Feds eye tribal gaming reform

Aug 9, 2005 4:16 AM

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) and Rep. Richard Pombo (R-California) plan to introduce legislation to reform the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in response to off-reservation gaming, Copley News Service reports. McCain, the chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, has questioned the manner in which tribes have acquired land for gaming. He says Congress never envisioned off-reservation casino proposals. Pombo, the chairman of the House Resources Committee, is circulating a draft bill that would limit the ability of tribes to acquire non-reservation land for casinos.

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Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), said last Tuesday that states should be able to "tax the Indians" for operating casinos. The Palm Beach Post reported him saying, "The federal law, sadly, requires us to give the tribe that has asked for a compact a better deal than exists in the state. I would have voted no if I was in the Congress, (at the time of its passage in 1988) but that’s the law of the land."

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The North County Times reported last week that San Diego County officials have petitioned Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), regarding the Pauma Band of Mission Indians’ 6,400 square-foot addition to its casino. John Sansone, the county’s top lawyer, said the Pauma Band violated its 2004 compact when they did not negotiate an environment agreement as required by the state.

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The state of California is investigating complaints of unsafe working conditions and improper waste disposal at the Campo Indian tribe’s Golden Acorn Casino, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported. The Campo tribe and casino management are addressing the problems, however, Gov. Schwarzenegger’s (R) office is planning an inspection to ensure the casino does not pose a threat to public health.

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Meanwhile, Gov. Schwarzenegger (R) plans to return a $50,000 donation given to him at a recent fundraiser by Yuba County Entertainment LLC. The company is backing Enterprise Rancheria’s proposal for a casino on 40 acres of county land, which will go before Yuba County voters in November. Schwarzenegger said he could not take tribal gaming money because he negotiates with tribes.

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California’s Amador County is challenging the approval of a gaming compact between the state and the Buena Vista Band of Me-Wuk Indians. The tribe is planning to open a casino on its rancheria, which the county says doesn’t qualify for gaming. The National Indian Gaming Commission has issued a letter stating that the rancheria meets the definition of "Indian lands" under the Indian Gaming and Regulations Act.

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The New York Times reported that the Seneca Nation of New York is facing opposition in its bid to acquire land for its off-reservation casino in Niagara Falls. The casino opened in 2002 under a land claim settlement with the state, giving the tribe the right to buy 50 acres in Niagara Falls. The tribe has purchased 25 acres and now wants the rest, but property owners don’t want to sell. The state has begun eminent domain proceedings to acquire the land on behalf of the tribe.

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The Rhode Island Supreme Court will decide whether the Narragansett Tribe’s casino proposal is legal under the state constitution. With the recent elimination of the Lottery Commission, it is not clear how the state would regulate the casino. Lawyers for the tribe and its partner, Harrah’s Entertainment, argue that opponents are trying to force the casino into the mold of existing video lottery terminal facilities. They say that casinos are "infinitely more complex" than VLT facilities, which justifies different tax rates.

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The Lytton Band of Pomo Indians opened its Class II gaming facility in downtown San Pablo last Monday, The San Francisco Chronicle reported. Casino San Pablo’s 500 new video bingo games were installed after the State Legislature refused to approve an agreement negotiated between the Lytton Band and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to add 2,500 slot machines to the venue near Interstate 80.

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The Osage Nation of Oklahoma opened its new casino in the Tulsa area last Wednesday. The 47,000 square-foot Million Dollar Elm Casino boasts more than a thousand gaming machines, 12 blackjack tables, a restaurant and a deli. The $16.5 million casino will employ 500 people.

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With more gaming facilities than any tribe in the country, the Chickasaw Nation now plans to open the largest casino in the state of Oklahoma. The Oklahoman reports that the Riverwind Casino, to be located on I-35, will cover more than 200,000 square-feet. The $30 million project is being financed by Multimedia Games, a Texas casino gaming machine company and MegaBingo, a subsidiary of MGAM.