Nez Perce tribal leaders and state officials meet for a second time next month for what Lottery Director Dennis Jackson calls the most optimistic talks yet on restoring lottery sales to the north-central Idaho reservation.
“How we will do it is still an issue,” Jackson told Batt on Monday during the governor’s monthly meeting with tribal leaders. “Of course, it comes down to money. But I feel more optimistic than I did a year ago. … We’re closer than we were.”
Nez Perce attorney Doug Nash called the initial resumption of talks several weeks ago constructive, dealing with several approaches to resolving the dispute that has barred retailers on the reservation from selling state lottery tickets since early 1994.
The lottery discussions have been separated from the broader review of gambling overall in Idaho that a special Batt task force began last week, although its target is also to resolve disagreements over allowable games with the tribes.
While neither side discussed details, the dispute has been over the size of the tribe’s cut of lottery proceeds from reservation outlets.
Twenty-nine retailers were selling lottery tickets at the time they were pulled because of what former Lottery Director Wally Hedrick called an impasse in negotiations over a tribal compact.
The major stumbling block has been the demand of some tribal leaders for a payment covering a share of profits from lottery tickets sold on the reservation before the impasse.
“We’re very much interested in consummating an agreement,” Batt told Nez Perce Tribal Chairman Sam Penney.
But he also said a deal would be out of his hands if a retroactive payment continued to be demanded since that would require legislative approval.
A possible alternative, according to some officials, could be giving the tribe a 60 percent share of the proceeds while the state keeps just 40 percent in the initial years of a deal that would gradually equalize the split over a period of time.
Some state leaders believe restoring lottery sales to reservation retailers could help to some extent ease tensions between the tribe and some nontribal people in north-central Idaho.