Idaho United Against Prop 1 on YouTube: "Read the Fine Print" Get the Facts on Prop 1

Tribes gain support in bid to stop expansion of non-Indian gaming

Opposition is growing to an attempt to expand non-Indian gaming in Idaho.

Tribes in the state have already formed a broad coalition to oppose Proposition 1, a gaming initiative on the November ballot. Now the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, which represents more than 50 tribes in the Northwest, is on board.

“Proposition 1 presents a critical challenge to the economic life and well-being of our member tribes from Idaho," Leonard Forsman, the president of ATNI and chairman of the Suquamish Tribe, said on Thursday. "We must stand together, united in support of the broad coalition of community and tribal leaders from across the state of Idaho to defeat Proposition 1."

With Idaho United Against Prop 1, tribal leaders, local officials, small business owners, ranchers and faith-based groups are informing voters about the impacts of legalizing historical horse racing machines, which allow patrons to wager on past horse race events. Such an "unlimited" expansion of gaming goes against promises to limit casino-style gaming to Indian Country and threatens the revenues which tribes share with schools and their communities, they say.

“It’s clear when you look at the facts around Proposition 1, that this initiative is misleading and disingenuous on several levels,” said Ernie Stensgar, the chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and a founding member of the coalition.

Historical horse racing has long been controversial in the state. Lawmakers approved the devices in 2013, only to become alarmed after seeing them in action at non-Indian racetracks.

Believing the terminals to operate more like slot machines, which are currently restricted to tribes, lawmakers banned them in 2015, but the Republican governor rejected their bill at the last minute. Stensgar's tribe took the state to court and won a decision which required the law to go into effect because the veto turned out to have been invalid.

The governor, Butch Otter, has since declined to run for re-election but his lieutenant governor Brad Little is seeking the seat. And so is Paulette Jordan, a Coeur d’Alene citizen and Democrat who is hoping to become the first Native woman to serve as chief executive of a state.

Enthusiasm for Jordan's historic campaign and the tribal efforts against Proposition 1 are signs of the rising political clout of tribes. But they say their efforts are about protecting an industry they created.

"It’s absolutely critical that this initiative is defeated," said President Forsman of ATNI. "It could have a devastating impact for Idaho’s tribes and will dramatically cut ongoing investments in Idaho’s public schools.”

ATNI approved a resolution supporting the Idaho tribes during the organization's annual convention this week. The meting, which concluded on Thursday, was hosted by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe.

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