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House bill would ban off-reservation casinos

WASHINGTON – Indian tribes would be blocked from building Las Vegas-style casinos off their reservations under legislation approved by a House committee Wednesday.

The bill by Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif., takes aim at the trend of “off-reservation gambling” or, as some critics call it, “reservation shopping.”

Although the trend is limited, it’s become highly controversial: Some tribes have moved hundreds of miles and even sought to cross state lines to find better locations for their casinos.

“Instead of seeking to bring economic development to the Indian reservation, they have instead sought to bring the Indian reservation to wherever there is economic development,” Pombo said.

“This is wrong, and it threatens both the future of Native American economic development and the integrity of Indian tribal sovereignty.”

Pombo’s bill, which passed 27-9, would amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 to eliminate an exception that allows tribes to build off-reservation with the approval of the Interior secretary and the state’s governor.

Tribes that already had submitted applications by March 7, 2006, would be allowed to proceed under a grandfather clause.

The bill still would allow tribes that have been newly recognized by the federal government, or that don’t have reservation land of their own, to seek permission to build casinos. But those tribes would be required to enter a “memorandum of understanding” with local communities to ensure the tribe pays for infrastructure, public safety and other costs.

Tribes also could invite other tribes to build casinos on their reservation land and share profits.

The National Indian Gaming Association opposes the bill, saying off-reservation gambling is limited and any issues can be fixed through regulations. The group says Pombo’s bill wrongly would allow local governments to “tax” sovereign tribes through the memorandum of understanding.

The bill is supported, however, by a number of tribes that already have casinos and are facing the unwanted prospect of competition from other tribes moving into their area.


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