Faced with growing resistance to its proposed national lottery, the Coeur d’Alene Tribe is offering to cut states and tribes in on the game.
Tribal gaming director Dave Matheson said Thursday the tribe will share 10 percent of gross revenue with the 50 states and 5 percent with tribes who have no gaming programs.
“We’re doing these two things because we want to make this opportunity count and be good for all of America,” Matheson said at a Washington, D.C., news conference.
“This is not required by any law currently on the books,” he said. “We’re under no pressure to do this. We have always been good neighbors.”
Matheson said the tribe hasn’t heard back from any states on the proposal yet. The money would be distributed on a per-capita formula among the states, he said.
“I don’t see how it could help but influence their position and allay their fear and doubt.”
But several states that have voiced opposition to the lottery said late Thursday the announcement doesn’t change their views.
“That will not affect Arizona’s stance at all,” said Gary Husk, director of the Arizona State Gaming Agency. “It’s not a matter of sharing in the proceeds.”
“Our position is that the lottery, as proposed, is illegal,” said Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Alan Gilbert.
“Our stance had nothing to do with the sharing of revenue,” said Jim Haney, spokesman for Wisconsin Attorney General James E. Doyle. “We believe the game, as outlined, is illegal under Wisconsin criminal law.”
In California, however, Tom Gede, special assistant attorney general, said the tribe’s proposal is worth checking out. He said he’s not sure if it would be allowed under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which governs tribal gambling.
“If it’s possible for a state to (write a) compact for gaming with a tribe from another state, then the offer makes a lot of sense,” Gede said. “But if it isn’t within the confines of the law, it might be more problematic.”
Since the tribe announced the lottery March 6, state officials and several members of Congress have attacked the proposal. The 36-state lottery, most critics say, would make an end run around states’ rights to regulate gambling within their borders.
Facing reporters Thursday, Matheson reiterated the tribe’s belief that it has jumped through all the necessary hoops. The game will start this year, tribal officials say.
“The National Indian Lottery is probably going to be the most regulated lottery in the entire country,” Matheson said.
A lottery building is under construction near Worley, Idaho, and hiring of 300 workers will start in April. Reservation unemployment stands at 38 percent.
“Not very many economic opportunities have ever come to visit the Coeur d’Alene Indian Tribe,” Matheson said. “This National Indian Lottery is one of the few things that has come to us by our own efforts, by our own visions of what the future might hold.”
The national lottery, with players phoning in and charging tickets on credit cards, is projected to raise $400 million in revenue in the first three years. The tribe gets 70 percent of the net profit. The other 30 percent goes to Colorado-based Unistar Entertainment Inc., which is providing the equipment and some management.
“It is a legal and clear enterprise,” Matheson said. “We have cleared every legal hurdle necessary to get it done.”
Matheson said the tribe also wants to create an independent commissioner’s position, appointed by tribal, federal and state authority, to oversee the lottery.
“This National Indian Lottery is a good thing,” Matheson said. “We don’t take these actions for any other reason but to establish public confidence and public trust and to share economic opportunities.”
There would be “no strings attached” to the money given to the states and other tribes. Ideally, the funds would be used for health and welfare programs, he said.
“This lottery will be good for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and darn near everyone in America,” he said.