Game On: Christie v. NCAA and Tribal Governmental Sports Betting


By Anthony Broadman

If the bookmakers are right, the U.S. Supreme Court will lift the national ban on sports betting sometime in early 2018. 

If the Court makes clean work of it, and simply leaves sports-betting laws to the states, we can expect states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania to jump in quickly.  Elsewhere, lifting of the law—the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA)—may change very little if states don’t wish to allow sports betting.

Conventional wisdom says that Tribes don’t need sports betting—that Tribal casinos will not be able to book sports.  But conservative estimates suggest Americans bet $150 billion a year on sports.  And as slot machine players age, new offerings to attract younger players will become increasingly valuable.

For states containing significant Indian gaming interests, a clean decision in Christie will be complicated by IGRA and Tribal exclusivity.  Roughly put, if states allow sports betting in their jurisdictions, Tribes can do the same.  Situations will vary by state and compact.  But where Tribes have exclusivity, sports betting would violate Class III compacts. 

Further complicating how Christie will affect Tribes, almost every forum that has looked at the internet and IGRA takes the view that “because not all of [internet] gaming occurs on Indian lands, internet bingo lies outside Class II gaming or compacted Class III gaming and could subject the game's operators to state or federal criminal prosecution.”  California v. Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, 14CV2724 AJB (NLS), 2014 WL 12526720, at *8 (S.D. Cal. Dec. 12, 2014)  (citing 2000 Letter of NIGC General Counsel Kevin Washburn).  The same would have to be true for internet-based Tribal sports betting.  And Christie does not purport to affect Unlawful Internet Gambling and Enforcement Act of 2006 (UIGEA), which addresses Internet gaming separately from PASPA.

But none of that changes the simple point that if states offer sports betting, Tribes may too.  And sports betting probably doesn’t adequately describe what will be happening in the next few decades.  Sports books will include live-betting televised sporting events, wagering on e-sports, and booking bets on competition held at Tribal facilities. 

As the betting markets evolve, Christie could prove to be the biggest federal gaming court decision to impact Tribes since Seminole.  Either way, sports betting is here to stay and Tribes need to get in game.

Anthony Broadman is a partner at Galanda Broadman PLLC. He can be reached at 206.321.2672,, or via