Indian Gaming Today

Friday, October 27, 2006

Slots Come to Florida

Florida's first state-approved slot machines will begin operation in December at two commercial racetracks in Broward County -- just in time for the holidays. The slots are the result of a 2004 change in Florida's state constitution. The state will get a 50% cut of the gross slot revenue, and each site is limited to 1,500 machines as well as a 16-hour day.

The Seminole Hard Rock Casino, which currently operates Class II electronic bingo machines in a 24-hour casino-resort, apparently doesn't feel too threatened. The St. Petersburg Times on Oct. 18th reports that James Allen, the Seminole Tribe's chief executive of gaming operations, "The lack of competition was fun, but we wish the tracks good luck. We think it's good for the state and for gaming in general."

IGRA allows tribes to operate Class III games, like slot machines, where the state "permits such gaming for any purpose by any person," but the Tribe's Class III negotiations with Governor Bush have stalled.

Perhaps the upcoming election will generate a different outcome for the Tribe, however, as Governor Bush will term-limit out of office. Both the Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates have indicated at least some openness to a tribal-state compact on Class III gaming.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Strange Bedfellows in South Dakota

Thread: Indian Gaming in the News

Anti-gambling forces have tried to sway policymakers and the public to eliminate South Dakota's video lottery since it was adopted in 1989. Now, as the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports on October 17th, in the context of tribes' efforts to seek amended compacts, tribes are exerting political influence through the power of a Native American voting bloc.

Walt Big Crow, an Oglala Sioux Tribe council member, said, "If we get to the point where we think the governor is negotiating in bad faith, if the governor turns down our compacts, we will tell our voters to turn down video lottery." Opposition to the video lottery would align tribes with anti-gambling organizations that, ironically, also oppose Indian gaming.

Tribal political strategies to leverage favorable compact terms is an artifact of the Supreme Court's decision in Seminole Tribe. Prior to that case, a tribe could sue a state in federal court for failure to negotiate a compact in good faith. Now, if a state doesn't consent to be sued, tribes must turn to the political arena, as tribes in South Dakota are doing.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Off-Reservation Gaming in Mississippi

In 1990, voters in Jackson County, Mississippi rejected legalized gambling. Now, the Mississippi Press reports on October 16th that the Mississippi Band of Choctaws are asking Jackson County voters to consider allowing an off-reservation tribal casino under IGRA's "best interests" exception.

Although the referendum would not be binding on the tribe's efforts, tribal leaders have indicated that they would respect voters' wishes. Tribal Chief Phillip Martin has said that "if the county doesn't want gaming, it's okay with us." Presumably, the referendum would inform Governor Haley Barbour's position on the casino proposal; under the "best interests" exception, the governor has what amounts to veto power over an off-reservation casino.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Why Not the Wyandotte?

The National Indian Gaming Commission and the Justice Department have filed a notice of appeal from a district court decision regarding the Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma's efforts to open a casino in Kansas City, Kansas.

The NIGC had ruled that the trust land, known as the "Shriner Tract" and located across from the city hall, did not meet the exceptions for gaming on newly acquired lands under IGRA. The district court held that the NIGC ruling was arbitrary and capricious, in that it construed too narrowly the "settlement of a land claim" exception under IGRA.

In brief, the NIGC reasoned that the "settlement of a land claim" exception would apply only where lands actually were returned to the tribe as a result of the land claim. The Wyandottes had been party to a land claim, but had received a monetary settlement, which it was required by Congress to use to purchase land. The district court held that the Wyandottes' purchase of the Shriner Tract with those funds could qualify the tract as within the "settlement of a land claim" exception.

The district court's decision is Wyandotte Nation v. NIGC, 437 F.Supp.2d 1193 (D. Kan., July 6, 2006).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Back from Oklahoma

What an interesting time we had in Oklahoma. We gave a talk on the compromises inherent to the law and politics of Indian gaming.

Everyone was exceptionally friendly, and we had a tremendous audience for our lecture and follow-up questions. We always enjoy the chance to get out to different communities and talk about the complicated questions raised by tribal gaming.

Of particular interest were our interactions with tribal officials and members of the Chickasaw Nation. We had a chance to discuss the Nation’s economic diversification efforts through not only gaming, but Chickasaw Nation Industries, Incorporated.
The tribe has created a federally chartered 8(a) business corporation that includes enterprises in construction, property management, information technology, and other. Although headquartered in Ada, Chickasaw Industries has regional offices and business scattered throughout the U.S.

Economic diversification is a critical goal for many tribes. Some are more successful than others at leveraging natural resources or gaming, as well as in building partnerships or just generally being creative in their approach to economic development. We’re continually amazed at the diverse stories that there are to tell in that regard.

Truly there is more to “gaming” than just “gaming.”

Friday, October 06, 2006

Oklahoma, Here We Come!

We’re off to Ada, Oklahoma, to deliver the 2006 Lou Watkins Endowed Lectureship at East Central University. It’s an honor and a privilege to be asked to speak to an audience who undoubtedly is well versed in the complexities of Indian gaming law and policy.

Our talk will be based on our book, Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty: The Casino Compromise. After talking about how we grappled with how best to provide a comprehensive yet readable account of the rise of the Indian gaming industry and the difficult legal and political it presents, we’ll use the frameworks for law and policy reform we suggest at the close of the book to make some concrete suggestions. We’ll then discuss Class II gaming (bingo) versus Class III gaming (casino-style) in light of those frameworks. Oklahoma has been a big Class II state.

We’ll also get a chance to speak with a media and politics course about popular culture and Indian gaming –- that is, how tribal gaming and tribes are portrayed on TV shows like the Simpsons, South Park, and the Sopranos, and how those images reflect common themes about Indian gaming used in the mass media and by policymakers. We’ll get to speak with East Central University students about a key question: How is Indian gaming law and policy a reflection of symbolic politics?

Looking forward to an interesting and informative time in Ada!