Tulalip holds groundbreaking for QCC replacement

Tulalip Tribes Board of Directors prepare to break ground on new Quil Ceda Creek Casino with celebratory gold shovels.

By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 

Members of the Tulalip Tribes, various officials, and employees were in attendance at a groundbreaking ceremony held at the future site of the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino (QCC) on Tuesday, December 12.

“I raise my hands to everyone who came here to celebrate with us,” greeted vice-Chairwoman, Teri Gobin. “What an honor it is to take part in this journey for the Tribe. It’s so exciting we’re finally doing this groundbreaking, and to think what it means for the Tribe and our community, creating new jobs and helping with economic development. This will be a good project for our whole community and the surrounding communities that benefit from our type of development.”

The multi-million dollar project to relocate the QCC facility from its current location to a sixteen-acre property across the street is based on a number of factors, the most prominent being a stagnant revenue stream that is unable to grow due to logistical and structural challenges posed by the current facility.

“We’re replacing [the existing QCC] because it is bursting at the seams,” explained Les Parks, Board of Director and Treasurer. “The revenue cannot grow anymore, they are using every square foot they can, and our customers are screaming for more machines and a hotel to stay at. This new journey is going to get us there.”

The project cost is “rolled into the $155 million syndicated loan that includes the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino and hotel, its parking structure, and the future Gathering Hall,” continued Les. “This is the same amount that was approved by General Council two years ago. Without increasing the loan amount, we were able to add in the hotel by extending the deferred payment process, which is typical of loans we do, to put more money towards actual construction.”

The new casino will span across 110,000 square feet that will allow for 1,500 gaming machines, a lofty increase from the current 1,000 operating at the existing QCC. Besides the additional 500 machines, there will be additional table games, an innovative dining hall experience, an upgraded entertainment venue, and a state of the art smoke elimination system included in the new QCC.

In recent weeks, the Tribe announced the new QCC with also feature a 150-room hotel and 1,200-stall parking garage. The property will be called Quil Ceda Creek Casino Hotel and is expected to open in spring 2019.

“We have a tag phrase: ‘It’s not just bigger and better, there’s more to love’,” stated Ken Kettler, President of Tulalip Gaming Operations. “When you think about it, we’re just expanding on the experience we have today and we’re going to give you more of it. It keeps us competitive and protects the current revenue stream. The competition is pretty tough out there, so we, as a leader, have to step up and set the example of what can happen at a local’s casino.”

Tribes Contribute Millions of Dollars to Washington Communities, Non-Profits

Quil Ceda VillageNestled between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, the Tulalip Indian-owned Quil Ceda Village offers gaming, luxury accommodations, entertainment, shopping, fine dining and more.

Quil Ceda Village
Nestled between Seattle and Vancouver, BC, the Tulalip Indian-owned Quil Ceda Village offers gaming, luxury accommodations, entertainment, shopping, fine dining and more.

 

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today

 

SEATTLE – Casinos operated by 22 Native Nations in Washington State generated millions of dollars in contributions to communities, non-profits, and smoking-cessation and problem-gambling programs in 2013 and 2014, according to a report by the Washington State Gambling Commission.

In accordance with compacts, or agreements, with the state, Native Nations contribute 0.5 percent of machine gaming net receipts to nonprofit and charitable organizations; up to 2 percent of table-game net receipts to governmental agencies; 0.13 percent of machine gaming net receipts to smoking-cessation programs; and 0.13 percent of Class III net receipts to problem-gambling programs.

Staff members of the state commission presented “Tribal State Compact Tribal Contributions” to commissioners on Jan. 15. Commissioners and reporters had the opportunity that day to ride along with enforcement agents, watch gaming-machine compliance tests, and tour a forensics lab.

The mission of the gambling commission is “Protect the Public by Ensuring that Gambling is Legal & Honest,” and Native Nations with casinos help in that mission through the compact and, in many cases, with their own gaming commissions.

