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LET THE GAMES BEGIN; A multi-state roundup of gaming news

Once again, it is time to take our periodic stroll through the nationwide
Indian gaming landscape and get caught up on the industry's happenings.
Before we're all done, however, we might just stop to visit an old


New gaming compacts between the state of Oklahoma and four tribal
governments, the Absentee Shawnee Tribe, Cherokee Nation, Comanche Nation
and Miami Tribe, went into effect on Jan. 27. These deals, the result of a
measure passed by state voters in November, allow the tribes to offer poker
and blackjack along with Class III slot machines. In return, Oklahoma gets
regulatory oversight and 4 percent of each casino's first $10 million in
slot machine winnings.

According to a report by KJRH television in Tulsa, compacts negotiated
under the state's gaming expansion could bring 10,000 new slots into play
in Oklahoma, padding the state's total to around 30,000 in all. KJRH
reported that Indian gaming is a $500-million-a-year business in the Sooner
State; the $71 million estimated slot win is earmarked for public education
throughout Oklahoma.


Legislators in both states recently addressed gaming issues, in one case to
solidify their role in the process and in the other to formalize
negotiating procedures already in use.

In Cheyenne, Wy. a legislative committee unanimously endorsed a bill to
give the state legislature the last word in tribal-state compact

The Associated Press on Jan. 29 reported that the nine members of the House
Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee recommended
approval of House Bill 222. If passed, the measure would apply only to
future compact negotiations. It would not effect ongoing gaming-related
litigation between the state and the Northern Arapaho Tribe.

Compact negotiations between Wyoming and the tribe began in 2000; they
eventually failed and the matter wound up in court. A mediator ruled that
the tribe could offer Class III gaming and a related plan is under review
at the Interior Department. Meanwhile, a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S.
Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the tribe indeed has the
right to negotiate with the state. Wyoming has requested a ruling from the
full 10th Circuit.

In Helena, Legislators are considering House Bill 132, which proponents say
serves to formally legitimize procedures already in use by the state in
negotiating gaming compacts with tribal governments. Without such legal
procedures in place, compacts could become the target of litigation.

"This legislation does not expand gaming," Rep. Norma Bixby told the AP.
"It sets up a clear and legally defensible process for negotiations to
proceed with each individual tribe."

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Rep. Bixby, a Democrat, sponsored the bill.

As written, the bill allows the governor to negotiate with tribal
governments on gaming in general on such things as casino operating hours,
numbers of slot machines, and betting and jackpot limits in particular. The
AP reported that several tribal governments backed the measure.


Indian gaming in Arizona generated $9.9 million in revenue for the state
during the fourth quarter of 2004. Under revenue sharing terms of compacts
signed in 2002, Arizona's pueblos share 1 percent of the first $25 million
in net winnings, 3 percent of the next $50 million, 6 percent of the next
$25 million and 8 percent for a net win in excess of $100 million. Half of
the funds are designated for public schools throughout the state. Tribes
have paid the state a total of $86 million since this arrangement came into
existence, according to the AP.


Given all the hubbub raised in 2004 by Governor Tim Pawlenty's attempts to
shakedown his state's tribes, we couldn't help but stop by the Gopher State
to see what's cooking. As it turns out, Pawlenty is still feeding the fire
in a big way.

In recent weeks, Pawlenty has been attempting to paint himself as a friend
of Minnesota's poorer tribes - the ones located in the remote northern
reaches of the state that haven't been able to capitalize on Indian gaming.
To "help" these tribes, he has pitched a plan to create a casino in the
Twin Cities metro area that would be jointly owned and operated by three
tribes - the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, White Earth Band of Ojibwe and
Leech Lake Band of Chippewa. Revenue from the casino would be equally
divided between the three tribes and the state of Minnesota.

"Let the Games Begin" recently gave that plan a negative evaluation because
Minnesota is not entitled to be an equal partner in an Indian-owned casino
operation with any tribe or group of tribes. "Let the Games Begin" Vol. 24,
Iss. 33).

But that's not all. In an AP report dated Jan. 27, Pawlenty said that the
tribes involved will have to pay a $200-million licensing fee to jump start
the project. Perhaps the best answer to that idea came from the Chairman of
the Leech Lake Band, George Goggleye, who told the AP: "If we had access to
that kind of money we certainly wouldn't be pitching a casino in the metro

Exactly. Once again, Pawlenty has revealed that all he is after is money.
He has been blatantly trying to use tribal gaming to dig his state's way
out of its fiscal hole, and is now attempting to get over on the tribes to
an even greater degree by having them take all the financial risk.

As we have redundantly repeated in this space, IGRA did not create Indian
gaming to benefit the states, nor does it give governors the right to
collect "licensing fees" for any tribal casino. Unless Pawlenty changes his
tune (a unlikely prospect at best), tribes are strongly advised to avoid
dealing with him, unless of course they want an unfair deal.