Opinion: DOJ proposal is economic termination

"Indian gaming in Oklahoma could soon dramatically change –- to the detriment of Tribes. On Sept. 15, 2005, Thomas Heffelfinger, United States Attorney (D. Minn.) announced a major legislative effort to amend and strengthen a federal criminal statute to restrict electronic Class II Indian gaming. The announcement came during a panel discussion at the Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas. After losing successive court cases in which it attempted to curtail Class II Indian gaming in the last half decade, the Bush administration now will seek to amend the federal criminal statute called the “Johnson” Gambling Devices Transportation Act.

The impact would make many games that are currently Class II under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (“IGRA”) subject to Johnson Act enforcement unless Tribes voluntarily include them in compacts—and pay significant revenues to the states. Compacted games are excluded from Johnson Act enforcement under the IGRA. States increasingly have pressured the Bush administration to clamp down on technologically-aided Class II gaming so that states can exert more control and extract greater revenue from tribes. Tribes can operate Class II games free from state control, limits on numbers of games, and without sharing revenue.

Courts generally have rejected the Bush administration’s attempts to label technologic aids to IGRA Class II games as “gambling devices” subject to criminal enforcement under the Johnson Act. Congress intended that the IGRA permit tribes to embrace technologic advances and use Class II technologic aids without state interference. The Justice Department’s new initiative is an attempt to terminate a significant portion of economic prosperity for tribes engaging in Class II gaming and subject such gaming to state control, revenue sharing and machine limits. Such a change in the law likely will have a significant economic impact on tribes, especially those in Oklahoma that rely on Class II gaming to support their governmental operations and community services."

Get the Story:
D. Michael McBride: A new era of economic termination? New effort to restrict Class ll Indian gaming (The Native Amerocan Times 9/20)
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