Indian Gaming Commission Gives Green Light to Oneida Nation and SGC Partnership

The National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) has given its blessing to a sports betting partnership between the Oneida Indian Tribe in New York and commercial gaming supplier Scientific Games (SGC).

Under the terms of their January agreement, Scientific Games will provide its OpenSports betting platform to three casinos operated by Oneida in upstate New York.

The platform, developed by SG Digital under Scientific Games, will assist each of those three casinos in offering a full range of sports betting services after New York launches its sports betting market.

This deal covers online and in-person sports betting if both are legalized in New York. The three Oneida casinos in New York include:

  • Turning Stone Resort in Verona
  • Yellow Brick Road Casino in Chittenango
  • Point Place Casino in Bridgeport

This also begs the question regarding how Oneida’s bid to retain its gambling exclusivity in the upper state area will affect the advancement of sports betting at commercial casinos.

Additionally, we have to wonder if this deal between the tribe and Scientific Games lays the groundwork for sports betting operations in Wisconsin, where the Oneida also run casinos.

Oneida Nation and SG Digital Reactions

Oneida Nation expressed its pride in being one of the first nations to nationally offer sports betting.

Oneida Nation Indian Nation Representative and Nation Enterprises CEO Ray Halbritter said this about the news:

“Our partnership with Scientific Games and SG Digital will give our guests an incredible sports betting experience, while providing our properties with a strong foundation to grow this market in New York.”

Jordan Levin, DG Digital Group Chief Executive, said Scientific Games is making great strides in preparing New York to go live with sports betting. He also said Scientific Games is honored to work with the Oneida Nation:

“Being part of the first sports betting partnership to receive a favorable NIGC determination is a significant milestone that will set both Scientific Games and Oneida up for ongoing success. We look forward to implementing our OpenSports solution for Oneida as we gear up for expansion into New York.”

When Will Sports Betting Come to New York?

New York already has a law in place that allows in-person sports betting at the four upstate commercial casinos, at least in theory. However, there is no way to bet on sports in NY at this time because the NY Gaming Commission still needs to approve regulations governing the activity. There is also no way for existing casinos to apply for the needed sports betting licenses at this time.

Tribal casinos are also waiting on regulators before launching their own sportsbooks. Oneida Nation is already in the process of building new sportsbooks on its property but will wait for the state to authorize sports betting at commercial casinos before going live.

There are indications sports betting could commence in New York by the end of the year. The New York Gaming Commission will be voting on rules governing sports betting this Monday. Once some rules are put in place, the Gaming Commission will finally be able to get the ball rolling on reviewing licenses and getting the ball rolling.

That should open the door to retail sportsbooks at four commercial casinos and an uncertain number of tribal casinos. Those four commercial casinos are:

  • Tioga Downs in Nichols
  • Del Lago Resort & Casino in Waterloo
  • Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady
  • Resorts World Catskills in Monticello

Del Lago Resort has already begun carving out space for a 6,000 square-foot betting lounge in partnership with DraftKings. According to Del Lago, the lounge will host floor-to-ceiling video displays to show live sporting events to go along with a restaurant and bar. It could open as early as this summer.

The Gaming Commission has also approved the casino’s petition to reduce the number of its slot machines ahead of it getting a sports betting license.

But What About Mobile Sports Betting in New York?

Bringing mobile sports betting to New York will be a bit more complicated. There are some who believe legalizing online betting would require an amendment to the state constitution. This would also require the issue to be sent to voters for approval.

On the other hand, there are those who believe no amendment is necessary. After all, New York already allows online racing betting.

There are several sports betting bills currently pending in the New York State Assembly and Senate. Each of these bills opens up the possibility of mobile sports betting.

The question is: When will it happen?

The problem lies in the difference of opinion between the Assembly and the Senate.

Joseph Addabbo, Chair of the Committee on Racing, Gaming and Racing, represents those who want to see sports betting come to New York sooner rather than later.

“We can sit on the sidelines and we can do nothing about sports betting in our state and we can continue to watch other states really progress,” he said, adding that New Jersey has done “phenomenally well”, partially due to the fact that New Yorkers head across the border to wager.

