Gaming bill opposed by Pokagon Band sent to Indiana governor

John Warren, at podium, serves as chairman of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians. Photo from Facebook

A gaming bill opposed by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians has been approved by Indiana lawmakers and will be sent to Gov. Mike Pence (R).

House Bill 1540 authorizes riverboat casinos to establish on-shore operations. It also includes a section that requires legislative approval of any Class III gaming compact.

That requirement is common in other states with tribal casinos. But the bill also dictates what "must" be included in the agreement, a provision that the Pokagon Band has said will interfere with negotiations even before they have begun.

Pence has not revealed his position on the bill. He has previously said he opposes an "expansion of gaming" in the state.

This image shows Alternative A for the land-into-trust site in South Bend, Indiana. No plans have been approved as of yet. Image from Pokagon EIS

The tribe has submitted a land-into-trust application to use 166 acres in South Bend for a casino, hotel and other development. The Bureau of Indian Affairs is processing an environmental impact statement for the project.

A decision could be months or even years away. But lawmakers, in addition to House Bill 1540, are pushing Senate Concurrent Resolution 54, a bill that asks Congress to declare that "reservations and restored Indian lands within Indiana" are not eligible for gaming.

If that resolution is passed, it would not require Pence's signature. It would instead be forwarded to the state's Congressional delegation but is not likely to have much of an effect in Washington, D.C., because it would either require an amendment to the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, changes to the Section 20 regulations issued by the Bureau of Indian Affairs or an amendment to the law that restored the tribe to federal recognition -- three scenarios that face significant hurdles.

Some state lawmakers are claiming the tribe was not planning a casino in Indiana when it gained federal recognition through an act of Congress in 1994. But the law does not contain any gaming prohibitions or any restrictions on land acquisitions in Indiana or Michigan, where three casinos are already in operation.

Get the Story:
General Assembly Approves Gambling Bill, Postpones Live Dealers (WFYI 4/30)
Gaming Bill Heads to Governor’s Desk (Indiana Public Media 4/30)
Land-based casinos win legislative approval (The Northwest Indiana Times 4/30)
Casino bill heads to Pence (The Indianapolis Star 4/30)
Governor Mike Pence to Determine the Future of Indiana Casino Industry (Casino News Daily 4/30)

Federal Register Notices:
Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians Fee-to-Trust Transfer for Tribal Village and Casino, City of South Bend, St. Joseph County, Indiana (March 12, 2015)
Notice of Intent To Prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Pokagon Band Tribal Village Fee-to-Trust Acquisition and Casino Project in the City of South Bend, St. Joseph County, IN (August 24, 2012)

Related Stories
Indiana lawmakers advance bill against Pokagon Band's casino (4/29)
Indiana lawmakers ask Congress to stop Pokagon Band casino (4/28)
Pokagon Band casino remains a concern for Indiana lawmakers (4/24)
Pokagon Band questions bill that affects Indiana casino project (4/22)
Indiana lawmakers not so welcoming to Pokagon Band casino bid (4/17)
BIA hears from public on Pokagon Band gaming plan in Indiana (4/15)
Pokagon Band gains city support for casino ahead of BIA hearing (4/14)

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