Another Stereotype of the Month entry:
Money Mates with Political Power, Gives Birth to the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and a Host of Problems
By Elaine Willman, 3/8/2006 10:17:31 AM
"If a tribe in the Midwest wants to submit an application (for a Class III tribal casino) for a 2-part determination for land in Manhattan, (New York) it can do so because IGRA Section 20 (B)(1)(a) (Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) does not impose any boundaries. It's about off-reservation but it doesn't say it has to be within the state that the tribe is located, so that can happen." George Skibine, Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Hearing, Feb. 28, 2006.'
The Embryo. Gambling has been part of man's ventures, likely since Eve gambled on the bite of an apple. I am not an ardent foe of gambling per se. In the United States we used to call it "destination gambling." Decades ago gamblers would head out to only two states to try their luck. As a way out of the Great Depression, Nevada legalized gambling in 1931. Later New Jersey joined in, creating a very few cities across America—Atlantic City, Reno, Tahoe, Las Vegas—as significant destinations that featured gambling. Families and gamblers would pack up and go to these destinations with a fixed amount to lose, and then return home. State regulation and taxation of gambling is substantial. Even the IRS jumps in to claim taxes from gambler winnings.
The Public Courtship. State-sanctioned lotteries started the benign courtship of American consumers, enticing them with endless funds for education and all things necessary for the public good. In 1964 New Hampshire started the first state lottery. By 1994 no less than 37 states embarked upon state-run lotteries. In 1985 the first multi-state lottery games emerged, and by 1985 we had Lotto Powerball in numerous states. The "Lotto" game synergized customer interest by rolling-over weekly prizes to build large pots. With little thought, gambling has become as benignly imbedded in American routines as renting a DVD. It has now morphed into a political power-monger taking out one community after another.
The Godfather Weds Mother Earth. In 1988 the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was a slick scheme—an absolute and intentionally arranged marriage—to promote economic development on Indian reservations. Congress knew this marriage of an otherwise egregiously incompatible couple, required a substantial dowry to attract an already wealthy groom, so it promised three federally exclusive gifts: 1) tribal casinos would have a monopoly, 2) they would be located on lands unregulated by state or local governments, and 3) tribal casinos would not be taxed. After all, the gaming industry across the country was doing well even while accountable to competition and taxes. Why else would the gaming industry bother with Indian tribes without these three vital perks?
The Doting Parents. To ensure homage, tithing and undying affection from the newlyweds noted above, the ever parental Congress also passed election acts, campaign finance acts, lobbying and taxation legislation that neatly omit two words: "Indian tribes." Without these specifically included words, tribes are exempt from legislation. No one knows this more keenly than Congress. Exempt from all these Congressional Acts, tribal casinos and tribal governments now lavishly and frequently reward our congressmen, and governors, and thousands of incumbents across the country at every level of government for feeding the growing monster of rampant tax-free gambling.
The Traveling. It's wide open now. On February 1st at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, George Skibine plainly explained to Senator Dorgan that yes, a tribe located anywhere in the country, could decide to open a Class III casino in mid-town Manhattan, NY. Mr. Skibine has a lengthy business title: "Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development in the Office of the Assistant Secretary — Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior." Skibine tutored the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs by noting that nothing in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act limits a tribe to its state or its homelands or any zip code that contains a potential "gaming market." The only obstacles are elected officials already feeding at this trough. These obstacles are easily overcome with a lovely cocktail of historical guilt blended with bountiful and unending campaign cash.
The Casino's Tax-Exempt Cousins. Once a tribal Class III casino opens, adjacent lands are quickly gobbled up to house a tribal hotel, resort, golf courses, gas stations, cigarette shops, retail and restaurant facilities, all operating under tax and local government-exempt regulations. This expanded land and economic base of tribal governments creates a defacto "reservation" in the heart of communities, and brings a new political force, backed by the federal government, to overwhelm local government land use and economic development goals. These satellite "reservations" destroy the local and regional tax economy while escalating a tribal government's voice in all new regions.
