Attorney: Tribes will diversify their casino profits to expand beyond Indian gaming Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · April 3, 2019 at 12:33 pm SAN DIEGO – As she prepared to participate in a panel on litigation at the National Indian Gaming Association Conference and Trade Show, attorney Hilary Tompkins said tribal leaders are in a position to make even greater use of the funds created by the casinos – a $31.5 billion a year industry, according to research provided by California-based economist Alan Meister. Tompkins has a particular viewpoint, given the Washington D.C. attorney’s experience with Indian gaming legal matters from several vantage points. A New Mexico native and member of the Navajo Nation, Tompkins served as chief legal advisor to Governor Bill Richardson, where she gained a perspective on tribal gaming matters in the southwestern state. President Barack Obama appointed her solicitor and general counsel for the U.S. Department of Interior, a position she held for almost eight years after being confirmed by the U.S. Senate. During her years in the Interior Department, Tompkins said that numerous tribal land-into-trust issues were approved, not all of them specifically for gaming purposes. In an interview before the panel discussion, Tompkins said tribal casino operators were looking to utilize profits from their properties to expand the facilities’ options beyond gaming. “The next generation of leaders will use those revenues to explore other businesses and diversify tribal investments,” said Tompkins, a partner with Hogan Lovells in Washington D.C., who now focuses on natural resources and environmental law. “Things like e-commerce and other areas. Our tribal leaders are very astute and insightful, and they want to plan for the future for their tribes.” Tompkins said Indian casinos will be following “the Las Vegas model,” adding non-gaming attractions such as restaurants, retail, spas and other entertainment amenities to augment gaming revenues and attract a wider customer base. “Tribes are always thinking way ahead and looking at long-term plans,” she said. “Decisions made by the tribal councils show they are thinking about both the tribes’ children and future generations.” Since leaving Interior, Tompkins has grown concerned about the challenges tribal compacts are facing in the current fiscal environment. States – particularly California – have been told by the courts they can discuss revenue sharing when expanding gaming, but they cannot tax the tribe. She said many of the challenges the tribes are encountering involve states wanting to “fix gaming compacts” under the guise of obtaining additional revenues from the tribal casinos. She added that tribes are fearful of reopening compacts because it’s akin to “letting the genie out of the bottle.” There is a fear of disrupting the status quo. “It’s not just changes in governors and state policy, it has a lot to do with revenue and states having a very tough budget situation,” Tompkins said. “States agreed to tribal exclusivity, but now it seems they have a bit of buyer’s remorse.” Tompkins said New Mexico didn’t have to reopen its compacts to allow two Indian casinos – the Pueblo Santa Ana near Albuquerque and the Buffalo Thunder north of Santa Fe – to launch sports betting facilities. New Mexico is one of the eight states that now have legal sports betting but is the only state where the activity is exclusively in tribal casinos. She said the compacts New Mexico negotiated with the tribes were “very broad” and authorized all types of gaming, including sports betting. “I’m actually not surprised New Mexico jumped on board,” she said. “These issues are very state specific.” Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.