Coeur d’Alene tribal leaders won an assurance from Gov. Phil Batt on Tuesday that he has no problem with their proposed National Indian Lottery.
“I personally have no objection to your endeavor and will write a letter to that effect,” Batt told tribal Chairman Ernie Stensgar.
Batt also said he would talk to other governors about the lottery idea at the Western governors conference this weekend and at the national governors conference later this year.
Later, Batt said he doesn’t intend to lobby for the tribe’s lottery yet. He simply will ask other governors for their views. “I guess I don’t really understand why the states are objecting, except Nevada,” the governor said.
The governor’s promise came during a meeting with Idaho tribal leaders on gaming issues. The meeting was one of a series Batt has held since setting aside one day per month to deal with tribal affairs.
Many states have lined up against the Coeur d’Alene Tribe’s proposal because they fear competition with their own state lotteries. The proposed National Indian Lottery would be operated from the Coeur d’Alenes’ reservation, but bets could be placed by phone from around the country. The tribe has offered to restrict its lottery to states that allow lotteries and to give 10 percent of the proceeds to states and other tribes.
Idaho Lottery Director Dennis Jackson said the state lottery supports the tribe’s effort. If the tribe succeeds in starting up its own lottery, “we’re going to look at it as free enterprise and compete very hard in a friendly manner,” he said.
David Matheson, general manager for gaming for the tribe, said the Coeur d’Alenes will use the governor’s letter “primarily as a letter of introduction.”
Having the governor’s letter in hand will help the tribe in its lobbying in Washington, D.C., as well as in wooing other states, Matheson said.
Matheson said he appreciated the governor’s offer to help open a dialogue with other states about the lottery. “We ask them to keep an open mind and an open ear, hear us out,” he said. “Then we can come to some mutually agreeable terms. We never intended to come in and trample every state’s public policy.”
Batt said his position is that anything allowed by law off reservations in Idaho should also be allowed on the reservation. “Certainly your national lottery endeavor meets my criteria in that we do have a lottery in the state of Idaho,” he said.
He added, “I not only see no legal impediment in Idaho concerning this national lottery, but I have not received any adverse comment on it from Idahoans.”
Batt praised Stensgar and the Coeur d’Alenes for their efforts to gain self-sufficiency. He also presented Stensgar with a proclamation reaffirming the tribe’s sovereign nation status and “government-togovernment relationship” with Idaho. Similar proclamations were presented to the Shoshone-Bannock, Nez Perce and Kootenai tribes.
Batt also suggested he might ask the Legislature to consider a resolution backing the lottery.
Stensgar said, “I hope the state Legislature takes a good look at what the governor is doing, and I hope they’re receptive.”