Lawmaker slammed for comment about Pokagon Band casino bid

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

An Indiana state lawmaker is denying accusations of racism after he questioned the casino being proposed by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians.

Rep. Pat Bauer (D) made the comment at a reception for elected officials, Fox 28 reported. His remark was so off-color that someone in the crowd was overheard saying "that's so racist," according to the station.

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"Anytime you try to out-shoot the Indians, they no longer just have bows and arrows, they have the federal government on their side," Bauer said, according to video of the reception that was posted by Fox 28.

Bauer, however, insisted that he wasn't being racist. He only meant that the tribe likely has the backing of the federal government.

"It's a fact. It's not racist. It's not saying someone's inferior to someone else. It's saying they have more firepower," Bauer told Fox 28 when asked to clarify his remark.

"I agree with him. We do have the federal government on our side because we have a trust relationship according to the constitution of the United States with the federal government," Chairman John Warren told the station in response.

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 state lawmakers are already looking for ways to stop the casino or at last influence the process.

Lawmakers passed House Bill 1540, which requires legislative approval of any Class III gaming compacts. That requirement is common in other states but the bill dictates what "must" be included in the agreement, a provision that Warren has said will interfere with negotiations even before they have begun.

Lawmakers also approved Senate Concurrent Resolution 54. The bill asks Congress to declare that "reservations and restored Indian lands within Indiana" are not eligible for gaming.

The resolution is being sent to the state's Congressional delegation but is not likely to have much of an effect in Washington, D.C. 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.

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) in fact already shot down the idea. A spokesperson told The South Bend Tribune that the lawmaker won't be getting involved in the matter.

Get the Story:
State lawmakers pass resolution that could threaten South Bend casino plans (Fox 28 5/1)
Lawmakers attack Indian casino in South Bend (The South Bend Tribune 5/2)

An Opinion:
Editorial: Like it or not, more gambling is coming (The Fort Wayne News-Sentinel 5/1)

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)

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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)
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