Pokagon Band questions legality of new gaming law in Indiana

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

The Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians is speaking out against a new gaming law in Indiana.

House Bill 1540 authorizes Gov. Mike Pence (R) to enter into negotiations for a Class III gaming compact. The law dictates what "must" be included in the agreement so the tribe believes the law interferes with its rights.

"They just passed legislation that tied the governor's hands in negotiating with us in good faith and everything they had in their bill is against federal law. So we don't have to negotiate with them to open," Chairman John Warren told The Indianapolis Business Journal

Article 29 of the new law requires the agreement to include revenue sharing provisions with "state and local units of government." But it does not appear to offer any form of exclusivity to the tribe since it also authorizes riverboat casinos to establish land facilities.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does not specifically allow, or disallow, revenue sharing. However, the Bureau of Indian Affairs has said it won't approve gaming compacts unless a state offers a "meaningful concession" in exchange for a share of tribal funds.

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

Pence, who previously said he opposes an "expansion of gaming" in the state, allows the bill to go into effect without his signature. He hasn't taken a position on the Pokagon Band's plan for a casino in South Bend.

A spokesperson for the governor told the The Indianapolis Business Journal that the administration "is currently reviewing our options both at the federal and state level as they relate to a new casino being built in South Bend."

The tribe has submitted a land-into-trust application to use 166 acres for a casino, hotel and other development. The BIA is processing an environmental impact statement for the project.

Get the Story:
Tribe chairman says new Indiana law violates U.S. law (The Indianapolis Business Journal 5/14)

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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