After days of speculation, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has revealed their initial draft of a bill that would make online Indian gaming legal in the United States. Entitled the Tribal Online Gaming Act of 2012, the 49-page bill has not been officially introduced into the Senate but rather is currently a discussion draft.
The bill early on points out how that Indian gaming provides 40 percent of all gaming in the US and that any legalization of online poker at the federal level must have positive economic benefits to the tribes. The act is intended to legalize tribal gaming only and is not a total federal solution.
One interesting note is that the bill names the Secretary of Commerce as the one that will be in charge of overseeing and regulating tribal gaming and an Office of Tribal Online Gaming will be setup to help with regulation.
Section 6 of the bill deals with the issuing of tribal gaming licenses. Per the bill, the Secretary of Commerce will be able to issue licenses to individual tribes, consortium of tribes, and partnerships between consortium’s or tribes and non-tribal entities. Any tribe that has not opted out can apply for a license and the tribes can only offer games within the United States and to people located within the US.
The bill also addresses they typical matters you would expect of any online gaming bill such as defining who services can be offered to and penalties that tribes can receive should they act improperly after being licensed. Those penalties range from fines up to license revocation. In addition, the bill also spells out that the revenues from online gaming may not be tax and the revenues may only be used for tribal government functions.
This bill will not supersede or replace any agreements that tribes currently have and it will not prevent them from making future compacts with states. Applications fees were not revealed in the bill but it was stated that the Secretary of Commerce will determine those fees. In addition, a revenue sharing clause has been created in the bill that will see 1% of revenues by tribes deposited into an account with the Department of Treasury and on October 1st of each year, that money will be distributed to tribes that choose to opt-out of the bill.
As stated earlier, this bill is currently in discussion draft phase only. It will likely go through multiple revisions before a final bill is submitted or voted upon, but it is definitely a great first step for tribes in their quest for fair access to online gaming in the United States.