BOISE – Gambling opponents in the Idaho Legislature launched a new attack Monday on tribal casinos in Idaho.
Former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Robert Bakes, a gambling opponent, introduced a bill with political activist Mike Duff on behalf of United Families Idaho, a group that supported a successful anti-same-sex marriage constitutional amendment in 2006. United Families’ earlier effort was largely funded by eastern Idaho businessman Frank VanderSloot.
The bill introduced Monday calls for a state-funded legal challenge to tribal casinos, declares tribal gaming machines unconstitutional and requires lawmakers to approve any gaming compact changes.
“The purpose of this is to again establish legislative control over the gambling in the state of Idaho,” Bakes told the Senate State Affairs Committee.
But while the committee agreed on a divided voice vote to introduce the bill, Chairman Curt McKenzie, R-Nampa, said the legislation will go no further this year.
“It’s very far-reaching,” McKenzie said. “I don’t know if it’s the Legislature’s prerogative necessarily to say what the state constitution means. I think the courts would interpret that.”
Helo Hancock, legislative director for the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, said he was pleased that the bill wouldn’t proceed. But, he said, “It’s disappointing to see that some people are still trying to attack the tribes and gaming. Really, it’s an issue that we thought we put behind us long ago.”
Tribal casinos in Idaho are legal under a voter-approved initiative and under compacts negotiated with the state, and they’ve survived multiple reviews in court. But Bakes and Duff said they want a new legal challenge on moral grounds.
“We are Idaho’s largest nonpartisan, nonsectarian, pro-family advocacy group,” Duff told the Senate committee. “We utilize social science research to validate the moral and legal standards by which the institution of the family is maintained and preserved in Idaho.”
The bill also would place restrictions on Idaho lottery games, which Duff said his group believes are moving toward unconstitutional electronic games.
In 2002, Idaho voters favored tribal casinos by 57.8 percent, passing an initiative declaring them legal in the state.