It is disheartening to see Indian Country Today used by one voice from one
member of the Spokane Tribe to further his own self-interest by disparaging
the tribe as a whole with lies and half-truths.
The Spokane Tribe does not make a habit of discussing tribal issues within
the media, although an exception had to be made at this point to clarify
untrue statements made by Ron Gutierrez in such a public forum.
Gutierrez is lashing out at the Spokane Tribe by utilizing the print media
because he stands to lose his gaming operation in tribal court, where the
focus of attention is on facts in evidence. His article ("Revenue sharing
and reservation shopping create greed and misfortune," Vol. 25, Iss. 25)
does not disclose that his gaming operation, the Double Eagle Casino, has
failed miserably in audits on internal controls and procedures conducted by
the National Indian Gaming Commission and independent outside audit firms,
and by inspections conducted by the Spokane Tribal Gaming Commission. The
recent article does not disclose that he failed to make needed changes
identified by the NIGC to protect the health and safety of gaming patrons.
Gutierrez does not disclose that he physically prevented officials of the
tribe's gaming commission access to the Double Eagle Casino. His article
does not disclose that the NIGC has made a formal determination that he is
not entitled to IGRA's "grandfathered" gaming provisions.
Gutierrez does not disclose that he headed up a conspiracy to bring in a
shipment of gaming machines without necessary notice and approval of the
tribal gaming commission. For these and other reasons, the tribal gaming
commission ordered the removal of the machines and revoked the license for
the Double Eagle to operate.
The Spokane Tribe is moving forward to fairly resolve 15 years of dispute
with the state and federal governments over the operation of gaming
activities on the tribe's lands. At the same time, the tribe is moving
forward with its responsibility to see that gaming on its lands is properly
regulated to make prudent business decisions that reflect changes in
Washington state's complex gaming industry.
Contrary to Gutierrez's assertion, the tribe has not "now suddenly and
inexplicably abandoned its 15-year legal battle for the preservation of its
tribal sovereignty" and has not "changed its policy to negotiate a compact
with the state of Washington."
The Spokane Tribe never left the negotiation table; and over the years, the
tribe has proposed innumerable creative ideas to resolve the dispute.
Gutierrez asserts that the compact negotiated with the state would "pay the
state an unprecedented 35 percent of its revenues." The first version of
the compact distributed by the state for formal consideration would likely
have resulted in a 9 percent revenue share to the state on projected
revenues based on the compact. The draft does provide for a sliding scale
of 3 -- 35 percent in revenue share to the state. But the compact only
assesses the 35 percent rate on revenue over $210 million per year, far
beyond the expert projections of the tribe's potential. The two governments
are still negotiating those rates. Gutierrez does not reveal in his article
that he himself suggested a flat 25 percent rate to the state in
discussions that occurred more than five years ago.
In the signed letter mentioned by Gutierrez, written by Washington state
Gov. Christine Gregoire, asking that the proposed compact be revisited by
both governments, the Spokane Tribe did just that. The tribe is actively
revisiting the language of the proposed compact so that a fair agreement
can be finalized in the government-to-government negotiation. The tribe was
not "hoodwinked" during negotiations, as claimed by Gutierrez.
Gutierrez asserts that the Spokane Tribe's actions are motivated by greed.
Given his position, it must be something other than greed that allowed him
to pocket more than $5 million in having an individually operated casino on
the site of the Double Eagle. It must be something other than greed that
motivated his filing of a lawsuit that would take more than $30 million out
of the hands of the tribe and into the hands of Ron Gutierrez.
Finally, the Spokane Tribal Council is working each day to better serve the
tribe as a whole and move forward with economic development that will
benefit the entire tribal membership. In an early October general council
meeting with the tribal membership, the group verbally voted a resounding
approval to support the compact and its negotiations. On Oct. 15, 2005, a
special vote was held and the tribal membership overwhelmingly voted with
95 percent in support of the tribal council's negotiations with the state
and to move forward in finalizing a compact.
The tribe takes pride in that it is pursuing an agenda that will revitalize
the tribe's gaming enterprises, generating substantial governmental
revenues and providing opportunities to the entire Spokane tribal
Spokane Tribal Chairman Greg Abrahamson lives in Wellpinit, Wash.