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McCain urges tribes not to hide behind sovereignty

Citing a "rising tide of anti-gaming resentment," a leading Indian Country advocate on Tuesday called for tribal casinos to open their financial records to the public.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), an author of the federal law that cleared the way for what is now a $12 billion and growing industry, said critics of tribal gaming are amassing opposition. He told attendees of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) winter session that they needed to share more information about their operations.

"You've got to have transparency, you've got to have transparency, you've got to have transparency," he said in Washington, D.C.

Calling the recent Time Magazine series on Indian gaming "very, very biased," McCain offered one response to the growing controversy. "The way you cure it is say, 'Come in and look at our books. This is how much we make, this is how we spend it, this is what we do with it,'" he said. "You'll solve 99 percent of the problem."

Otherwise, he said, opponents will dictate the agenda, with disastrous results.

"You're headed for trouble if you hide behind not divulging ordinary information that other non-Indian gaming operations engage in on the basis of tribal sovereignty," he said.

Other Congressional leaders repeated the same warning. On Monday, Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) said opponents are planning hearings and floating amendments to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). He too predicted a negative impact on tribes unless they act to tell their side of the story.

"If you just sit back and bury your heads, you're going to lose," he told tribal leaders. "You're going to lose big."

And yesterday, Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), founder and co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus, said the "usual suspects" are planning their moves for the coming year. "They're going to wave Time Magazine," he cautioned, "and try to gather votes again."

Both NCAI and the National Indian Gaming Association (NIGA), the largest tribal casino group, are planning their own strategies to counter the critics. NIGA is planning to raise up to $5 million for a public relations and education campaign.

Relevant Links:
Sen. John McCain - http://mccain.senate.gov
National Congress of American Indians - http://www.ncai.org
National Indian Gaming Association - http://www.indiangaming.org

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Tribes asked to consider casino fee increase (02/18)
Tribes seek positive portrayal of Indian gaming (02/05)
Stevens files Alaska Native gaming rider (01/24)
Hall hits 'home run' on C-SPAN (12/18)
Norton: Indian gaming raises 'concerns' (12/20)
'We're going to do it right' (12/13)

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