According to the report: Native Nations with casinos distributed nearly $6.5 million in community impact funds in 2013, and $6.6 million in 2012; contributed copy2.6 million in 2013 and copy1.8 million in 2012 to non-profits and charities; allocated $2.4 million in 2014 and $2.2 million in 2013 for smoking-cessation programs; and allocated $2.8 million in 2014 and $2.5 million in 2013 to help prevent and treat gambling addictions.

Community impact funds are invested in local law enforcement, public safety, and roads. Charitable funds benefit local food banks, disaster relief organizations, sports and recreation programs, United Way, veterans organizations, YMCA, YWCA, youth organizations, and others.  Smoking-cessation and problem-gambling contributions help pay for the state Department of Health’s 1-800 Quit Line, community behavioral-health programs, and programs operated by local health care authorities.

Contributions for 2015 were not available.

Jobs Providers

For most if not all Native Nations that have casinos, gaming is only part of a larger economic development portfolio. According to Julie Saw’Leit’Sa Johnson, Lummi, chairwoman of the Native American Caucus of the Washington State Democratic Party, Native Nations – or Tribes – are collectively the fourth-largest source of jobs in Washington state.

The Quinault Nation, owner of the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino, as well as other ventures, is the largest employer in Grays Harbor County. The Suquamish Tribe’s Port Madison Enterprises, which manages the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort, White Horse Golf Club, and other ventures, is the second-largest private-sector employer in Kitsap County, west of Seattle. The Tulalip Tribes town of Quil Ceda Village, home of Tulalip Resort Casino, Tulalip Amphitheater, Seattle Premium Outlets, and other dining, entertainment and retail businesses, is the third-largest source of jobs in Snohomish County.

Many casino-resorts have evolved beyond gaming and become convention, dining and entertainment destinations, as well as showcases for cultural art. Guests at the Suquamish Clearwater Casino Resort Hotel can take a shuttle to the Suquamish Museum and other cultural sites. The new Yakama Nation Legends Casino Hotel is being built a half-mile from the Yakama Nation Museum & Cultural Center.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2016/02/19/tribes-contribute-millions-dollars-washington-communities-non-profits-163486

Tribal Casino In Michigan Stops Revenue-Sharing Payments Because Of Online Lottery Launch

The Gun Lake Tribe Says I-Lotto Violates Compact

By Brian Pempus, www.cardplayer.com

A Native American tribe with a casino in Michigan has stopped paying the state its cut because the state elected to offer lottery games on the Internet.

The tribe believes the state violated their revenue-sharing compact by launching online lottery products last summer. The compact was negotiated back in 2007.

The Gun Lake Tribe stopped making payments in June. The Michigan Economic Development Corporation receives roughly $60 million annually from the state’s tribal casinos. The Gun Lake Casino contributes roughly $13.3 million to the state annually.

According to crainsdetroit.com, other tribes may follow suit and stop their respective payments. Michigan has 12 tribes that have gambling facilities.

So far in 2015, online lottery sales have yielded $15.9 million for the state.

Americans spent more than $70 billion on the lottery in 2014, which makes it the most popular form of gambling in the country. More and more states are considering offering games on the Internet, with the most recent being North Carolina, according to a report from the Winston-Salem JournalFlorida is also considering bringing the games to the Internet one day.

State lotteries basically were given permission by the federal government to pursue online lottery services and products when the Department of Justice re-interpreted the Wire Act in December 2011. That move also resulted in three states launching online poker.

For second year in a row, bid for tribal casino blocked in Maine Senate

By Christopher Cousins, Bangor Daily News

AUGUSTA, Maine — A bill that would have allowed Maine’s Native American tribes to open and operate a casino in Washington or Aroostook County died Monday in the Senate by a vote of 18-16.

