Indian Affairs Leaders Speak on the Present and Future of Tribal Gaming Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Bryan Newland and Deputy Assistant Secretary — Indian Affairs for Policy and Economic Development Kathryn Isom-Clause recently delivered remarks to the Northwest Gaming Law Summit and California Nations Indian Gaming Association meeting respectively, on the present and future of Indian gaming law.

The Indian gaming industry remains one of the most significant sources of tribal economic development in Indian Country. Assistant Secretary Newland and Deputy Assistant Secretary Isom-Clause provided comments regarding the Department’s work fulfilling its trust responsibilities under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), providing timely and meaningful tribal consultation on gaming matters and improving transparency in its decision making.

“Evolving technology should not be an impediment to tribes participating in the gaming industry – we do not want tribes left behind in the gaming market,” said Assistant Secretary Newland. “The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was not intended to freeze tribal gaming in place while the commercial gaming industry expanded into new markets. It is intended to provide a regulatory framework and tribes should have the ability to equitably participate and lead in this ever-evolving industry.”

“The Department embraces Indian gaming as a vital tool for economic development and seeks to ensure Indian Country has clear guidance from the Department on allowable provisions in Indian gaming compacts,” said Deputy Assistant Secretary Isom-Clause. “We want to ensure that compacts are negotiated strictly in accordance with IGRA and do not unintentionally or intentionally undermine tribal sovereignty.”

The leaders spoke on the emergence and potential of new technologies like tribal mobile sports betting. Until recently, Indian gaming was limited to “brick and mortar” facilities on Indian lands involving traditional casino games, whereby both the player and the bet taking place were in one physical location. However, sports betting and advancements in technology have allowed tribes and states to explore the next evolution of gaming for tribes.

Assistant Secretary Newland and Deputy Assistant Secretary Isom-Clause also spoke on the need to uphold the intent of IGRA by ensuring that States do not seek to encroach on tribal sovereignty and expand the reach of state and local laws to tribes on their own lands.