Oneida Indian Nation has announced a partnership agreement with Caesars Entertainment in anticipation of New York legalizing sports betting.

Under the terms of the agreement, Oneida Indian Nation will work with Caesars to launch the “The Lounge with Caesars Sports” at each of its three casinos in 2019 provided the plan receives a favorable review by the National Indian Gaming Commission and the New York State Gaming Commission issues regulations governing sports betting.

Oneida Indian Nation Operates three casinos in New York:

The deal will also bring those three casinos into the Caesars Total Rewards fold. Once the relationship is finalized, Oneida casino customers will be able to exchange and redeem their TS Rewards points for Caesars Total Rewards points. Likewise, Caesars customers can exchange and redeem their points at Oneida properties.

Nation Enterprises CEO Ray Halbritter said this in a press release issued yesterday:

“When it comes to sports betting, Caesars is in a class of its own. We are pleased to be joining forces with this world-renowned gaming leader. Like Oneida Nation Enterprises, Caesars has built its business on exceptional service, as well as a dedication to constant innovation. These shared values create the perfect synergy for a meaningful long-term partnership.”

Christian Stuart, Executive VP of Gaming and Interactive Entertainment at Caesars, also issued a statement that read, in part:

“We are eagerly awaiting the National Indian Gaming Commission’s review of this innovative new partnership involving a licensing and branding arrangement.  The Oneida Indian Nation has already established Turning Stone as the preeminent New York gaming destination, which makes the property and its sister casinos fitting partners for Caesars.”

Deal Contingent on Undecided Matters

The deal announced this week by Caesars and Oneida Indian Nation is contingent on two issues that have yet to be decided. First, the deal is subject to a review by the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC).

The NIGC was established in 1988 with the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) and oversees gaming activities at the federal level. Among its key objectives are to regulate and oversee Indian gaming, ensure tribal gaming activities comport with federal law, and to review and approve management agreements.

Additionally, the deal is contingent on the NYS Gaming Commission issuing regulations for NY sports betting in 2019. This part of the whole deal could pose some trouble for Oneida because the regulations they’re referring to are based on a 2013 law permitting the state’s four upstate commercial casinos to offer sports betting pending the end of PASPA (done) and the Gaming Commission issuing regulations (not done).

One complicating factor with the 2013 law is that it is specific to four commercial casinos not operated by gaming tribes. That would presumably leave Oneida Indian Nation out of the picture, except the tribe stated last year that a 1993 gaming compact with New York allows the tribe to offer any type of gaming permitted in New York.

Here’s how Joel Barkin, Oneida Indian Nation VP of Communications put it last year:

“The 1993 Nation-State Gaming Compact authorizes the Oneida Indian Nation to adopt any gaming specification that is permitted in New York, without any further approvals by the State.

“The Nation previously has adopted numerous games under this provision, and the Nation now will adopt sports betting too. In anticipation of today’s ruling, the Nation has made preparations to offer sports betting at venues throughout the Oneida reservation, and we will be putting those plans into operation in the near future.

“We anticipate that sports betting at the Nation will create numerous new job opportunities at each of our casinos. The Nation is proud is proud of the track record of success in managing these kinds of new opportunities and using new revenues to invest in Central New York.”

If that line of reasoning plays out, Oneida Indian Nation has at least two avenues of approach to enter the sports betting vertical. One is for the NYS Gaming Commission to finally get around to issuing those long overdue regulations. The other is for new gaming laws to be passed in New York this year (which seems likely).

In both scenarios, Oneida Indian Nation would be able to offer sports betting if its interpretation of the 1993 gaming compact holds true. In any case, we can add Oneida and Caesars to the list of stakeholders betting on NY legalizing sports wagering.

The deal does not mention online or mobile sports betting, but that could easily be added to the mix if New York does end up legalizing online wagers. The first NY sports betting bill to emerge in 2019 (S17 by Senator Addabbo) seeks to legalize online and mobile wagers if approved.

The New York constitution requires further gambling expansions to be approved by statewide voter referendum, but the 2013 law does not specifically mention online wagering, so it remains to be seen whether or not mobile wagering would actually count as an expansion requiring voter approval.

If online betting is approved in New York, Oneida Indian Nation will be well-positioned to strike with Caesars in its corner. Caesars has a good deal of sports betting experience in Nevada and also operates a mobile sportsbook in New Jersey.

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