Legislators say ‘no’ to land-grabs

Oct 4, 2005 6:11 AM

Republican lawmakers in Wisconsin want to change the way land is acquired for tribal casinos.

Legislators last week introduced a bill that requires Legislative approval of off-reservation land acquisitions under the two-part determination section of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The bill (AB 461) passed by a 59-37 vote and is on its way to the state’s Republican-controlled Senate.

If approved, the legislation would override the governor’s power, as outlined in the IGRA, to approve or disapprove tribal gaming agreements that have been approved by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

A spokesperson for Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle (D) said the governor opposes the bill, and intends to continue negotiating gaming compacts with tribes on behalf of the state.

Assembly Speaker John Gard, who introduced the bill, said the increased oversight of the Legislature would "strengthen the hand" of everyone in the state and ensure that taxpayers "get a better deal," the Green Bay Press-Gazette reported.

Menominee Nation tribal chairman Michael Chapman said the law "essentially strips the governor of the rights that so many other of his colleagues enjoy across the country."

The Menominee tribe is waiting for a BIA decision on their proposed off-reservation casino in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

State Calls on Feds

New York Gov. George Pataki (R) is cracking down on the Oneida Nation’s gaming operation, urging the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to make a decision regarding what he calls "illegal" and "criminal activity."

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the tribe’s Turning Stone Casino is on non-sovereign, taxable land. The tribe has since applied for land-into-trust approval from the federal government. The ruling followed a 2004 decision by the state, claiming the compact between the Oneidas and the Cuomo administration was invalid.

Oneida spokesman Mark Emery said the "nation disagrees with the state," and that the casino was operating within IGRA guidelines.

The tribe is also involved in a land claim against the state for 250,000 acres in central New York.

Tribes Back Measure

The Rumsey Tribe of Yolo County (California) and the United Auburn Indian Community of Auburn contributed $75,000 each to Citizens, Teachers and Law Enforcement Against Measure G.

Measure G is a nonbinding vote on the November ballot, asking residents to weigh in on whether or not a casino should be built in Yuba County.

Both tribes who donated money maintain gaming operations in the greater Sacramento area — the Rumsey tribe operates Cache Creek Indian Bingo & Casino in Yolo County, and the United Auburn Indian Community along with Station Casinos operate Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln.

The measure may have repercussions for the Enterprise Rancheria Maidu tribe of Oroville. They are proposing a $90 million, seven-story hotel-casino and convention center in south Yuba County. In 2002, the tribe and Yuba County officials reached a $73 million funding agreement in lieu of taxes. The Bureau of Indian Affairs must give Enterprise Rancheria approval before construction of the casino can begin.

Law Targets Cayugas

The Seneca County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a law last week declaring gaming machines such as those at the Cayuga Nation’s LakeSide Entertainment bingo hall illegal.

The Cayuga’s Class II operation is on ancestral land and the tribe is awaiting BIA approval on its land-into-trust application. But the county says as long as the land isn’t held in trust it is subject to local laws.

Cayuga Nation representatives spoke at a public hearing in September, saying the proposed law was unenforceable because their gaming operation was approved by NIGC in 2003 and is legal under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Former Seneca Falls At-Large Supervisor Richard Ricci also spoke at the hearing, saying the new law would protect families, businesses and non-profit organizations that cannot compete, because the Cayuga Nation is not subject to the same tax laws and regulations. "I call upon you to do what is just and right," Ricci said at the hearing, "for the battle is just beginning again."

In June, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals scrapped the Cayuga Nation’s 25-year-old land claim to more than 64,000 acres in Seneca and Cayuga counties.