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Vote Reflects Support For Gaming In Idaho, Nez Perce Leader Says Governor’s Panel Backs Keeping Status Quo In Tribal Gambling

A Nez Perce tribal leader on Gov. Phil Batt’s Gaming Study Committee applauds the panel’s recommendation to allow existing tribal gaming to continue.

But an anti-gaming Boise attorney on the panel says its proposal contaminates the state’s 5-year-old constitutional ban on casino gambling.

Carla HighEagle, secretary of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee, said Friday she feels positive about the committee’s recommendation on Thursday’s 7-5 vote.

“I think it reflected the testimony around Idaho,” she said. “There is general support for what the tribes and the Lottery are doing, but there need to be limits not to get in other gaming such as blackjack tables and roulette.”

HighEagle, Coeur d’Alene tribal gaming manager David Matheson and Rep. William Deal of Nampa have been appointed to write the panel’s majority report by Saturday.

Boise attorney Stanley Crow, who will write the panel’s minority report with Dennis Mansfield, executive director of Idaho Family Forum, and state Sen. Grant Ipsen of Boise, contends the panel’s majority decided gambling in a casino is not casino gambling.

“The majority’s approach is to say casino gambling brings in a lot of money for the tribes and we will not look at the negative factors with the casino gambling nor try to deal with them,” Crow said.

A lawsuit or legislation could result to block implementation of the panel’s recommendation, he said.

Deputy Attorney General David High said the cleanest option would be to propose a constitutional amendment to make sure the Gaming Study Committee’s recommendation is consistent with the Idaho Constitution. Otherwise, he said, he is certain the issue will lead to a lawsuit to test its constitutionality.

Batt contended the tribal video lottery machines and video pull-tabs were illegal before the Legislature balked at legislation aimed at clarifying their status earlier this year. The tribes maintain the gaming is legal.

State Sen. Marguerite McLaughlin, D-Orofino, said the committee’s recommendation is the best result that could be achieved.

“I don’t think we have heard the last of it,” she said. “I think you might see an effort within the Legislature to draw it back enough so it would have an impact on tribal gambling.”

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