Indian Gaming Today

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Spin or Doublespeak? You Decide

Thread: Proposed IGRA Amendments

Recent action in Congress provides so much fodder for comment, it's hard to know where to start!

Opposition to Sen. John McCain's proposed IGRA amendments proves the old saw that politics makes strange bedfellows. The reforms are opposed by lawmakers with anti-Indian gaming agendas, who think that the proposed legislation doesn't go far enough in clamping down on "off-reservation" gaming, and also are opposed by lawmakers who are sympathetic to tribal concerns about increased federal and state restrictions on Indian gaming. See "Senators Stall McCain's Bill on Gaming" in the Arizona Republic (July 24).

In the House, Rep. Richard Pombo's bill would go even further than McCain's in prohibiting "off-reservation" gaming by eliminating IGRA's "best interests" exception. See "House Panel Backs Limits on Siting of Tribal Casinos" in the Boston Globe (July 27).

Both McCain and Pombo are unabashed in spinning their proposed reforms as good for tribes. McCain claims that his proposal is reasonable and that some increased federal regulation is necessary to counter the backlash against tribal regulation of Indian gaming, especially after the Jack Abramoff scandal. And Pombo, in near-doublespeak, said that the so-called "reservation shopping" occurring with tribal efforts to open casinos on off-reservation lands under IGRA's current exceptions "has perverted the intent of the law and threatens to undermine tribal sovereignty."

What's frustrating about these soundbites is that it takes much more than a pithy turn of phrase to refute them. We've already set out the "real deal" on "off-reservation" gaming under the "best interests" exception; it's no easy matter for tribes to open casinos on lands outside their reservation under current law -- making it even tougher is part of the backlash against Indian gaming, not part of a long-term solution to serve tribal gaming's policy goals. In a forthcoming law review article ("How Congress Can and Should 'Fix' IGRA," in the Virginia Journal of Social Policy and the Law), we set out overarching "lodestar" policy goals to guide reforms, including in the area of "off-reservation" gaming. And in the current issue of the Gaming Law Review
, we correct misperceptions about the so-called “tribal loophole” in federal campaign finance law (in short, there is no such loophole), and critique responses to the Abramoff scandal that focus on tribes and Indian gaming instead of unethical and criminal lobbying practices which were committed by Abramoff and his associates, not tribal governments.

It’s pretty obvious we’ll need to comment more on this in future postings!


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