Reproducing At Will. An apathetic American public, hooked on gambling, pretends not to hear the cries of communities trying to keep out these beasts. One never sees an empty parking lot around a casino. As voters, we scream about political corruption while heading in to hit those slots. Gamblers don't see the economic suffocation of their own home towns or their own homes. They just see the hope of winning. But it's Congress that gets the cash. Americans, — well, we either demand that Congress end this travesty or suffer irreparable consequences. I don't do casinos and I don't vote for elected officials that are bloated from this nasty business. As an elected official myself, I took an Oath of Office to preserve and protect my government, not hand it over to separate, tax-free gaming governments corrupting my colleagues and eating up my country.
Elaine Willman is a City Councilwoman, in Toppenish, WA, and Chair of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), a coalition of community education organizations focused on federal Indian policy. She also authored a book entitled "Going to Pieces...The Dismantling of the United States."
>> The Godfather Weds Mother Earth. <<
Double stereotype alert!
Is Willman about to denounce the whole gaming industry as controlled by the mob? Well, no. Despite her "Godfather" insinuation, she's out to slam Indian gaming, not gaming in general. Like almost every critic of Indian gaming, she claims to deplore casinos, not Indians. Like almost every critic, she ends up attacking only Indian-run casinos, not all casinos. I wonder why.
>> Congress knew this marriage of an otherwise egregiously incompatible couple, required a substantial dowry to attract an already wealthy groom <<
I gather the "wealthy groom" is supposed to be the Godfather, aka the non-Indian gaming industry. This is a misstatement of the facts. When Congress passed IGRA, it wasn't concerned about attracting gaming corporations to help Indian tribes.
Yes, it allowed for this possibility by setting limits on what percent of the profits outsiders could earn. But it didn't presume that all or even most tribes would need outside partners. Since then, tribes have built and run many of the most successful Indian casinos—Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun in Connecticut; Pechanga, San Manuel, Morongo, and Agua Caliente in California—without the help of corporate "godfathers."
>> so it promised three federally exclusive gifts: 1) tribal casinos would have a monopoly <<
Wrong again. I don't think IGRA says anything about tribes having a monopoly. What it says is that tribes can operate casinos only if the state legalizes casino-style gambling.
Tribes in some states have negotiated a monopoly with state politicians in exchange for a higher percent of the casino revenue. But an outcome negotiated with democratically elected officials is nothing like a Congress-ordered gift. In other states, tribes compete with non-Indian casinos and card clubs. And in every state, voters have the right to legalize casinos so that everyone, not just Indians, can open one.
>> 2) they would be located on lands unregulated by state or local governments, and 3) tribal casinos would not be taxed. <<
This also wasn't a gift from Congress. It was a recognition of the principle of sovereignty, which was canonized in the 1820s and reaffirmed in the Cabazon decision of 1987. Congress didn't establish a new policy for Indian casinos; it merely said Indian casinos were subject to the same rules as other tribal enterprises (e.g., smoke shops).
>> Why else would the gaming industry bother with Indian tribes without these three vital perks? <<
Again, Congress envisioned tribes helping themselves, not being helped by gaming corporations. And again, many tribes have done just that. How is that possible if attracting outside partners was an essential part of IGRA?
>> To ensure homage, tithing and undying affection from the newlyweds noted above, the ever parental Congress also passed election acts, campaign finance acts, lobbying and taxation legislation that neatly omit two words: "Indian tribes." <<
Again, a misleading statement of the facts. Because Indian tribes are sovereign governments, they fall into the same category as other sovereign governments: states, counties, and cities. Congress has often made exceptions for all these entities. It didn't start doing this for tribes in 1988 and it didn't start doing it because of IGRA. It's been treating Indian tribes differently for decades.
>> Exempt from all these Congressional Acts, tribal casinos and tribal governments now lavishly and frequently reward our congressmen, and governors, and thousands of incumbents across the country at every level of government for feeding the growing monster of rampant tax-free gambling. <<
Tribal lobbying isn't lavish compared to the lobbying of other industries. And while states can't tax Indian casinos because they're run by sovereign governments, states can and do demand a cut of the casinos' revenue. This is the equivalent of a tax even though IGRA outlaws such taxes. So don't feel bad for the states, who are getting their fair share by strongarming needy tribes into unfavorable terms.
