Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduces anti-tribal casino bill again

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) is renewing her campaign against off-reservation gaming.

Feinstein introduced S.477, the Tribal Gaming Eligibility Act, on Wednesday. The text of the bill is not yet available online but it follows a version of the bill that failed to move during the last session of Congress.

"This legislation addresses the problems that arise from off reservation casinos by requiring that tribes meet two simple conditions before taking land into trust for gaming," Feinstein said in a statement for the Congressional Record. "First the tribe must demonstrate a 'substantial direct modern connection to the land.' Second, the tribe must demonstrate a 'substantial direct aboriginal connection to the land.'"

In her statement, Feinstein claimed more than 100 tribal casinos are operating in the state even though a list from the National Indian Gaming Commission puts the number at around 70. She did not say that the overwhelming majority of gaming facilities are located on reservations.

Only a handful are located on land that was taken into trust after the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Yet her bill would penalize newly recognized tribes or tribes that were restored to federal recognition -- in other words, tribes that didn't have reservations or had their land taken away by the government.

"Some have tried to mischaracterize my legislation," Feinstein said. "They have said it limits the sovereignty of tribes or it destroys the ability to undertake economic development."

"But I am here today to say that nothing could be farther from the truth," Feinstein added. "The bill preserves the right of tribes to acquire trust land in any location, provided they secure the approval of the Governor and meet the strict two-part determination standards."

Since 1998, no California tribe has opened an off-reservation casino in connection with the two-part determination section of IGRA, a much more difficult process than the one that applies to newly recognized tribes or tribes that were restored to recognition.

However, Gov. Jerry Brown (D) agreed to two of them last year, after both tribes won approval from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The tribes have yet to open casinos due to pending litigation.

Feinstein's bill was referred to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

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