Gambling foes target off-rez casinos
Opponents want tribal laws revisited
NIGA CHAIRMAN Ernie Stevens has vowed to fight a gaming moratorium.
10/18/2005 - by Jami Shoemaker
The National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion has jumped on the bandwagon in the debate over off-reservation casinos. Members of the anti-gambling group are urging the Bush administration to put a two-year moratorium on permits for off-reservation casinos.
Gaming opponents from more than 20 states met in Washington recently and are asking Congress to re-examine the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA).
The IGRA continues to be under scrutiny as lawmakers discuss possible amendments to the act. Jeff Benedict, a Connecticut attorney and author of Without Reservation, a book that criticizes Indian gaming, told the National Press Club the law was "being exploited to the detriment of Indian tribes." He said the IGRA was hurting states and local communities.
NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr. said tribes would fight a moratorium. "Weâ€™re not going to get bogged down by folks who want to take a shot at Indian gaming," Stevens said.
Are Feds stacking
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers is the latest in a long line of lawmakers and friends of the Bush administration who have worked to put limits on Class II gaming.
As head of the Texas Lottery Commission in the 1990s, Miers backed the efforts of then-governor George W. Bush, rejecting a proposal that would allow bingo halls to use electronic machines that resembled slot machines.
Miers also ordered the removal of more than 4,000 "eight-liner" machines in an attempt to protect state lottery revenues.
While the Supreme Court isnâ€™t likely to weigh in on the issue of what defines a slot machine, Miersâ€™s record supports recent legislation proposed by the Department of Justice. That legislation would amend part of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, making many Class II games illegal, and giving states more power to require compacts and revenue sharing.
The Tule River Tribeâ€™s 17-year battle to acquire 40 acres of land near its existing reservation in Tulare County, California has had another setback. The Tulare County Board of Supervisors voted against the tribeâ€™s land-into-trust application.
Last year, the county rejected the tribeâ€™s plans for expansion of Eagle Mountain Casino, which the tribe operates on its reservation. Now, the county fears the tribe will open a casino on the new land, should it go into trust.
The tribe hasnâ€™t announced plans for a casino, but a tribal attorney implied that in looking for a viable form of economic development, a casino is the only choice. The BIA will make the final decision regarding the land.
Two tribes are in dispute over a 40-acre parcel of land in Fresno County, where the Big Sandy Band of Mono Indians is proposing a $250 million casino. The Fresno Bee reports that the Big Sandy Band and the Table Mountain Rancheria both claim to have historical ties to the land, based on the records of a single tribal member.
The Table Mountain Rancheria operates a casino just two miles from the Big Sandy Bandâ€™s proposed site. A tribal officer for the Big Sandy Band cites competition as the reason behind Table Mountainâ€™s claims. However, an attorney for Table Mountain said the land contains an Indian burial ground, and his tribe is simply trying to save the sacred site.
The NIGC is looking into the claims of both tribes, and may have a decision by yearâ€™s end.
The Spokane Tribe and the state of Washington have negotiated a gaming compact that includes up to 35% revenue sharing. The agreement is the first of its kind for the state, but it still has hoops to jump through, including approval by the state gaming commission, Gov. Christine Gregoire and the U.S. Secretary of the Interior.
The Spokane Tribe operates several casinos on tribal land, but is planning an off-reservation casino on trust land near downtown Spokane. The state agreed to lift limits on the number of slot machines the tribe may have. But if slots are ever legalized for non-Indian casinos, the revenue sharing will end.