The biggest myth in the US is that Native Americans have a monopoly on gambling. While American Indian casinos have long been a massive part of the gaming landscape, relaxed laws have opened the door for others to enter the space.
American Indian tribes have been forced to adjust to the increasing prominence of online gambling. When polled, 10% of US adults said they gambled online at least once per week, and this number is growing rapidly.
So, have Native Americans moved into the online casino space?
Fight against online casinos
Native Americans have been subjugated and discriminated against for centuries, since the colonization of the Americas. Gambling was one of the few remaining areas where they could dominate the landscape and support themselves. The solidarity between tribes and their constant management of the industry outside of Atlantic City and Las Vegas has paid dividends for both the US government and the tribes themselves.
Some of the earliest opposition to online casinos came from the Native Americans. Brick-and-mortar casino owners were rightly worried that online casinos would sweep away the traditional gambling hubs that tribes had profited from for so long.
Despite their opposition, the tribes did little to convince lawmakers to change their course, and many US states have shown a willingness to move toward the full legalization of online gambling.
Begrudgingly, many tribal casinos have seen the light and have moved into the digital space. The roots of this revolution began within the brick-and-mortar casinos themselves, with online sports wagering being made available.
Unfortunately, early incarnations of these sportsbooks meant that wagers were confined to the casinos themselves, with no crossover and no collaboration with anything else. Many Californian tribes would even restrict online wagering to their casino grounds only, with no possibility of placing remote wagers.
However, unlike before, Native Americans were competing not just with American brands but with global brands. As legalization has come to online casinos in the US, the traditional monopolists of the gaming industry have been forced to change their ways.
Allies in online gaming
Native American culture has always had a slant that leans toward sovereignty and solidarity against all outsiders. It was a stance that was necessary for their survival throughout history, and those practices continue into the modern day.
As early as the 2010s, Native Americans were already forming alliances with each other to confront the looming threat of online casino legalization coming to the US. There was little surprise when legalization eventually began in the east, in places like New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
It placed them in an excellent position to fight back against international casino brands that finally had a foot in the US. By forming alliances with each other, the tribes could avoid competing with each other and cause their bigger rivals to opt for a divide and conquer strategy.
Establishing a place within online gambling
Most Native American casinos also have online versions of their casinos. Due to the fact they moved quickly, they continue to enjoy a sizeable piece of the pie.
Some of the tribes have steadfastly refused to enter the online space, preferring to focus on an alternate brick-and-mortar experience, serving a local audience. However, they remain firmly in the minority.
What is clear is that the tribes must innovate and enter the online gaming space if they’re going to survive. Brick-and-mortar casinos were formerly the only option to gamble in many states, with Native Americans the only groups able to operate these casinos on their land.
Bettors who travel from further afield have new, attractive options, which is forcing the tribes to consider the unique customer experiences they provide.
Some Native American supporters of online gambling have made it clear that they see the coming of the online revolution as a natural next step and an opportunity to innovate and offer an alternative option for those who prefer the magic of the in-person experience.
Native Americans have suffered as a result of legalization because their hegemony in most parts of the country has now been challenged by online rivals. In the past, they were the only community that could legally own and operate a casino outside of select parts of the country, but that is changing.
For the tribes to survive in the gaming space, they need to upgrade their brick-and-mortar gambling experiences, and ensure they provide an online platform that people love to gamble on.
What do you think about the impact of online legalization on the prospects of Native American-owned casinos?