Sports betting in Navajo casinos draws closer

LOS ANGELES

The Navajo Gaming Enterprise is getting closer to a time when it will be able to offer visitors to its casinos an opportunity to bet on their favorite sports teams.

The enterprise had been hoping to have this ability last fall when the 2019 pro football season began or at least in time for the Super Bowl, which generates more betting than any other sports event during the year.

That, however, did not happen but Brian Parrish, the interim CEO of the enterprise, is confident that everything will be ready for patrons to bet by March Madness, the playoff period for NCAA college basketball.

The pro football season, by far, generates the most interest among persons who do sports betting, Parrish said, but there is also a lot of interest out there for betting on basketball and baseball, and the gaming enterprise wants to be able to cater to this interest.

Sports betting (the legal, regulated version) became a reality in May 2018 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states had the authority to set rules that would make sports betting legal at the state’s Indian casinos.

Almost immediately, the Santa Ana Star Casino in Albuquerque began accepting sports betting even before the state had established rules governing the practice. A little later, another casino, this one on the Pojoaque Pueblo, began accepting sports betting as well.

Other tribes, such as the Navajo, were more cautious and waited for the state to issue its rules. Now that that has been done, they are making plans to enter the sports betting arena some time this year.

The same is true in Arizona but that is expected to take a little longer because the tribes will be required to renegotiate their compacts with the state to make it a reality.

Parrish said Tuesday he planned to travel to Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday to finalize an agreement with a major sports betting company there to partner up with the gaming enterprise.

The enterprise needs a partner who is knowledgeable about the odds since it would be expensive and too much of a risk for the enterprise to figure out its own odds for such bets as who will make the first basket or who will be winning a game at halftime.

Also, having a big name partner takes away the risk of a major upset costing the enterprise a lot of money and that’s one of the main reasons Indian casinos go this route.

It also ensures that Indian casinos will make a profit since they make money no matter whether the person wins or loses their bet, much the same way that casinos profit by hosting card games and take a portion of the pot regardless of who wins.

Sports betting is part of an overall strategy that the enterprise is embarking on to help it pay down its loan to the tribe and have revenue for future endeavors, including the addition of more casinos.

Parrish said the enterprise meets with Council committees and the president’s office on a regular basis to discuss its strategy to develop non-casino projects such as the recent purchase of a restaurant in Flagstaff and the development of businesses surrounding the Twin Arrows Casino and Resort.

Since the council agreed more than a year ago to reduce the loan percentage the casino was paying on some $220 million it borrowed to build Twin Arrows, the enterprise has been slowly reducing the loan’s principal and began generating revenue for these outside projects.



About The Author

Bill Donovan

Bill Donovan has been writing about the Navajo Nation government since 1971 and for the Navajo Times since 1976. He is currently semi-retired and is living in Torrance, California, and continues to report for the Navajo Times.

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