Idaho tribes amend gaming plan

August 06, 2001 11:18 PM
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North Idaho Indian tribes filed an amended version of their gaming initiative in response to concerns raised State Attorney General Al Lance.

“We wanted to be responsive to the attorney general’s suggestions,” said Rob Smith, staff attorney for the Nez Perce Tribe. “Certainly, we didn’t have to make any of the changes he suggested, but we thought that some minor wording changes were in order.”

The initiative would legalize current tribal gaming operations, while placing limits on their growth.

“The measure is based on the bill that was introduced by Gov. Dirk Kempthorne this spring that both he and the attorney general considered constitutional,” Smith said.

The Coeur d’Alene and Nez Perce tribes hope to qualify the initiative for the November 2002 ballot. To do so, they must collect more than 40,000 signatures.

The tribes maintain that their electronic gaming machines are the legal equivalent of Idaho’s state lottery. Under federal law, Indian tribes that negotiate gaming compacts can conduct any type of gambling that’s allowed elsewhere in the state.

The next step for the initiative is to go back to Lance’s office for issuance of short and long ballot titles. If the tribes object to the titles Lance proposes, they can appeal to the state Supreme Court.

If there are no objections, Smith said the tribe can start gathering signatures for their petition.

“The tribes remain very positive about the prospects of passing this measure,” Smith said. “We know that gaming is very important to tribal economic development.”