The Senate’s vote contradicts a 114-26 House vote last Thursday in favor of the bill, which was written by the Legislature’s Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee. The two chambers of the Legislature are now at odds on the bill, which means it faces more votes but won’t be successful without attracting additional support

The bill, LD 1446, would have allowed a competitive bidding process followed by the development of a casino in Washington or Aroostook county. Bids would have been weighed depending on to what degree they would benefit Maine’s four federally recognized Indian tribes.

Rep. Henry John Bear of the Houlton Band of Maliseets said Monday that given the close Senate vote against it, he is still hopeful that the bill will survive.

“I’ll be hopeful that maybe we can work an amendment and that we can find something that’s acceptable to the Senate,” said Bear, who is the only tribal representative left in the Maine Legislature since the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot tribes pulled their representatives out of the Legislature in May.

That decision was driven by clashes over fishing rights, judicial jurisdiction and environmental conflicts, though the fact that Maine has not allowed the tribes to operate a casino — and benefit from the revenues — has been a sore spot for tribal-state relations for years. In 2014, a group of six gaming bills — three of them which would have benefitted the tribes — were all killed in a single night in the Senate.

The tribes and other casino proponents thought an opening for gaming expansion was created last year with the release of a market study that suggested the state could support one or two more casinos.

“This bill is not a bill that has come out of this legislative session,” said Bear. “This is a bill that has been in the works for decades in a continued effort to try to create jobs in a region that’s the poorest of the state.”

Meanwhile, another casino bill, LD 1280, is still awaiting debate and votes in the House and Senate. As currently written, that bill would allow for a casino in Cumberland or York County.

Stillaguamish Tribe gets ‘long overdue’ reservation

 

By Kari Bray, Herald

 

ARLINGTON — The Stillaguamish Tribe finally has a reservation, a federal designation tribe leaders say is long overdue.

The reservation spans 64 acres from the Angel of the Winds Casino to 236th Street Northeast.

“It kind of gives us that anchor on the map,” tribal Chairman Shawn Yanity said.

A reservation is an area recognized by the U.S. government as a permanent homeland for a Native American tribe. A tribe can be recognized by the government without having a reservation.

There are nearly 300 members of the Stillaguamish Tribe. It’s been 38 years since the tribe gained federal recognition, and at least 28 since leaders first tried to establish a reservation.

Their first attempt was rejected by the U.S. government because one of the properties did not meet all the requirements for being a tribal trust land, meaning the federal government owns the land but the tribe manages its use.

For years, the tribe stopped pushing for a reservation.

“Things had stalled due to many factors,” Yanity said, including “the inner workings with the (U.S.) Department of the Interior and the tribe’s leadership at the time.”

The Stillaguamish built the Angel of the Winds Casino on tribal land where gaming was permitted under federal law. Members of the tribe found homes throughout Snohomish County, many in Arlington, Stanwood and Marysville.

Establishing a reservation was put on hold. It’s a lengthy process with no guarantee of success.

But this year, the Stillaguamish tried again, and succeeded.

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs released its Stillaguamish Reservation Proclamation on July 30.

“It lets people know we’re obviously here. It encompasses the area that is already commercialized around the casino,” said Jon Hare, who manages real estate for the tribe. “I think really what it does is put a bold line on it jurisdictionally.”

Having a reservation doesn’t change much for day-to-day operations in the tribe, Yanity said. But it’s part of the process for pulling the tribe together and centralizing services like public safety, healthcare and a community center.

Tribal trust lands are somewhat scattered, Hare said, but the tribe hopes to unify.

“We really just want to have the land and make it all one piece instead of all these scattered parcels,” he said. “I think the tribe, now that there’s a reservation, we’re not scattered and we know where we want to plan.”

Having a reservation can also help the tribe qualify for grants or public safety funding specifically earmarked for reservations, Yanity said.

The tribe may try to expand the Stillaguamish Reservation in the future. “We started small, but if the tribe wants, they can do the process all over again to add more property,” Hare said.