“Or we can do sit and watch it go by or we can do something about it and I remain optimistic that we can do something about it this session,” he said.

Governor Cuomo, on the other hand, does not place sports betting anywhere near the top of his priorities. He says that while it is “possible” mobile sports betting will become a reality soon, “time is short and the list is long.” He also says he will counsel his people to get top priority things done first before discussing sports betting.

FanDuel believes the first year of mobile sports betting could generate more than $150 million in taxes and licensing fees for the state. That’s money FanDuel reps say could be going towards roads, bridges and education.

However, Governor Cuomo recently said in an interview with WAMC that he doesn’t believe the potential is all that great:

“Sports betting, first of all, does not make you that much money. New Jersey has sports betting, it’s on TV all the time. You can’t turn on the darn TV without seeing it. They raised something like $13 million dollars — $13 million dollars is a rounding error in our state. So, I don’t even think the economic benefit is there.”

Tribal Opposition to State-Wide Gambling Expansion

Indian nations such as the Oneida and the Senecas have wide exclusivity zones which makes it possible for them to block mobile sports betting throughout most of upstate New York.

Sarah Walters, a former US Interior Department and National Indian Gaming Commission attorney, told WBFO that, potentially, if commercial casinos were to accept bets from within these exclusivity zones, tribes could limit or omit payments made to the state in exchange for that exclusivity.

“[This] risks a significant amount of revenue to the state,” she said.

In the meantime, Oneida Nation has showed serious intent with the construction of retail sportsbooks at all three casinos. Oneida Nation will likely open its first sportsbook at Turning Stone since it already has a lounge that would be perfect for taking wagers – hence the deal with Scientific Games.

The Seneca operate six casino locations, and the tribe is also voicing an interest in adding sports betting to its properties.  The Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino has the advantage of being near a large metropolitan population and to a professional sports franchise.

How the Oneida May Affect New York Online Sports Betting

When weighing up the pros and cons of legal mobile sports betting in New York, legislators have to take into account the potential financial loss from the Oneida.  Under a 1993 gaming compact signed with the state, the tribe has exclusive rights to offer to offer casino facilities in the 10-county region of upstate NY.

The exclusivity issue is a big one. If the state were to pass legislation allowing residents to place wagers from within any of those zones, whether that be from the comfort of home or a local sports bar, Oneida Nation would have a strong case for New York infringing on the tribe’s exclusive gambling rights.

Over the last five years, Oneida Nation has paid the state $200 million in gaming revenue for those rights. Meanwhile, analysts predict that sports betting (important: not including mobile betting) could bring in $10 million to $30 million each year.

Compared then to the money coming from the Oneida each year vs the potential revenue from sports betting, the tribe wins that round. BUT if mobile betting comes into the equation, some analysts predict revenue of up to $500 million a year, as well as the creation of thousands of jobs.

Legal mobile sports betting could thus play down the impact of the Oneida’s exclusivity on the area and the potential loss of revenue.

Oneida Nation-Scientific Gaming Partnership and the Wisconsin Link

Oneida Nation is also a federally recognized tribe in Wisconsin. Their reservation is located in parts of two counties, located on the west side of the Green Bay metropolitan area.

There are 25 gaming locations in the state run by 11 tribes. The Oneida of Wisconsin has five locations with slot games and table games among the offerings.

At present, Wisconsin’s constitution prohibits gambling except at tribal casinos. The state is watching from the sidelines as others take advantage of last year’s Supreme Court ruling to allow states to determine their own sports betting rules.

To change Wisconsin’s gambling laws would entail passing the idea through two consecutive sessions of legislature and then holding a statewide referendum.

A simpler option may be to allow tribal casinos to offer sports betting, although they don’t seem eager to expand state betting for now.

The tribes are thought to be hesitant about opening up their compacts with the state as it may leave them vulnerable. In 2017, they made a combined $1.23 billion off gambling, of which $53 million went to the state.

However, if Oneida Nation in New York begins showing more profitability and growth through its deal with Scientific Gaming, the domino effect may be felt in Wisconsin. Local tribes may start to see the benefits of sports betting in Wisconsin and begin lobbying the other tribes to join their efforts in joining the party.