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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - April 2004

15 June 2004

Federal recognition gets top billing again this month, Congress is holding hearings on the process, several tribes are close to receiving notice of recognition or not and the opposition is becoming even more organized and adamant. The most vocal and consistent of the opposition voices is Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal; his opposition is as spirited as allowed in polite society or a court of law.

With a ferocious attack on the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal and a phalanx of municipalities Monday demanded reversal of the federal recognition of the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation. "The BIA is lawless and capricious - out of control - and must be stopped. The Schaghticoke decision was driven by politics and personal agendas," Blumenthal said in a morning press conference releasing the state's formal appeal of the ruling to be filed today with the Interior Department. Rick Green, Hartford Courant, 5-4-04

Blumenthal is not the only person dissatisfied by the recognition process, in fact it would be difficult to find someone that did not disapprove of the process. Tribes seeking recognition say the process is slow, onerous and unfair. The Lumbees in North Carolina have been trying for over one hundred years to gain recognition. The supporters of a streamlined process want to change that and make it simpler and quicker. Opponents, like the vocal attorney general, want it to be slower and more difficult. The possibility of a casino that goes with recognition only further complicates the issue.

A Senate plan to change the tribal recognition process got mixed reviews Wednesday, making passage an "iffy" proposition this year, the bill's sponsor said. While former leaders of the Bureau of Indian Affairs praised efforts to beef up funding and staff to expedite decisions, members of Congress said the plan will weaken the regulations and make it easier for groups with casino ambitions to become sovereign tribes. It's "fifty-fifty" that the bill will pass this year, said Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., adding that it's only "iffy" that the Senate Indian Affairs Committee will approve the bill before the August recess. Time is too short, he said, and Congress has many other bills to consider. "If it was easy we would have done this 15 years ago," said Campbell, chairman of the panel. "I'm not sure we can get it to the floor." Lolita C. Baldor, Associated Press, Biloxi Sun Herald, 4-22-04

The latest push in Congress to grant federal recognition to the Lumbee Indian tribe of Robeson County is pitting Republicans against Republicans and Indians against Indians. For the 53,000 Lumbees -- 40,000 of whom live in Robeson, one of America's poorest rural counties -- getting the federal nod they've sought since 1888 would bring not only official acknowledgement of who they are but also an estimated $77 million a year in federal dollars. "Final passage of this legislation will allow the tribe to receive long overdue assistance in areas like education, health care and economic development funding," Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C., sponsor of the Senate version, told a Thursday meeting of the House Resources Committee. Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer, 4-2-04

But talk in the House committee room -- crowded with Indian leaders who had driven up from North Carolina -- soon turned to other money issues that worry the main opponents of the Lumbee legislation. Would federal recognition also bring an Indian casino -- and millions of gambling dollars -- to Interstate 95? That's what worries many N.C. conservatives. Tim Funk, Charlotte Observer, 4-2-04

Attempts by tribes resident in one state to move into another to open a casino continue. An issue more complicated even than recognition; there are several rationales for such moves. The most common is a return to aboriginal territory, such as the Oneida of Wisconsin's or the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma purchase of land in New York. In Colorado two tribes have a new twist; yes they claim land, but they are willing to trade it up front for a casino site.

The Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma has its eye on more than building a high-stakes bingo hall in Aurelius. The tribe is also seeking local political support to gain a Class III gaming compact to construct and operate a full-scale casino on an undisclosed site in the Cayuga Indian land-claim area around the northern end of Cayuga Lake. Gambling Magazine, 5-4-04

Two Indian tribes have filed a claim for 27 million acres of land in Colorado…Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes announced Wednesday they would file the claim with the Department of Interior. They argue the land in northern Colorado is theirs under a 19th Century treaty, the Rocky Mountain News reported. Bill Blind, interim chairman of the tribal business committee, said…the tribes were forcibly removed in the late 1800s and moved to Oklahoma. Untied Press International, Washington Times, 4-15-04

Blind said they would drop the claim if Gov. Bill Owens agrees to a grant of 500 acres in Central City to build a $100 million gambling casino, cultural center and travel stop. Untied Press International, Washington Times, 4-15-04

There are other reasons, business reasons why tribes seek to locate a casino in another state. The Ho-Chunk Tribe of Wisconsin has been looking for a while to find other locations; Illinois is one of the places where they have looked. The latest overture is an attempt to get into the lucrative Chicago gaming market, the one that caused three gaming companies to bid over 1/2 billion dollars.

