Tribes seek piece of online poker action

30 July 2012

In the United States, the Chairman for the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, outgoing Hawaii Senator Daniel Akaka, has introduced draft legislation that could see tribes permitted to offer games of online poker alone or with non-aboriginal partners.

The 87-year-old Democrat presented his proposed Tribal Online Gaming Act of 2012 during an oversight hearing on Friday just as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Democrat from Nevada, and Republican Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl from Arizona made plans to publish their own legislation that would legalise online poker nationwide and tighten existing restrictions on other forms of Internet gambling.

“Gaming has been the single most effective form of economic development for Indian Country,” read a statement from Akaka released on Friday.

“Revenues from gaming provide essential services to tribal members including education, healthcare and housing. Indian gaming also provides jobs to members of the surrounding communities. In many counties across the nation tribes are the largest employer with nearly 75 percent of those jobs going to non-Indians.

“With these types of economic tools, comes great responsibility. Tribes are the first-line regulators for tribal gaming. We in Congress and especially on this Committee also have a responsibility to ensure that tribal views and priorities are part of any legislation that could impact tribal gaming.

“That is why I have developed a draft online gaming bill, the Tribal Online Gaming Act of 2012. This bill is intended to further the dialogue with tribes, my colleagues here in the Senate and other affected stakeholders.”

If passed as is, Akaka’s legislation would see the Commerce Department issue tribes with online gaming licences while any profits would be exempt from taxation. In addition, land-based facilities would be free from state compacts with groups permitted to accept wagers from anywhere in the country.

“In any expansion of gaming, we must make sure that the unique circumstances surrounding tribal sovereignty are maintained in any legislation and we must also enable tribes to participate fully should any legislation be considered so tribes are on equal footing with their counterparts in the commercial gaming industry,” read the statement from Akaka.

“As always, it is our job on the Committee to make sure tribes achieve parity in any federal legislation and to bring your voice to Congress. So, I urge all of you to review the Tribal Online Gaming Act of 2012 discussion draft and provide comments so that we can make sure the tribal voice is heard.”