New housing and a community center are planned on 80 acres of land east of Angel of the Winds Casino, Yanity said. The planned development eventually could be added into the reservation. The tribe would also like to have a clinic on its reservation, he said.

“It’d be nice to be able to expand, but right now we have a lot of other things we’re trying to focus on,” he said.

A 125-room hotel, a gift shop and a smoke shop are under construction adjacent to the casino. The hotel is scheduled to open by spring 2015. Roadwork is also planned around the casino to patch up and widen streets and add lighting.

“It’s nice to keep most of our main infrastructure as close together as we can,” Yanity said.

Pulling tribal services together also lowers costs because resources can be concentrated in one area, he said.

The tribe could have become centralized without creating a reservation, but the designation is a solid starting place, Hare said.

“The main reason to do this is to show you’re established,” he said. “To have one, I think it’s kind of a historical thing.”

The Stillaguamish Tribe was one of more than 22 that signed the Point Elliott Treaty of 1855, handing over several million acres to the U.S. government for minimal compensation. The Stillaguamish kept their fishing rights and gained federal recognition as a tribe in 1976.

Though most of the tribes in Washington now have reservations, at least three are still working on designating land and gaining approval, according to the Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs.

US Interior Dept. poised to let West Valley casino move forward

By Mike Sunnucks, Phoenix Business Journal

A controversial casino development in the West Valley is taking a big step forward.

The U.S. Department of the Interior is notifying Arizona lawmakers and other Native American communities that it is looking favorably on an effort by the Tohono O’odham Nation to take a parcel of land at 91st and Northern avenues into trust. The Southern Arizona tribe wants to develop a $500 million casino on the parcel.

This move sets the stage for full federal approval, according to an official familiar with the casino plans.

“The handwriting is on the wall,” the official said.

U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Kevin Washburn told other tribes of his decision to approve the O’odham’s application for the land to be an extended part of their reservation.

This would propel the casino toward construction after a prolonged legal fight.

“Today’s ruling by the Department of the Interior allows the Nation to move another step closer to benefiting from the United States’ promise to the Nation that we would be able to replace our destroyed reservation lands. The Nation is eager to move forward to use our replacement land to create thousands of new jobs in the West Valley,” Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris, Jr. said in s statement.

The O’odham casino has faced opposition — including lawsuits and legal appeals — from some state lawmakers as well as the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Indian Community. Those two tribes, which already operate casinos in the Phoenix area, cite concerns about the O’odham casino’s impact on state gaming compacts.

A federal 1986 law allows the O’odham to replace lands lost to a federal dam built in Southern Arizona with unincorporated parcels in the Phoenix area. The tribe quietly bought the West Valley parcel in 2003.

The O’odham have prevailed in lawsuits brought against the project, and efforts by U.S. Rep. Trent Franks to change the 1986 law have not progressed in Congress.

Officials involved in the casino scrap were still trying to figure out the implications of the federal actions today.

Interior officials and some Arizona players involved in the issue either could not be reached or declined requests for comment.

Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community President Diane Enos voiced disappointment with the ruling.

““The Community absolutely disagrees with Washburn’s decision for both legal and policy reasons. The Tohono O’odham Nation has asserted a right to create three additional Indian

reservations on county islands in Maricopa County to locate casinos. This is why many Valley mayors have been standing by tribes in asking for a resolution by Congress, fearful that their

city is next,” Enos said.

Gila River Indian Community Governor Gregory Mendoza released the following statement Friday:

“While our Community is disappointed by today’s decision, we are not surprised. As Assistant Secretary Washburn noted, he was faced with interpreting an ambiguous provision of a law passed by Congress decades ago. That’s precisely why our Community believes Congress is the best entity to decide this matter and uphold the will of Arizona’s voters. We hope voters across the state will contact their members of Congress to weigh in on this matter.

