Chief Lobbying Arm For U.S. Casinos Stuck In Middle On Tribal Regulations

March 8, 2023
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A top lobbyist for the American Gaming Association on Tuesday said it does not have a position on “vexing” proposed regulations that would broaden the authority of the federal government to take land into trust for tribes hoping to build casinos.

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A top lobbyist for the American Gaming Association (AGA) on Tuesday (March 7) said it does not have a position on “vexing” proposed regulations that would broaden the authority of the federal government to take land into trust for tribes hoping to build casinos.

The deadline for comments on the proposed regulations was March 1.

“The AGA did not [comment] because we have members on both sides,” Alex Costello, vice president of government relations for the AGA said during a panel session at the Seton Hall University School of Law Boot Camp in Newark, New Jersey.

Costello was responding to a question about two proposed regulations unveiled on November 30 by Bryan Newland, assistant secretary for Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Among other things, the proposals would allow interior secretary Deb Haaland to take land into trust for a tribe no matter how far away the real estate is from the tribe’s reservation.

The land-into-trust regulatory proposal is running into pushback from commercial operators like Las Vegas Sands and some tribes who are concerned about potential encroachment on their land by other tribes.

“The fissures between our membership have become more apparent, and this is a perfect example of that,” said Costello, who joined the AGA in 2020.

“I will say it is one of those issues that vexes the ability of both commercial and tribal operators to work together,” she said.

Costello said she is concerned the controversy over the proposed regulations could have long-term effects.

“It remains to be seen what will happen with this regulatory process. As with everything in D.C., it’s going to take a long time and then almost immediately will be litigated,” she said.

Founded in 1995 to lobby primarily for Nevada casinos, the AGA began accepting Indian gaming members in January 2015 when the Seminole Tribe of Florida became the first tribe to join.

During a panel session earlier in the day, a National Basketball Association (NBA) executive said one of the biggest challenges in preventing a sports-betting scandal is preventing leaks of inside information.

“If people start to think our games are fixed, that’s it. Then the NBA is not the NBA anymore,” said Alexandra Roth, the NBA’s associate vice president and senior associate counsel of league governance and policy.

Fixed games are highly unlikely in professional leagues because players are paid so much money.

But Roth said sports leagues have become “big ecosystems” with an international business presence and “the universe of people who have some amount of access to inside information — confidential information is a better way to put it — is vast.”

Inside information, such as an undisclosed injury to a star player, can give bettors an unfair advantage.

In other news, during the second day of the Seton Hall Boot Camp, Pennsylvania lobbyist Adrian King said he is optimistic newly elected Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro will crack down on illegal slot machines, which are called skill games by their owners.

“Today, in his budget address, [Shapiro] specifically addressed skill games and how they’re harming the state budget,” said King, who works for the gaming group in the Philadelphia law firm of Ballard Spahr LLP.

Lawmakers representing rural residents in central Pennsylvania tend to support skill games as a substitute for brick and mortar casinos, which are primarily located on the state’s eastern and western borders, King said.

Rollin Badal, a section chief at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said casinos are financial institutions as well as entertainment venues and should make it a priority to keep their business records up to date.

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