The Ho-Chunk nation's proposal for an $800 million south suburban casino and entertainment complex would require Blagojevich to work with the tribe and the federal government on a pact that would allow the tribe to operate in Illinois as a sovereign nation. …Tribal leaders are proposing building a 220,000-square-foot casino that would include about 3,000 slot machines and more than 100 table games, making it more than twice the size of any casino in Illinois…net the state and nearby towns and school districts more than $85 million in casino revenues each year. …the Ho-Chunk nation, which already operates three casinos and a bingo parlor in Wisconsin. Chicago Sun Times, 5-4-04

Not every tribe that moves to another state does so without opposition from that state or the federal government. The Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma has not found a warm reception in Kansas. But then Kansas wasn't feeling warm toward gaming at all in April, was it?

The general manager of a Wyandotte Nation of Oklahoma casino shut down by Kansas authorities this month has been arrested and charged with possession of a gambling device and receiving earnings from a gambling operation. …Kansas authorities closed the tribe's Kansas City, Kan., casino on April 1. In a series of challenges in federal court, the tribe has argued that state and local authorities had no jurisdiction over the casino, which it claims is on tribal land. Associated Press, Topeka Capital-Journal, 4-23-04

With the huge number that are thrown around when people discuss Indian gaming it is not a wonder that tribes are eager to get into the act, even if it means moving operations some place else. However, not all tribes operate casinos, nor do all tribal members individually support casinos. The Navajo Nation has been thinking about the issue since the National Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988, and have voted the issue down twice already. But just as it does in state legislatures, gaming comes back every time there is a need for more money to operate the government and provide services to the citizens.

The Navajo Nation will learn in August if the third time is a charm for approving gambling; last week the nation's council voted to let the people decide the controversial issue. Two prior gambling referendums failed in 1994 and 1997 by 4,623 and 2,873 votes, respectively. The Navajo vote on Aug. 3 will follow a similar referendum scheduled for May 19 by the neighboring Hopi Tribe, which rejected gambling in a 1995 vote. Navajo President Joe Shirley Jr. thinks his tribe will approve gambling eventually. "It's been very close," Shirley said. "Last time it lost by (about 3,000) votes out of 90,000 registered voters. It's gaining support each time." John Stearns/ Judy Nichols, Arizona Republic, 4-28-04

Indian gaming is maturing, and as it matures the issues become even more complex. Each state has separate issue, the tribes in California and Washington are facing initiatives to expand gaming beyond Indian gaming; Connecticut and other states are becoming more organized and focused in their opposition to Indian gaming, disguised as opposition to a flawed recognition process, and while some tribes are expanding operations and diversifying beyond gaming, the nations largest tribe is still grappling with the idea of operating casino. And just when you think you understand it all, things will change. Congress, the courts and voter initiatives keep changing the landscape; all most of us can do is sit on the sidelines and watch with fascination.


But now, that is simply my opinion, isn't it?

Ken

Ken Adams

Ken Adams is the principal in the gaming consulting firm, Ken Adams and Associates. Formed in 1990, Ken Adams and Associates specializes in information, analysis, and strategic planning for Indian tribes, casino operations and gaming manufacturers.

Ken spent over 20 years in the hotel-casino industry, prior to founding Ken Adams and Associates. He held the positions of: Director of Casino Operations, Casino Manager, and Keno Department Manager. During this time, he developed numerous innovative marketing and customer development programs and systems for evaluating casino performance. Some of those programs, such as slot clubs and tournaments, have become industry standards.

Ken is also actively involved in gathering and disseminating information that is important to the gaming industry. He is editor and publisher of and the Adams' Report, a monthly newsletter specializing in identifying trends in casino gaming, regulation and manufacturing, the Adams Daily Report, an electronic newsletter that provides electronic links to the key gaming stories of the day, and the Adams Review, a special report distributed by Compton Dancer Consulting that provides editorial commentary on gaming trends.
Ken Adams
Ken Adams is the principal in the gaming consulting firm, Ken Adams and Associates. Formed in 1990, Ken Adams and Associates specializes in information, analysis, and strategic planning for Indian tribes, casino operations and gaming manufacturers.

Ken spent over 20 years in the hotel-casino industry, prior to founding Ken Adams and Associates. He held the positions of: Director of Casino Operations, Casino Manager, and Keno Department Manager. During this time, he developed numerous innovative marketing and customer development programs and systems for evaluating casino performance. Some of those programs, such as slot clubs and tournaments, have become industry standards.

Ken is also actively involved in gathering and disseminating information that is important to the gaming industry. He is editor and publisher of and the Adams' Report, a monthly newsletter specializing in identifying trends in casino gaming, regulation and manufacturing, the Adams Daily Report, an electronic newsletter that provides electronic links to the key gaming stories of the day, and the Adams Review, a special report distributed by Compton Dancer Consulting that provides editorial commentary on gaming trends.