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Reservation shopping in Ohio

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Tribes seek to build casinos outside home state

CLEVELAND - The three American Indian tribes interested in building Las
Vegasstyle casinos in Ohio would have to overcome a major obstacle:
crossing the boundaries of their home state to open a casino elsewhere.

No tribe in the United States has been able to do it and experts say that
while the idea is not impossible, it would be a time-consuming process.

"Indian-law experts will tell you there's nothing under the law that says
it can't be done," said Terry Casey, a Columbus consultant representing the
Eastern Shawnee tribe.

A trend has emerged where tribes are trying to leave their reservations and
allotted lands to open casinos in markets with greater wealth.

The premise is that the Eastern Shawnee, Wyandot and Ottawa tribes, all
based in Oklahoma, once thrived in Ohio and want to reclaim ancestral land
that could be used for casinos.

All three say they are ready to place land in federal trust and open
casinos under an agreement with Ohio's elected officials.

The Seneca-Cayuga tribe of Oklahoma soon could become the first tribe to
establish a casino outside its home state, said Blake Watson, a University
of Dayton Law professor and an expert in tribalgaming laws. New York Gov.
George Pataki has promised one of five proposed Catskill casinos to the
Seneca-Cayuga as part of the settlement of its land claim.

Chairman of the House Committee on Resources Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif.,
said he plans to introduce a bill to address "reservation shopping." Full
details are not yet known, but the bill will probably seek to bar tribes
from opening gaming operations in another state and would require tribes to
show an historical connection to land they seek to have placed in trust.

No outside tribes have established land claims in Ohio, Watson said.

As part of treaties with the United States between 1795 and 1818, tribes
transferred most of their land to the United States, Watson said.

Tribes can challenge the legitimacy of those treaties by filing land claims
in federal court. Or the tribes could ask the U.S. Department of Interior
to put into a trust land from the tribes' ancestral grounds or their last
reservation.

Casey said the Shawnees could make 14 such claims involving hundreds of
thousands of acres in southwest Ohio.

Even with such an arrangement, the tribes still would need an agreement
with the Legislature and Gov. Bob Taft, who opposes any expansion of
gambling, for casinos. Otherwise, they would be limited to the kinds of
gambling that nonprofit groups can do, such as bingo and "Las Vegas Night"
games, including poker, craps and roulette.

So far, the Eastern Shawnee have been the most aggressive.

The tribe has reached a deal with Monroe officials for a proposed $750
million casino-and-retail complex along Interstate 75 between Cincinnati
and Dayton. It also has plans for a $145 million casino development near
Botkins, off I-75 between Dayton and Toledo, and is looking at sites in
northeast Ohio.

The Wyandots want to build at least four casinos in northern Ohio that
would generated $1 billion in revenue, up to 3,000 jobs and about $100
million in taxes.

The Ottawa tribe is pursuing casino development in the Toledo area.

The Eastern Shawnee and Wyandots operate casinos in Oklahoma, but the
Ottawa do not.