The Orofino Chamber of Commerce is asking Gov. Phil Batt to reconsider his decision to suspend negotiations with the Nez Perce Tribe about returning the Idaho Lottery to the reservation.
The Idaho Lottery pulled all lottery machines and unsold scratch tickets from 29 Nez Perce tribal reservation outlets three years ago after then-Lottery Director Wally Hedrick declared negotiations at an impasse.
Orofino Chamber of Commerce Executive Director James Grunke said Batt took a significant step last month when he signed Sen. Marguerite McLaughlin’s bill allowing the state lottery to make payments to an Indian tribe under a gaming compact. Chamber officials understood that negotiations between the tribe and the state would resume with this law in place, he said.
“We are troubled to learn that you have instructed state lottery officials not to negotiate with the Nez Perce Tribe about bringing the lottery back to the reservation until after a committee has been appointed to study the future of gaming in Idaho,” he wrote in a letter dated last Wednesday. “We feel it is important to ‘decouple’ Idaho lottery operations on the reservation from concerns over the tribe’s other gaming operations.”
Grunke said chamber officials have a positive relationship with the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee and a common goal in trying to alleviate tensions between Indians and non-Indians on the reservation.
“We feel that our working together to return the lottery to the reservation can, and will, demonstrate that the tribe and non-tribal organizations can work together for the common good of all people in the region.”
Batt’s press secretary, Frank Lockwood, said the governor believes a high-profile discussion of the lottery would unduly complicate the work of the committee studying the future of gaming in Idaho. The committee should be appointed later this month, Lockwood said.
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