Tribal Leaders Oppose Legislation - Sunday 26th of March 2006

MINNESOTA – In a meeting held yesterday atMystic Lake Casino in Prior Lake, MN, tribal leaders from across the nationexpressed strong opposition to legislation introduced by Senator John McCainto amend the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), and agreed to send aletter notifying McCain that they would not support the bill. McCain ischairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs.

The meeting marked the first time that tribal leaders have come togetherto develop a position on McCain's bill, S. 2078. It was convened by theNational Indian Gaming Association (NIGA) and the National Congress ofAmerican Indians (NCAI), which have held a series of meetings with triballeaders to develop consensus positions on legislation affecting Indian gaming.The session was hosted by Stanley Crooks, chairman of the Shakopee MdewakantonSioux Community, which owns and operates Mystic Lake Casino. Crooks is alsochairman of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.

In opening remarks before the group, Crooks said that S. 2078 was anunwarranted and unacceptable intrusion on the sovereign rights of Indiantribes to govern themselves.

"Sovereignty is an inherent right of Indian tribes, and cannot becompromised without compromising our very existence as Indian people," Crookssaid. "Senator McCain has been a good friend to Indian tribes in the past,but this legislation is so onerous in so many ways that we have no choice butto oppose it in the strongest possible terms."

Several provisions of the bill came under especially harsh criticism fromtribal leaders, including:

One that would give the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) new authority to regulate casino-style gaming. Tribes say they already have implemented the minimum internal control standards promulgated by NIGC, and that giving the agency further regulatory authority violates the tribes' rights to self-governance.

A provision that would expand the right of NIGC to approve contracts between tribes and various vendors. Tribes say the measure would violate tribal self-determination and increase the burdensome bureaucracy that already makes contract approvals a process that can last anywhere from a year to eighteen months. They note that the NIGC itself has admitted it is not capable of administering this provision.

A provision that would expand NIGC review of tribal revenue allocation plans. Tribes say additional review and control by the federal government undercuts tribes' right to govern themselves and discriminates against tribes by exercising control over their budgetary decisions when no other governments or businesses are subject to such controls.

A provision that would remove the two-part process now in place for consideration of off-reservation gaming proposals. Tribes say the two-part process has worked well and has not led to widespread off- reservation gaming. They note that only three off-reservation gaming proposals have been approved under IGRA since the Act was passed in 1988.

Tribal leaders said that under IGRA in its current form, Indian gaming hasdone exactly what Congress intended it to do. NIGA Chairman Ernie Stevens, amember of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin, agreed.

"Indian gaming is bringing our people out of poverty and despair, andlifting them up with hope and opportunities that have been denied to them forcenturies," Stevens said. "When proposals like S. 2078 are brought forward,it is a disappointing reminder that some people think we've gained too muchground. Who else in American society is forced to defend their right to besuccessful?"

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