind River Casino in Central Wyoming.
Eventually, there could be a mobile betting platform in the state thanks to legislation passed last year by the Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the United States that would welcome tribes to offer their own mobile wagering as long as servers were located on their lands. The Northern Arapaho Tribe could eventually pursue mobile in the future although there are no impending plans to do so.
Viability of Sports Betting in Wyoming
Wyoming is the tenth-largest state in the US with regards to land but is also the least populated among lower-48 states. With just 579,000 residents, no pro sports teams, and a limited high-profile presence in the top-tier NCAA program, there are questions about the size of the potential market in the state and whether or not top-tier sports betting providers would want to enter what is seen as a limited Wyoming market.
With no current legal sports betting opportunities in the state, this is seen as an opportunity for the Northern Arapaho Tribe to increase both their profile and profitability going forward.
The Northern Arapaho Business Council is on record saying that: “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.”
Argument Remains Unclear
The premise of the Northern Arapaho’s argument has been challenged in other states already with varying results making the challenge a murky one at best.
New Mexico has seen several tribes open and operate legal sports betting platforms without state approval including the Santa Ana Star Casino Hotel in the Pueblo of Santa Ana in Bernalillo, the Buffalo Thunder Resort, and the Isleta Resort and Casino near Albuquerque.
Similar attempts to bypass state rules were quashed by Oklahoma’s state Supreme Court earlier this year after Governor Kevin Stitt made a deal with a few tribes which were eventually struck down by the top court in the land.
If All Goes as Planned
Wyoming should have legal sports betting in the near future. How successful will it be, remains to be seen. A lack of competition is a plus for The Northern Arapaho Tribe but a lack of mobile betting, a relatively small population base and an overall sense of uncertainty are negatives.
Other tribes may follow what Wyoming is attempting to do, like North Dakota whose Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians has expressed an interest in their own legal sports betting platform. The end of the PASPA has paved the way for state Tribes to bypass state lawmakers and more may start taking advantage.