With dwindling profits being realized in tribal casinos, many industry players are looking to Class II online gaming as an alternative source of revenue. The tribes have created joint ventures that will test the waters with online bingo.
It will however not be an easy road for the casinos especially due to the fact that the federal government is yet to provide internet legislation. The problem is further compounded by the realization that under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) tribal casinos cannot accept wagers from outside their respective reservations.
Nevertheless Desert Rose Bingo which brings together Great Luck LLC and Alturas Rancheria launched a free-to-play bingo platform in 2013. Their hope was that they would eventually be able to accept real money as the legal hurdles were dealt with.
Unfortunately, in December 2014 the United States Department of Justice filed a suit against Desert Rose Bingo site based on the notion that the laws of California prohibit any non-charitable bingo from taking place off tribal lands. The Santa Ysabel Tribe who run the site insisted that they had done nothing wrong and went on to launch a poker site that accepts real money.
On the other hand, the Tribal Internet Gaming Alliance (TIGA) has opted to move slowly and fashion its online platform in a manner that will not cause it too much trouble with the authorities. Moreover, it has embarked on intensive lobbying which should see it sanctioned to exploit the online gaming market without restrictions.
It is worth mentioning that many of the legal issues that stalk tribal online gaming are centered on where the wager takes place. Is it in the casino’s servers or on the client’s PC? The casinos argue that it happens on their servers thus since these machines are on tribal land no off-reservation gambling is going on.
The federal and state authorities tend to disagree; according to them the wager occurs on the client’s PC so if this person is not on the reservation then the law is being broken. This location issue has become so sticky that state and federal judges are split on how the law should be interpreted.
Whatever the case, someone ought to bring clarity into the situation. In addition, tribal leaders should not stop looking for other sources of income for their people; so many lives depend on them.