Tribes oppose casino reform

Aug 1, 2006 5:07 AM

The National Indian Gaming Association isn’t alone in its opposition to the Indian gaming reform bill sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. barring off-reservation casinos. At least a dozen senators have put the bill on hold.

Last week the NIGA issued a press release opposing HR 4893. The release outlined several reasons why the bill is unconstitutional. It requires tribes to negotiate with local governments””a move that violates Indian sovereignty because "sovereign tribes negotiate with sovereign states, not town councils."

A related concern is that the bill will make it nearly impossible for landless, restored, and acknowledged tribes to "even open a bingo hall." The bill also dumps existing provisions for historic Indian land claims.

In addition, NIGA pointed out that the bill is unnecessary because the Secretary of the Interior is already working on clarifying the rules for off-reservation gaming, and is about to issue a regulation.

A number of Senators are working to block the bill, including Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., who agree that the bill violates tribal sovereignty and is too restrictive on tribes.

Other lawmakers including Sen. David Vitter, R-La., Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., oppose the bill because they think it’s not tough enough. They’re worried because the bill will not affect tribes who applied for off-reservation casinos before a April 15, 2006 deadline, through a grandfather exemption.

Only four of the 277 gaming tribes operate off-reservation casinos, but 44 others have applications pending.

Sixty Senate votes are needed for McCain’s bill to push through the opposition.

Tribes seek exemption from labor laws

Indian gaming tribes are challenging an order by the National Labor Relations Board declaring that sovereign Indian tribes are under their jurisdiction, the Associated Press reported.

The order, which first appeared in May 2004, was in response to a complaint filed by the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union against the San Manual Band of Mission Indians. The union said the tribe violated labor rules when they let the Communications Workers of America organize at the tribe’s casino, but denied HERE the same access. The San Manuel Band responded by arguing that the labor board had no jurisdiction.

The labor board one-upped Indian gaming tribes with the order. The dispute has gone to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.

Last week, tribal representatives attended a House hearing asking Congress to overturn the order, noting that tribes are sovereign governments unto themselves. National Congress of American Indians President Joe Garcia stated, "Tribal policies must come from within the tribe’s government, rather than being imposed from the outside."

Meanwhile, Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Ariz., has introduced a bill to amend the National Labor Relations Act, exempting tribes from its jurisdiction.