Dennis Whittlesey: Shocking proposals to halt tribal gaming

Chairman Ned Norris Jr. signed the last steel beam that's part of the initial structure for the West Valley Resort near Glendale, Arizona. Photo from Facebook

Attorney Dennis J. Whittlesey examines how gaming controversies affecting the Tohono O'odham Nation in Arizona and the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians in Indiana:
Recent actions in Arizona and Indiana suggest that there is a new approach to local government opposition to Indian tribal applications for trust status of newly acquired land. The question has to be whether this is sound Indian Law policy, although the follow-up question seems to be whether the proponents even care.

The most shocking proposal is being sponsored by Arizona’s Senior Senator John McCain and Congressman Trent Franks to repeal a federal law enacted long ago as part of a land settlement negotiated with the Tohono O’odham Nation of Arizona. Specifically, the Tribe entered into an agreement with the federal government pursuant to which the Tribe would be compensated for the flooding of tribal reservation land with both cash and the right to construct a casino in the state on land not otherwise restricted for such a project.

Let there be no doubt about the fact that Congress can terminate the Glendale Project, but the real question is whether it should do so through enactment of a dangerous precedent which likely would lead to other state Congressional delegations seeking “killer” federal legislation. And, the better question is whether this result is either necessary or advisable.

And the scenario for the next such claim is coming from Indiana where state politicians are proposing federal legislation to block the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians from expanding its casino empire from its reservation in the northern part of the state to newly acquired lands near South Bend. The tribe proposes to construct a $480 million project on lands that it claims qualify for gaming pursuant to specific provisions of IGRA. Whether the land does or does not quality for gaming has not been determined, but Indiana legislators do not want to take a chance on tribal success. Rather, they want immediate federal legislation blocking this single project without regard to legal or factual merit.

Get the Story:
Dennis J. Whittlesey: Should There be a Legislative Solution to Disputed Indian Trust Applications? (The National Law Review 5/9)

Also Today:
Jackpot! Land-based casinos win at Statehouse (The Northwest Indiana Times 5/9)
Pence to let Indiana riverboat casinos build on land (The Chicago Tribune 5/9)
Pence to let bills on casino moves, nursing homes become law (AP 5/8)
Gov. Pence vetoes gambling bill, allows two to become law without signature (Fox 28 5/8)
Pence lets casino bill become law; vetoes online horse wagering bill (TheStatehouseFile 5/8)

Related Stories
Opinion: Pokagon Band casino shouldn't stir fears in Indiana (5/8)
Rivals outspend Tohono O'odham Nation in urban casino battle (5/4)

Join the Conversation