INTERNET GAMING UPDATE: Senate Leaders Confirm Deal, Tribes Examine Discussion Draft

INTERNET GAMING UPDATE: Senate Leaders Confirm Deal, Tribes Examine Discussion Draft

As expected, federal activity to legalize Internet gaming is gaining steam in 2012, due in part to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) change in legal position on the applicability of the Wire Act announced on December 23, 2011. As a result, a number of states have moved their lotteries online, and at least two (Nevada and Delaware) have passed local laws to regulate other forms of online gaming (poker and casino games).

Reports have been confirmed that the Senate Majority Leader and the Republican Whip have come to agreement and are working towards passage of a bill to authorize Internet poker. This agreement brings together proponents of legalizing Internet gaming with social conservatives opposed to Internet gaming. The reported deal would limit online gaming Internet poker while broadening the application of the Wire Act to reverse the DOJ opinion. As a result of this bi-partisan and diverse coalition, the outlook for passage of an Internet gaming bill in 2012 must be taken seriously.

At the same time, many obstacles remain. State governments that have placed lotteries online and those that wish to go further have already written Congress in opposition of legislation that would limit their ability to conduct Internet gaming. Nothing is expected to move until the after the November 6, 2012 elections.

Indian country remains very concerned that legalized Internet gaming will harm brick-and-mortal Indian gaming operations, which for more than 30 years has enabled tribal governments to begin to rebuild community infrastructure and provide essential health, education, and public safety services to tribal citizens. The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs (SCIA) has released a draft bill that seeks to protect tribal interests.

Meetings will take place throughout Indian country over the next several months to further address tribal concerns. The National Indian Gaming Association has scheduled a meeting on the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Reservation for August 21st. NIGA will hold additional meetings during its Midyear Conference on the Seminole Tribe’s Reservation in Florida on September 18-19.

Kevin K. Washburn Nominated to Serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

Kevin K. Washburn Nominated to Serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs

On Thursday, August 2, 2012, President Obama nominated Kevin Washburn to serve as Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs within the U.S. Department of the Interior. Mr. Del Laverdure of the Crow Nation has been serving as the Acting Assistant Secretary since April when Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk resigned.

Mr. Washburn is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma. He is currently the Dean of the University of New Mexico School of Law. He has written and taught extensively on federal Indian law for the past decade at the law schools of Harvard, the University of Minnesota, and the University of Arizona. Prior to academia, Washburn served as the General Counsel to the National Indian Gaming Commission during the tenure of NIGC Chairman Montie Deer, 2000 – 2002. He also worked as an attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice from 1994 – 2000, serving both in Washington, D.C. and in Albuquerque, N.M. His education includes a B.A. in economics from the University of Oklahoma and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

Kevin has written extensively and testified on the subjects of Indian gaming, criminal law, and tribal sovereignty. He supports legislative proposals to restore and expand tribal court authority over non-Indians and a broader range of crimes. His writing and testimony can be found here. At DOJ, he successfully argued Montana v. EPA (1997), in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld the right of tribal governments to set their own clean water quality standards that must be followed by non-Natives and nearby state and local governments.

Washburn’s nomination must be approved by the U.S. Senate, and he will likely testify at a nomination hearing before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in September. Thursday, September 13, 2012 is a likely hearing date. If confirmed he would serve in the position through the remainder of President Obama’s current term (January 2013). If the President is reelected, Mr. Washburn could serve through the second term. Mapetsi will continue to monitor the nomination and update you on any progress.