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Bits and Pieces from Indian Country - March 2005

9 May 2005

To call the current round of legislative moves and court decisions a part of the "Indian Wars" is probably trite and inaccurate. War, after all, describes a condition of battle and usually includes armies, weapons and death. Those elements are not part of the present landscape and have not been since the end of the 19th century, except in metaphor. Even in the metaphorical sense the terms may be stretched past any real applicability. So, in the interest of metaphorical honesty, I am not going to compare the events of March 2005 to the efforts of the American government and American army in the 18th and 19th century. There are, however, events in this the third month of 2005 that will have some of the same results, i. e. to limit tribal sovereignty, confine tribes to a specific territory (one not coveted by other citizens of the United States), and to subordinate tribes and their individual members to the power and authority of federal, state, county and even city governments. Witness the following exhibits:

The governor of Colorado has called a meeting of a band of brothers, the governors of 10 western states, to develop a national strategy to keep tribes from locating in any place without the approval and agreement of the state; reframing Indian gaming from an instrument for tribal economic development to an issue of state's rights. A call to arms nearly as powerful as patriotism.

Gov. Bill Owens brought 10 state governors and leaders from 23 tribes to Denver on Tuesday to look at ways Congress might improve the 17-year- old Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. A leading concern is a trend by isolated American Indian tribes to try to locate casinos off their reservations, near big cities and interstates, by claiming ancestral lands lost long ago…"While we have different opinions on Indian gaming, none of us would want to see the federal government locate casinos in our states without local approval," Owens said. Electa Draper, Denver Post, 3-30-05

Congress is holding hearings to review that National Indian Gaming Act of 1988. There are also hearings on the recognition process, and just to complete the hearings' circle, hearings on the activities of a lobbyist with ties to power politicians and a number of tribes. Two of the hearings have already produced bills.

A key House Republican wants to restrict Indian gambling's most controversial trend - tribes moving off their reservations, sometimes into urban areas, to build casinos. Instead, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif., would create "Indian Economic Opportunity Zones" where numerous tribes could build casinos in one area, potentially creating mini-Las Vegases around the country. The ideas are contained in draft legislation Pombo's committee circulated Thursday in advance of a hearing set for March 17. Erica Werner, Associated Press, News Day, 3-10-05

U.S. Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-New Britain) addressed a capacity crowd last Friday at Kent Town Hall as she announced the introduction of the Schaghticoke Acknowledgement Repeal Act of 2005, which is co-sponsored by fellow GOP members of Congress from Connecticut, Chris Shays and Rob Simmons. The intent of the bill is to overturn the decision by the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in January 2004 to grant federal recognition to the Schaghticoke Tribal Nation (STN). Bob Deakin, Litchfield County Times, 3-10-05

The Senate Finance Committee has asked for charity records from lobbyist Jack Abramoff, expanding the investigation of the Washington insider who collected at least $66 million from several Indian tribes that operate casinos… A golf trip in 2000 for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and others. The trip was funded by casino tribes, although Ney said he thought Abramoff paid for it. In 2002, Ney agreed to sponsor an amendment aimed at helping regain a casino license for the Tiguas, an Abramoff client. Doug Abrahms, Palm Springs Desert Sun, 3-18-05

And if that is not enough to make tribal advocates feel concern, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the land Oneida has taken into trust cannot be trusted, or more simply the tribe is subject to local taxation on the land. The decision has not been out long enough for anyone to digest and analyze, but it would suggest that the governors gathering in Colorado will have the support of the court.

The Oneida Indian Nation lost a court case…The Supreme Court, 8 to 1, overturned rulings by two lower courts and said that the Indian nation cannot expand its tax-exempt property holdings by buying up land that has been outside its control for decades, even centuries. The ruling was a bitter defeat for the Oneida, and allowed the City of Sherrill, N.Y., a collective sigh of relief…Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the decision joined by all her colleagues except Justice John Paul Stevens… David Stout, New York Times, 3-29-05

The courts, legislatures, governors are challenging Indian gaming. Conventional gaming is being threatened by many of the same forces as well as competition and potential economic downturns. I am not being a doomsayer, but there are times when the euphoria of the go-go times is hard to recapture. As gaming has moved from coast to coast, spread from casinos to lotteries, racetracks, card rooms and now online and on television in every home, the go-go growth will be rare indeed. Congress is not interested in casino regulation at the moment. But when Congress is investigating sports, gaming lobbyists, Indian gaming regulation and trying to regulate the courts in Florida in the Schiavo case, it is getting dangerously close. The annual anti-sports wagering bill is not unique this year. But some year when the emotions are high over some scandal or congressional testimony, it may well be part of a package of gaming regulation legislation that might be approved; or even a worse nightmare, federal gaming taxes. Choose your representatives carefully and pay attention to their Washington committee dances.

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.