Indian Gaming Today

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Different Eggs, Different Baskets

At the National Indian Gaming Association’s annual meeting last week, discussed here, NIGA Chair Ernie Stevens addressed a growing trend among tribes: economic diversification. Tribal governments are using gaming revenue to leverage all sorts of economic development opportunities, both on and off the reservation, that have nothing to do with gaming.

In addition to the obvious –- tourism and the like –- Stevens predicts that tribes will be at the cutting edge in green-energy practices, energy development, and individual entrepreneurship.

This follows an age-old formula for investing: minimize risk so as to maximize returns. As Sheila Morago, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association, suggested, “It's very important to diversify so all your eggs are not in the same basket." Diversification protects against an economic downturn, the renegotiation of tribal-state compacts, and an increasingly competitive tribal and non-tribal gaming market.


Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Restored Tribe, Restored Indian Lands: The Latest Lawsuit from California

Last week, Amador County, California, sued to block the BIA determination that the Ione Band of Miwok Indians are a "restored" tribe with some 228 acres of restored Indian lands near the town of Plymouth. Why would the county get involved in a land determination?

Under IGRA, gaming generally is prohibited on newly acquired lands. There is an exception, though, for lands that are taken into trust as part of the restoration of lands for an Indian tribe that is restored to Federal recognition. Amador County wants to force the Ione Band to proceed under IGRA’s "best interests" exception instead of the restored lands exception. That’s a higher hurdle to clear to open a casino.

Under the "best interests" exception, the Secretary must determine that gaming on the newly acquired lands would be in the best interest of the tribe and its members, and would not be detrimental to the surrounding community. Further, the state's governor must concur in the Secretary's determination for the "best interests" exception to apply. The handful of other exceptions to the prohibition against gaming on newly acquired lands, including the restored lands exception, do not give the governor veto power over gaming. That's because the other exceptions are all tied to reservation lands, while the "best interests" exception is not.

Click here for the recent Sacramento Bee article.


Wednesday, March 21, 2007


This op-ed in the Albuquerque Tribune claims that tribal regulation of casinos is “like Donald Trump regulating the Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City.”

Not quite, of course.

Tribes are governments, not individual business owners with profit maximization as their sole goal. Indian gaming is public gaming, more akin to state lotteries than to commercial casinos. And who regulates state lotteries? Why, the states do. Moreover, like states, many tribal governments have institutionalized mechanisms designed to insulate regulatory agencies from political influence by elected officials. And finally – not that this in any way is intended to excuse any tribal improprieties that may occur – there are plenty of local, state, and federal officials who make mistakes, behave in ways that give rise to concerns about their ethical conduct, or simply break the law.

Though couched as a critique of "self regulation," lurking behind inflammatory statements about tribal regulation is a mistrust of tribal governments, a persistent theme we analyze in our book, Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty: The Casino Compromise.


Friday, March 16, 2007

Indian Gaming and Sports

The Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut made headlines when it used casino revenue to acquire a professional sports team last November, when the 1,700-member tribe became the first non-NBA owner of a WNBA team with its $10 million purchase of the Orlando Miracle.

What other tribes are using casino revenue to enter the world of professional sports? Read USA Today's recent coverage here.

A related article in USA Today discusses barriers facing Native American athletes in college and professional sports. You can find that one here.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Kathryn Appears on "Justice Talking"

This week, "Justice Talking," a public radio show hosted by NPR correspondent Margot Adler, covers "Casino Gambling -- The Answer for Cash-Strapped States?" Listen to the nationally broadcast show, which includes an interview with Kathryn, through this link:

Also be sure to check out the special bonus interview with Kathryn at the "Justice Talking" website!


Monday, March 05, 2007

The Jamul Tribe and Another Casino in San Diego County? Steve’s Quoted Here

The Jamul Indian tribe plans to build a $350 million, 12-story casino in Jamul. Two members of the small tribe are opposed, partly on the grounds that they believe they represent “the true Jamul Indian tribe,” and partly because the proposed casino will be built atop their homes, as well as on a tribal burial ground. They’ve filed several lawsuits in an attempt to block the casino, while non-Indian citizens’ groups also have formed and mobilized in opposition.

Steve’s quoted fairly extensively in this March 5th article in the Voice of San Diego, which observes:

"The fight has broad implications for the public acceptance of tribal gaming in San Diego County. The story of the Jamul casino opens a window not only into the state of tribal gaming, but also the divisiveness of tribal politics and perceptions of American Indians in the 21st century. . . . 'In and around San Diego, that spread of casinos is not just saturating the market but creating a tipping point,' says Steven Light, co-director of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota. 'At that point, gambling is seen as a bad thing. You sort of go over the precipice. There's the perception that it's too much.'"

Although it might be read that way, Steve must admit that he’s not entirely positive that the spread of casinos in San Diego County actually is saturating the economic market for gaming; rather, the quote should be read as an observation of how public opinion is changing in and around San Diego, as well as elsewhere. The story of the Jamul is but one such tale.


Friday, March 02, 2007

Interview with NIGA Chair

For some intriguing insights and observations, see Indian Country Today's final installment in its three-part interview with Ernie Stevens, Jr., Chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association. Click here. Stevens is a key spokesperson for the industry and for tribes. Keep in mind he represents an interest group –- but one comprised of governments.