The Badger State’s Lac du Flambeau Band is committed to bringing iGaming services to Indian Country.
With three states – New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware – already generating tax revenue from regulated online gambling, pro-iGaming advocates are anxiously awaiting for the next wave of online gaming legislature to hit the governor’s desk. Most have their hopes resting on states like Pennsylvania, California and Illinois to pass some form of iGaming legislation within the next 18 months. Yet, it’s starting to look like Wisconsin may beat them to the punch – not through a government approved iGaming act, but via the state’s Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians tribe.
The tribe was the first to join the Tribal Internet Gaming Alliance (TIGA) – a collection of tribes dedicated to operating online gaming sites throughout Indian Country.
Last year, the Lac du Flambeau launched a free-play Internet gaming portal on its Lake of the Torches Resort and Casino website. The browser based site allows registered users to play a myriad of table games, slots and card games (including poker). Upon launching, the site quickly gained a modest following, boasting over 2,000 users within the first month.
The software for the site was designed with the aid of C2Rewards, an international gaming company dedicated to delivering integrated iGaming capabilities.
Representatives of the tribe have implied that the free-money site is just the first step in the Lac du Flambeau’s attempt to become an integral part of the burgeoning iGaming movement. It also hopes to use the virtual casino as a marketing device and viable proof of concept.
In addition to joining the TIGA, the Lau du Flambeau pioneered the TIGA Treaty, with the aim of uniting tribes under an iGaming alliance.
The tribe is represented in the TIGA by Jerome “Brooks” Big John, Duane Chapman and Bill Guelcher, with the latter also acting as the CEO of Lake of the Torches Economic Development Corporation.
To date, the Lau du Flambeau is the only member of the TIGA. However, their ongoing recruiting efforts have generated interest from 50 US-based Indian tribes, spread across 18 states. One of Wisconsin’s other major tribes, the Potawatomi, have also explored ways to bring its brick and mortar casino offerings to the masses. The Potawatomi currently operate Potawatomi Bingo and Casino in Milwaukee.
When asked for his thoughts regarding Indian tribes and their interest in iGaming, PPA Executive Director John Pappas replied:
Given the significant capital investment, it makes sense that tribes would band together so that smaller and medium sized tribes can compete in the market.
He further elaborated that Indian law
allows tribes to be more creative towards building iGaming networks. In other words, Indian tribes would have far less difficulty forging compacts that would band groups of players together. State regulated iGaming laws, on the other hand, require that interstate compacts must be formed first before sites can share player liquidity across state lines.
To date, no interstate compacts have been forged in the United States iGaming space.
With how things are shaping up, it’s very well possible that two distinct regulated iGaming markets will emerge, similar to how their currently exists two distinctive types of casinos: commercial and tribal.