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Bill Would Limit Indian-Owned Casinos, Lotteries Sponors Of Legislation Say It Would ‘Simply Provide Equity’

Indian-owned gambling casinos and other gaming operations would be curtailed under legislation introduced Tuesday.

Reps. Gerald Solomon, R.-N.Y., and Robert Torricelli, D.-N.J., said their bill was “corrective legislation” aimed at fixing what Torricelli said was “ultimately a racial quota” that gave a legal preference to Indians but not to others.

Their bill would:

Prevent new Indian-owned gambling casinos from opening for two years.

Give the states authority to decide what kind of gambling could be conducted at Indian-owned casinos.

Restrict Indian-owned lotteries by permitting them to sell tickets only to reservation residents. The provision comes in response to plans for an Indian-owned, nationwide lottery that would compete with state-owned lotteries.

“Our bill will allow the state to hold firm on insisting that the tribe conduct no types of gaming above and beyond what the state allows its own citizens to engage in, and that’s fair,” Solomon said.

Torricelli said: “Our legislation simply provides equity. The state elected officials or the people of their state … must make a judgment, that either they agree to have casino gaming for everybody, or nobody.”

If the bill passes, states would be able to renegotiate existing agreements with tribes, and many of the approximately 90 Indian-owned casinos across the nation could be forced to close, according to Rick Hill, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association.

The closing of casinos would have disastrous economic effects for many Indian communities, he said, adding: “You’re looking at bankruptcy for a number of tribes. It would really cause a large financial disruption - that’s the understatement of the year.”

Hill said Indian-owned casinos, along with other Indian-owned gambling facilities, have an annual revenue of about $5 billion, accounting for approximately 5 percent of America’s gambling industry.

Hill called the Solomon-Torricelli measure “economic racism,” designed to take away an industry that has led to the economic growth of many Indian communities.

But Torricelli and Solomon said their bill would protect tribes against organized crime that, they said, often moves into non-regulated gambling.

“This is a disaster waiting to happen,” Torricelli said. “Indeed, if you meet with Native American leaders, you will find that casino gaming has had a corrupting influence on their leadership and even on the culture.”

Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R.-N.J., whose district includes Atlantic City, also endorsed the bill.

LoBiondo complained that casinos in Atlantic City are “heavily regulated” but compete with Indian casinos that are “largely exempt from their state’s regulations.”

“We are not asking for special treatment and we are not seeking an advantage,” he said. “All we are looking for is a level playing field.”

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