IGRA changes moving ahead

Apr 4, 2006 4:07 AM

Last week the Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved S.2078, the bill originally sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), to amend IGRA.

The bill proposes a cut-off date of April 15 for two-part determination applications, essentially putting an end to the controversial practice of "reservation shopping" by barring tribes from acquiring any new lands that are not contiguous to their existing reservations.

Another amendment proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) would have required tribes to disclose gaming revenues to the general public. It passed after Coburn agreed to limit the disclosure to tribal members.

Sen. Inouye (D-Hawaii) introduced a third amendment to benefit tribes seeking Class III gaming. He suggested that, in states where Class III gaming is legal, tribes could take their case to court if the state did not respond within 180 days. The measure was defeated.

The bill passed by a vote of 10-3 and is now on its way to the Senate floor.

TRUST LAND APPROVED

The Shooting Star Casino in Mahnomen, Minnesota, now officially sits on trust land, saving the White Earth Band of Ojibwe nearly $1 million a year in property taxes, according to the Grand Forks Herald.

Located within the boundaries of the reservation, the land would have automatically gone into trust, but when the tribe purchased it in 1992, there was a mortgage on it. The tribe recently paid off the mortgage, freeing it up for trust status.

The tribe’s application for trust land status was approved last week by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, placing the land under the tribe’s jurisdiction and exempting them from paying city, county and school district taxes. However, White Earth has agreed to pay the city $70,000 a year for services (such as sewer treatment) for the next five years.

FEDS FINE
OKLAHOMA TRIBE

The Tonkawa tribe of Oklahoma has been fined $2.5 million by federal authorities, The Oklahoman reported, marking the first enforcement of the Bank Secrecy Act. The tribe will pay the U.S. Treasury Department $1 million, and former casino manager Edward E. Street will pay $1.5 million.

The Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network claimed the Tonkawa Casino failed to keep proper financial records, to report suspicious transactions and to implement measures to combat money laundering. FCEN head Robert Werner said evidence included phony Social Security numbers and an unreported deposit of $300,000.

The Tonkawa’s off-track betting parlor allowed bettors to deposit and transfer money through accounts or third parties, processing $50 million in wagers over a two-year period.

Federal authorities recently shut the casino down, saying it was at risk for money laundering and that Street did not have a proper management agreement. Street indicated that he was simply doing his job — he never questioned the money transfers or considered that there was a risk for wrongdoing.

Lobbying REFORMS PEG TRIBES

In the ongoing fallout from the Jack Abramoff scandal, the push for lobbying reform in Washington continues. Last week, Senate members reviewed several amendments, including three that specifically target tribes.

The first, introduced by Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) would require tribes and Alaska Native corporations to begin reporting all campaign contributions on a quarterly basis.

A second amendment, from Sen. David Vitter (R-Louisiana), would put tribes in the category of "corporations," thereby limiting the total amount of campaign contributions allowed. Currently, tribes are treated the same as political action committees, with no limits on the total amount of contributions. Vitter’s amendment would limit tribes to just over $100,000 in a two-year period.

Finally, under another McCain amendment, tribal employees who used to work for the government would be barred from lobbying their former Washington bosses for a period of one year.