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In The Hoop
JUNE 20, 2001

Welcome to In The Hoop, Indianz.Com's occasional column about assorted Indian issues.

Casino Bill Coverage
In a sign that gaming is big news (or that the media just wants it to be), a number of major outlets covered new legislation proposed yesterday by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.).

Indianz.Com got right to the point and asked the question no one else did: Why were no Indians involved in the announcement of a bill called the Tribal and Local Communities Relationship Improvement Act?

"At a morning press conference in Washington, DC, Wolf and Shays -- joined by Bob Riley (R-Ala.) -- claimed that the proliferation of tribal casinos has left states and local communities without a voice. But while they positioned their bill as a means of improving the quality of life for tribes, no Indian representatives participated in the event."

"Instead, Wolf invited a number of anti-gaming groups who are currently fighting tribal casinos in a number of states. Members of his staff, however, denied the showing was one-sided even though members of the very community the bill is supposed to help were noticeably absent yesterday."

The Arizona Republic hinged on the fact that the bill could be perceived as an infringement of state sovereignty and an example of the "top-down" style of governance Republicans are supposed to avoid.

"One of [Gov. Jane] Hull's chief [gaming compact] negotiators, Mike Bielecki, said he would object to any federal directive that would take negotiating authority back to the Legislature.

"'It smacks of big Washington paternalism,'" he said. "'The state of Arizona has made a clear choice on how we want to deal with this.'"

Ken Maguire of the Associated Press digs in on states' rights as well: "John Dossett, attorney for the National Congress of American Indians, said it's up to states to decide how they want to negotiate compacts.

"'This is really setting up a pretty major hurdle,'" he said. "'I don't know why the federal government needs to get involved. It's a matter of state law.'"

(The AP also quotes Shays as saying "the federal government has imposed Indian gaming" on states. Shays is absent on how states imposed their laws on tribes when IGRA was passed in 1988.)

The Daily Oklahoman considered whether the bill would even matter at all in the state, a bastion of Class II gaming (which causes tribes to seek casinos elsewhere, most notable Kansas): "It's unclear how the gaming aspects of the legislation would affect Oklahoma's 48 tribal facilities. The bill targets Class III Indian gaming facilities, which offer casino games such as roulette, craps, poker and slot machines."

"Class III facilities are illegal in Oklahoma. Oklahoma has Class II gaming, which includes bingo and pull tabs. However, some federal authorities said they believe there is Class III gambling offered at certain Indian gaming halls in Oklahoma."

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel zones in on Florida's fight to prevent the spread of gaming: "Although he had not read the bill, Florida Assistant Attorney General Jon Glogau said it appeared the legislation would aid the state's struggle to limit Indian gaming if it passed."

"Bruce Rogow, the attorney who handles federal litigation for the Seminoles, said it is premature to comment on the proposal."

"However, he added: 'There is no question that the Seminoles are committed to maintaining the integrity of their sovereignty.'"

Not surprisingly, the New London Day had praise from state officials on the benefits the bill would allegedly bring.

"'It's a significant change. It clears up major ambiguities in existing law as to what authority a state has to reject a compact,' said state Rep. Alex Knopp, D-Norwalk, a co-chairman of the General Assembly's Government, Administration and Elections Committee.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal agreed. 'My understanding is that it gives states a greater role in decisions relating to gambling facilities, and state's should have a greater role, and voice,' he said."

The Boston Globe tries to make its story relevant to past coverage by the much criticized paper: "Currently, Wolf said, investors hoping to locate casinos in densely populated East Coast locations are providing financial backing for groups seeking the right to operate casinos by becoming federally recognized as tribes.

As a result, he said, the process by which the Bureau of Indian Affairs decides whether to recognize a group as a tribe has become a matter of hiring the best genealogists, historians, lawyers, and lobbyists."

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