“It’s also critically important to note that this decision does not give the Tohono O’Odham Nation permission to game on this land. The Department of Interior has yet to decide that point and the majority of tribes in Arizona – including non-gaming tribes – remain opposed to the Nation’s casino because it poses a direct threat to the balance of tribal gaming in our state.

“We will review this decision thoroughly in the coming days and decide whether to take legal action.”

Seminole Tribe Negotiating Compact with Florida Governor Rick Scott

By Steve Larson, Legal US Poker Sites

According to several news sources, the Seminole Tribe of Florida is nearing a completed deal on a new gaming compact with Florida Governor Rick Scott. A source close to the negotiations says a special session in May might be called for the legislature to consider a new compact with the tribe. A spokesman for the tribe gave a “no comment” when asked about the story.

Despite the rumors of a pending deal, several groups among Florida lawmakers might be slow to provide support for any deal the governor signs with the Seminole Tribe. Election year politics, social conservatism, and traditional gaming interests could stand in the way of a new compact. Against those considerations stand a possible billion-dollar windfall for the state.

2010 Seminole Compact Was Worth $1 Billion

The State of Florida and the Seminole Tribe signed a deal in 2010 with some parts set to expire in 2015. The 2010 compact guaranteed in excess of $1 billion for the state government, but bound the state’s hands in bringing in new casino developments. Some Florida lawmakers would like to see the current deal expire, so integrated resort casinos could be placed in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. These politicians believe the South Florida casinos would combine with established gaming to provide far larger revenues.

Early in 2014, several Florida legislators proposed a comprehensive gambling bill which would have spurred such competition with the tribe. House Speak Will Weatherford asked Rick Scott to renegoiatite the compact with the Seminole Tribe before proceeding with the bill. Speaker Weatherford wants a constitutional amendment placed before the electorate which requires any future gambling expansions to be approved by Florida voters. Many lawmakers have balked at such a plan, because in a divided state, such a move could squelch any gaming expansion and therefore could hurt competition by removing realistic options.

Will Weatherford Saying the House Cannot Be “Leveraged”

Any new legislation would come to the governor’s desk when the state’s $75 billion budget will be ready to be signed. Because Rick Scott has a line-item veto ower, he could eliminate individual spending items which legislators might add to the bill. This would give the governor bargaining power, but might not assure approval of a new Seminole gaming compact.

When addressing that issue, Will Weatherford said, “I don’t see the Florida House being leveraged into anything. We have been very good to the governor this year.

Opposition Could Prove Stubborn

Several groups may be opposed to a new deal, at least under certain conditions. The Westport News speculates some lawmakers will not approve a new deal, if the legislature does not promise to help the state’s horse tracks and dog tracks.

Democrats have indicated they might not vote for the compact, if they are sidestepped in the negotiations. While Republicans are the majority party in Florida, the GOP voting bloc is not solid on the gambling issue. Some Republican politicians have been unwilling to vote on gaming compacts in the past, fearing they would be condoning gambling or expanding social ills.

Democrats Have “No Motivation to Ratify”

If that is the case this year, then Democrats will have a key role in whether a new compact is voted up or ndown. House Democratic Leader Perry Thurston said, “Quite frankly, we don’t have any motivation just to ratify what the governor does.”

In a mid-term election year, the minority party often is loathe to provide a sitting governor with any legislative victories to trumpet. In such conditions, the gambling compact might face stiffer-than-normal opposition.

Florida’s Tribal gaming industry is among the strongest in the nation. Florida is behind only California, Washington, and Oklahoma in gambling revenues for the Native American Tribes. The Indian casinos in Florida collected $2.2 billion in 2012 alone.

Colville Tribes Plan First Hotel With Casino

“This will be our first hotel,” Mike Finley, chairman of the Colville Business Council, said. The Confederated Colville Tribes own three small casinos but no hotels. Surface preparation and some excavation for the site of the new Omak Casino Resort will begin about April 15, so cars can reach the location and people can attend the ground breaking projected for early May. The anticipated opening is about 12 months later.