A casino anywhere?
>> On February 1st at a Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, George Skibine plainly explained to Senator Dorgan that yes, a tribe located anywhere in the country, could decide to open a Class III casino in mid-town Manhattan, NY. <<
Not quite. What Skibine said was that, in theory, a tribe could apply for land outside its home state. For instance, in Manhattan. What he apparently didn't say, but what everyone knows, is that the application would have to involve land the tribe originally inhabited. Which would rule out just about every tribe in Manhattan's case.
Moreover, the application would have to pass the intense scrutiny of all the parties involved, starting with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Secretary of the Interior. No tribe just gets to "decide to open" a casino wherever it wants. A tribe could apply to open a casino wherever it wanted, but government officials would reject most such applications. In short, the feds would decide, not the tribe.
But don't take my word for it. Here's more of what Skibine said on the subject at the hearings. From the Buffalo News, 3/12/06:
At a recent Senate hearing, the Interior Department's top Indian gambling official stressed that off-reservation casino proposals have to withstand a serious federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act, which can delay a casino's construction for up to a year.
"The public has an opportunity to comment during the . . . process, which includes a review of socioeconomic impacts such as housing, jobs and the rate of population growth in the area," said George T. Skibine, acting deputy assistant secretary of the Interior.
Note how Willman didn't report on this part of Skibine's testimony. Instead, she took one of his remarks out of context and made it seem as if that was the only thing he said. Anyone who practices intellectual dishonesty of this sort is not to be trusted.
>> This expanded land and economic base of tribal governments creates a defacto "reservation" in the heart of communities, and brings a new political force, backed by the federal government, to overwhelm local government land use and economic development goals. <<
Yes, except there are still only a handful of off-reservation casinos, and only a handful in urban environments. The vast majority of Indian casinos are still on reservations in rural areaa. Very few communities have an Indian casino in their midst, and many of these accept a neighboring casino because of the economic benefits it brings.
>> These satellite "reservations" destroy the local and regional tax economy while escalating a tribal government's voice in all new regions. <<
Ooh, scary. Usually a tribal casino takes up no more than 10 or 20 acres. That's a drop in the bucket compared to the size of most cities or counties. If you believe whiners like Willman, you'd think tribes were taking over 25% or 50% of a region, not 0.1%.
Yes, it's so terrible to escalate a tribal government's voice from nothing to something. Heaven forbid that Indians should participate in our democratic system as equals. Let's keep them on the reservation where they belong.
>> As voters, we scream about political corruption while heading in to hit those slots. <<
As voters, maybe we realize that politicians—especially Republican politicians—are corrupt, not Indian tribes. That's the crux of the Abramoff scandal, after all.
>> Gamblers don't see the economic suffocation of their own home towns or their own homes. <<
I guess gamblers are stupid. Or maybe they see the wealth of jobs and income distributed to locals because of the casino nearby. Take a look at Las Vegas if you don't think gaming is an economic engine.
>> As an elected official myself, I took an Oath of Office to preserve and protect my government, not hand it over to separate, tax-free gaming governments corrupting my colleagues and eating up my country. <<
Oh, you took an oath to uphold your city government, but not the US government? Because tribal governments are an aspect of the US government, legally speaking. The Founding Fathers treated tribes as distinct governments and established that they'd remain distinct governments when they wrote the Constitution. The courts ratified this situation beginning in the 1820s and it's been that way ever since.
It sounds like you haven't pledged to uphold the Constitution. Should we be worried? You wouldn't happen to be a terrorist, would you?
>> Elaine Willman is a City Councilwoman, in Toppenish, WA, and Chair of the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), a coalition of community education organizations focused on federal Indian policy. <<
CERA is one of several right-wing, semi-racist organizations focused on reducing Indian rights under the guise of opposing casinos. The Hawaii Reporter is one of several right-wing, semi-racist publications that support such efforts.
The critics of Indian gaming—and why they're wrong
The facts about Indian gaming
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