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USET draws a full house for 'Impact Week'

WASHINGTON - United South and Eastern Tribes President Keller George
addressed a full conference room on the first morning of USET's annual
Impact Week meetings in Washington - a welcome change from last year, when
the discovery of lethal ricin in Capitol Hill offices dampened turnout at
some sessions.

The threat this year is from a Congress that became Republican-heavy with
the November 2004 elections, and a presidency empowered by re-election and
the GOP gains. An audience of more than 100 gathered to hear a steady
stream of updates from congressional policymaking staff, tribal advocacy
organizations and federal agency personnel.

Tribal gaming was the lead topic on Feb. 7. Reservation-shopping - the
attempt by some casino developers and client tribes to establish casinos on
off-reservation land - drew a spirited discussion. For some tribes, the
issue is simply their desire for a casino; for other tribes, the issue is
land - land that was once within their borders and may be targeted by
would-be casino tribes for a return to trust status under new ownership, so
to speak.

Deron Marquez, chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians (not a
USET member), said his small tribe has little room to build on its
rancheria, located along the San Andreas Fault in California. Now another
California tribe seeks to locate a casino on land the San Manuel Band views
as its own original trust property, he said. "I say bull ... I will go down
fighting. The issue is not the casino. The issue is land. You cannot take
our land."

George promised a USET resolution on the issue by Feb. 10, when Impact Week
ends.

Mark Van Norman, executive director of the National Indian Gaming
Association, reviewed a cluster of gaming issues that were turned back in
the last Congress but are likely to come up again in the current 109th
Congress. On the attempt to tax Internet tobacco sales, Van Norman referred
to a clause that would authorize states to take legal action against tribes
over tobacco licensing: "We certainly cannot have a situation where state
attorneys general can sue tribal officials."

On an effort to limit Internet gaming to state-licensed entities, Van
Norman noted that Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., chairman of the Resources
Committee in the House of Representatives, offered an amendment that would
have excluded Internet gaming tribes from the requirement of state
licensing. But his motion to amend was ruled out of order and never came to
a vote. The bill passed the House last year but died in the Senate. It is
sure to come around again this year, Van Norman said.

Of a controversial National Labor Relations Board decision to extend
federal labor laws to tribal casino operations, Van Norman said a
legislative solution is still alive. But NIGA and its allies expect to
pursue other options as well, he added, without offering specifics.

After the opening morning, USET delegates went to Capitol Hill to meet with
congressional members and staff on a slate of issues. Impact Week continued
with two further full days of issue updates and parallel meetings of USET
committees.

Headquartered in Nashville, Tenn., USET is a consortium of 24 tribes in the
Northeast, Southeast and Southwest.