Randy Williams is Director of Corporate Gaming for the tribes and he outlined details of the complex. “It’s a $43 million project. It includes a 57,000-square-foot casino and an 80-room hotel. The hotel will be between a three- and four-star hotel, so it’s upscale and will be nice. We’ll have 500 machines in this casino plus table games, two lounges and two restaurants. It will create about 200 jobs in both the casino and hotel.”

The casino/hotel will be located on reservation property south of the town of Omak, Washington. The population is quite low, but it’s only about 45 miles from the Canadian border. “We’re expecting to get a large pool from Canada, as we do now,” Finley said. “We expect some will stay longer and spend more of their disposable income as we’ll have a hotel.”

Omak Casino Resort will also be the first destination resort in Okanogan County and is expected to be an economic boon to the region as it will attract conferences.

The casino portion will be twice the size of the tribes’ Mill Bay Casino located on a trust parcel near Lake Chelan. It will also replace the tribes’ Okanogan Bingo Casino. The new casino is expected to largely employ tribal members, Finley commented.

Taylor-Woodstone Construction will oversee development; the Bloomington, Minnesota-based company has worked with a number of tribes on other casino projects, plus the huge Palazzo Casino Resort in Las Vegas, among others.

The Colville Tribal Federal Corporation is fully finnacing the project. “They’re the sole signer on the loan, and it’s the first loan the Colville Tribe has not had to guarantee. The tribes’ commitment to business development certainly has exhibited itself over the past few years.”

This area is rich in cultural history. Five years ago, ground was being broken for a $24 million casino also near Omak, but when artifacts and human remains were discovered, the project was immediately shut down. “We ordered a full archeological excavation be done in that area,” Finley said. “It turned out to be the oldest recorded archeological site on the reservation.” That location will remain undeveloped; this new hotel/casino complex is a larger version of the previous, derailed plan.

 

Read more at http://indiancountrytodaymedianetwork.com/2014/03/31/colville-tribes-plan-first-hotel-casino-154241

Maine lawmakers advance series of gambling bills

by Alanna Durkin, Associated Press

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — Maine’s American Indian tribes that have long seen gambling as the remedy for high unemployment and sluggish economic growth in their communities are a step closer to being able to operate casinos after winning initial approval in the Democratic-controlled House on Thursday.

After several hours of debate, the House voted to overturn the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee‘s recommendation that the proposals be killed, giving new life to the bills that would allow the Passamaquoddy Tribe to build a casino in Washington County and the Houlton Band of Maliseet Indians to operate one in Aroostook County.

Tribal representatives who’ve been working to bring gambling to their counties for decades stressed their frustration with consistently being denied the ability to do so while casinos have opened in Bangor and Oxford and reaped significant economic benefits for their communities.

“Time and time again we have been told now is not the time, that we must develop a better plan or work more closely with local communities,” said Rep. Madonna Soctomah, who represents the Passamaquoddy Tribe in the Legislature and backed the first bill to bring a gambling facility to Washington County in the early ’90s. “At the same time, the state has granted licenses to two gaming facilities. We only ask that we be given the same opportunity.”

But operators of Maine’s two existing casinos are fiercely opposing the bills and contend that new gambling in the Maine, with a population of only 1.3 million, will devastate their businesses. The measures are also getting push back from lawmakers who want to implement a competitive bidding process before Maine adds new casinos, to ensure the state gets the best deal. Casino development has been largely steered by citizen initiative, meaning the state has had no say on things like licensing fees.

“These bills are a continuation of our state’s fragmented and disorganized approach to gaming policy,” said Democratic Rep. Louis Luchini of Ellsworth.

Another measure that advanced to the Senate on Thursday would let the Penobscot Nation and Aroostook Band of Micmacs run high-stakes electronic beano games. The House also defeated an effort to kill a bill that would allow the harness racing facility Scarborough Downs to operate slot machines, but the measure awaits further action in the House.

