The Oneida Nation surprised everybody in July when it amended its compact with Wisconsin to include sports betting.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs at the US Department of Interior approved the compact on Aug. 20.
Brandon Yellowbird-Stevens, vice chairman of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, joined Victor Rocha on Wednesday in a webcast presented by the National Indian Gaming Association.
They discussed how the compact amendment came about and what to expect for the future of Wisconsin sports betting.
Yellowbird-Stevens teased that sports betting will go live at Oneida in late October or early November.
Negotiating the compact to add event wagering
Oneida Chairman Tehassi Hill quietly put in a notice on July 1, 2020, that the tribe wanted a compact amendment.
Before beginning negotiations, Oneida leaders met with counterparts from the other 10 federally recognized tribes in Wisconsin. They came up with core tenets that all Wisconsin tribes would follow in future compact amendments. Those included making sure there were no compact increases, no added fees paid for sports betting and keeping sovereignty intact.
Then negotiations began between Hill and Gov. Tony Evers, which Oneida and all the tribes kept secret until the deal was reached in July.
Oneida won’t specifically share sports betting revenue with the state. However, it will be included with the gross gaming revenue that the tribe does share with the state.
Mobile to be limited even on reservation
Yellowbird-Stevens said Oneida got advice from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to offer a mobile component.
However, the compact does not allow for the tribe to offer statewide mobile sports betting. It can’t even offer reservation-wide mobile sports betting.
The state wanted to limit sports betting to tribally owned parcels within the reservation. So patrons would be able to place bets on their phones while physically located at an Oneida casino.
Yellowbird-Stevens spoke of creating other spots around the reservation that include a sports betting kiosk so people can “hop on the res, make a bet and hop back off.”
There’s also provisions in the compact so that if it’s determined that mobile sports betting can be offered statewide under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, a question playing out right now in Florida, or other Wisconsin tribes negotiate to have reservation-wide mobile wagering, Oneida can amend its compact to expand mobile.
The Oneida reservation contains the Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport and gets to within a mile-and-a-half of Lambeau Field.
Tribe-state at odds on in-state college betting
Yellowbird-Stevens said the state insisted that wagers not be taken on in-state college teams, not even during March Madness.
“It was actually a sticking point,” Yellowbird-Stevens said. “It was a negotiation area that we couldn’t do.”
Oneida will be able to take wagers on out-of-state college teams, including betting on NCAAF in Iowa.
Yellowbird-Stevens said that Oneida would like to take wagers on in-state teams such as the Wisconsin Badgers. He hopes that after Oneida shows it can handle wagers on teams from other states responsibly, Wisconsin will allow in-state wagering in compacts with other tribes, which will open it up for Oneida to do so.
“They will see that we have the controls in place to manage those types of ethical concerns, and those tribes coming behind us will have a stronger position to negotiate those back into the compacts to do reservation-wide (mobile) and include those teams that they have concerns about,” Yellowbird-Stevens said.
Wisconsin tribe said no to official data mandate
Oneida Casino is about 3 miles from Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.
Oneida Nation already partners with the Packers. The tribe even has its name on the most used entrance gate at Lambeau.
Yellowbird-Stevens said the Packers and the NFL asked for a requirement to use official league data in the compact. And it was a sticking point with the state as well.
“What we told them right off the bat is nobody else is paying for that,” Yellowbird-Stevens said. “… We said we’re not going to pay extra. Whoever you guys use for your official sports data, we’re more than likely going to use. … But we don’t want any official negotiation agreement.”
Oneida won’t be able to take bets on amateur sports such as the Olympics. However, the tribe can take bets on awards such as the Academy Awards and the Grammy’s, as well as in-play wagering.
Yellowbird-Stevens said sports teams asked that in-play wagers not include bets on the first play of the game, injuries or someone running on the field.
Partnering with IGT to run sportsbook
Oneida partnered with International Game Technology (IGT) to offer retail sports betting at Oneida Casino.
It was essential to the tribe to have a partner who would work with them rather than handle everything independently. Oneida got a good recommendation on IGT from the Choctaw.
“We wanted to make sure we are going to operate the sportsbook,” Yellowbird-Stevens said. “Oneida always wants to operate its own stuff with a vendor who will come in and show us how to do it.”
Oneida and IGT hoped to have sports betting kiosks up by the beginning of the NFL season earlier this month. However, a delay in shipping processing chips from overseas pushed that timeframe back a couple of months.
At Oneida Casino, they are turning an existing restaurant into a sports betting lounge. The tribe plans to finish the lounge in January, just in time for the Super Bowl.
Yellowbird-Stevens said sports betting would create a modest eight-to-15 new jobs operating the lounge and kiosks at three locations on the reservation.