Indian Gaming Today

Monday, October 29, 2007

Rhode Island Seeks Supreme Court Review of Narragansett Land-Into-Trust Decision

Rhode Island's governor and attorney general have filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule lower court decisions upholding the Interior Secretary's determination to take land into trust for the Narragansett Indian Tribe.

In 1991, the Narragansetts purchased 31 acres across the road from their reservation near Charleston, RI. The tribe intended to use the land to build housing for elderly tribal members. After the housing project stalled due to state and local permit requirements, the tribe successfully sought trust status for the land from the Interior Secretary. Rhode Island and the town of Charleston challenged the Secretary's decision in federal court. In 2003, the federal district court ruled in favor of the Secretary, as did the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in 2005. The state sought en banc review, but again the First Circuit upheld the Secretary's decision.

Now, the state (joined by the town of Charleston) wants the Supreme Court to review and overturn the Secretary's decision.

The state's argument is that the Secretary's authority to take land into trust for the benefit of an Indian tribe is limited to the 258 tribes which were federally recognized in 1934, the date of the Indian Reorganization Act. Since the Narragansett Tribe was federally recognized in 1983, the state argues, the Secretary has no power to take land into trust for the benefit of the Narragansett.

As there are more than 560 federally recognized tribes today, the state's position would mean that the Secretary could not take land into trust for the hundreds of tribes recognized after 1934.

For more from the Providence Journal, click


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Gambling and the American Moral Landscape

We’re excited to be the folks tapped to talk about the morality of Indian gaming at “Gambling and the American Moral Landscape,” hosted by the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College on Oct. 25 & 26.

Specifically, we address moral policymaking and Indian gaming, arguing that Indian gaming is fundamentally different than legalized gambling and thus involves different considerations and imperatives for sound policymaking. The conference features presenters from Duke, Penn, Yale, Harvard (and, of course, the University of North Dakota!).

There will be panels on politics & policy (our panel), individual behavior and social impacts, theology and gambling, and gambling in American culture. Given the current controversy and media coverage of the same over Indian gaming as well as Gov. Patrick’s stance toward commercial casinos in Mass., the conference organizers are expecting significant press attention. (Of course, there's that World Series thingie, too....)

The Boisi Center website provides detailed information, including panels, speakers, links, and a gambling quiz, at


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

“The Donald” and Indian Gaming-- and Kathryn in Boston Magazine

“I certainly wouldn’t expect him to stay quiet.” That’s how Kathryn characterizes the likelihood that Donald Trump will stay mum on the chance that the Mashpee Wampanoag will seek a casino license in Massachusetts. She’s quoted in Boston Magazine’s October 17th “BostonDaily” feature.

Governor Deval Patrick has proposed a bidding process for three new casinos in the highly lucrative Massachusetts market. Trump has expressed strong interest in the prospects for that action. Boston Magazine reports that Trump is embroiled in a billion dollar lawsuit with Suffolk Downs owner Richard Fields, who is also a potential bidder.

But Trump may have an even greater problem with the Wampanoag.

Given his track record in expressing his strongly held opinions on Indian gaming, Trump should have a few things to say as Governor Patrick’s proposal develops. In the Boston Magazine piece, Kathryn notes that Trump frequently has been on the record as a critic of Indian gaming –- and of tribes themselves: “He was one of the very early critics of whether newly recognized tribes were actually tribes. He’s attacked the authenticity of tribal members.”

The Donald is always good for a "killer" quote. Asserting that tribes aren’t able to regulate their own gaming operations, Trump once said, “That some Indian chief is going to tell Joey Killer to get off his reservation is unbelievable.”

For more, including Kathryn’s analysis in today's story ("Casinos: Indian Trump Card"), click

And guess what? We're heading to Boston next week to talk about the morality of Indian gaming at a conference on "Gambling and the American Moral Landscape" at Boston College's Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life. Check out the speakers at

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

“This tribe has integrity”

The Oct. 7 Sacramento Bee profiles Jessica Tavares, United Auburn Indian Community chairwoman and CEO of Thunder Valley, one of the world's three most profitable casinos. The tribe is known for spreading the wealth – it has given more than $5 million to county groups and charities since Thunder Valley opened in 2003 – and for working cooperatively with county officials. The tribe has gone out of its way to comport with the terms of state and local land-use laws that, according to the article, “other tribes ignore in the name of sovereignty.”

According to Cheryl Schmit of Stand Up For California, a self-professed “watchdog” group concerning Indian gaming, "This tribe has integrity. Not all tribes are like this tribe -- if they were, Indian gaming would not be an issue in California."

A backhanded compliment? Um, you bet.

While her leadership and the tribe’s political and business savvy are laudable, Tavares and the United Auburn Indian Community in essence “play well with others” as a result of their situation in a highly lucrative gaming market, which affords them the luxury to share revenue and compromise limited aspects of tribal sovereignty.

Despite Schmit’s admonishment, the lesson that might be drawn from the story is a more difficult one for many less fortunate tribes in California or across the U.S. to follow.

Read the Bee story at


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Wampanoag Casino Plans

A recent Boston Globe article details the Wampanoag's plans for a casino-resort complex near Middleborough, Mass. The Wampanoag hope to develop a destination resort, not unlike the Pequots' Foxwoods, that would draw visitors from across the nation.

Massachusetts residents continue to have a lot to talk about in the area of legalized gambling--tribal or commercial--that may or may not distract them from rooting for the Patriots and the Red Sox.

Read more here.


Monday, October 01, 2007

Kathryn Quoted in Miami Herald Re. Seminoles and “Administrative Compact”

Kathyrn’s quoted in the September 24th edition of the Miami Herald concerning the efforts of the Seminole Tribe to operate casino-style gaming in Florida.

The Seminole have filed suit in federal court seeing to obtain the go-ahead to install Class III games. That’s the case’s posture, but as the Seminole’s attorney noted, the suit is intended to place political pressure on the state and Governor Charlie Crist to negotiate a tribal-state compact. Said lawyer Barry Richard. ``It's been years they've been asking for this. They want to get what they're entitled to.''

Kathryn’s commentary is more indirect. She notes that the suit, which asks the judge to require Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to approve an “administrative compact,” potentially is affected by State of Texas v. U.S.A., a recent Texas appeals court decision (see our post last month). Although in a different circuit, and therefore not binding in Florida, that case “casts doubt on the ability of the secretary not only to issue the administrative rules so a tribe could operate Class III slot machines but also undermines the secretary's ability to encourage the state to reach a compact because it takes away the secretary's stick,” as Kathryn put it.

Click here for the story.

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