Lawmakers supporting the measure for Scarborough Downs argued that slot machines are the only way to keep alive the harness racing industry, which has a strong history in Maine and has lost many of its gamblers to the casinos. Others stressed the economic benefits like new jobs the expanded gambling would bring to the state that’s still struggling to get back the jobs it lost during the recession.

“I think we need to start in this state saying ‘yes’ to jobs,” said Republican Rep. Wayne Parry of Arundel. “If we continue to say ‘yes’ to jobs — but ‘not those jobs’ — we continue to show businesses around the country that we might like jobs, but not like theirs.”

The Passamaquoddy Tribe applauded the House’s action on Thursday, but the proposals still face a long road in the Legislature and, even then, voters in Washington County will get the final say.

“We’re very happy with the vote, but we’ve been here before,” said Joseph Socobasin, chief of the tribe. “We certainly have some work left to do. We’re not across the finish line yet.”

 

The Myth Of The Casino Cash Cow For Native Americans

Contrary to stereotypes about reservation gambling profits, most Native Americans are struggling.

The Fond-Du-Luth Casino in Duluth, Minnesota. (Photo/Michael Hicks via Flickr)

The Fond-Du-Luth Casino in Duluth, Minnesota. (Photo/Michael Hicks via Flickr)

From October 23, 2013 by Katie Lentsch, Mint Press News

Today’s casinos of flashing lights and slot machines in smoke-filled rooms attract high rollers and bad losers. Many see casinos as a lucrative business for Native American reservations — but does this myth of money-making match reality?

Twenty-five percent of the U.S. population aged 21 and over visited a casino and participated in gambling in 2010. In that year alone, U.S. casinos enjoyed revenues of $34.6 billion, according to the American Gaming Association.

It’s a common assumption that the gaming industry is a cash cow for Native Americans, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1976 that as part of tribal sovereignty, state tax and regulatory laws do not necessarily apply to Native Americans living on reservations.

Tribal sovereignty refers to tribes’ right to govern themselves, define their own membership, manage property, and regulate tribal business and relations while recognizing a government-to-government relationship with states and the federal government. But despite tribes’ independence and exemptions, the Native American population as a whole comprises the minority living with the largest disparities in health, education and income in the United States.

The unemployment rate on some reservations can reach as high as 75 percent, with nearly 10 percent of all Native families being homeless. For some of those families who do have homes, they may lack electricity or running water, Liberation news reports.

Gaming has helped raise tribal communities out of poverty by providing funds for housing, schools, health care and education, as well as stable jobs for community members, but according to the Native American Rights Fund, of the estimated 560 federally recognized American Indian nations, only 224 are involved in gaming. Tribes who are geographically located on rural, unpopulated land may never take part in the industry, while those who reside near major urban areas benefit the most from gaming operations.

 

Can tribal sovereignty exist within a city?

The Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa not only has a casino on its reservation in northern Minnesota, but one that is located 20 miles to the east in downtown Duluth. With the “Fond-du-Luth” casino establishment located outside of the reservation, issues pertaining to tribal sovereignty and gaming revenues are currently being disputed by city leaders.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that because Fond-du-Luth is outside the reservation, a 1994 agreement was enacted, stating that the casino would pay a 19 percent “rent” of its gross income for 25 years and an unspecified rate for the following 25 years to the city in exchange for services. This provided Duluth with around $6 million income annually from the Fond du Lac band, but in 2009, the band stopped paying.

Karen Diver, chairwoman of the Fond du Lac band, said payments were halted when it began questioning the legality of the agreement. After asking the National Indian Gaming Commission to review the 1994 consent agreement, it found the agreement violated the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which requires tribes to have “sole proprietary interest” for tribal casinos.

The band negotiated a payment-per-services model, covering services like law enforcement and fire protection, but a U.S. District Court judge ruled this month that $10.4 million is owed from the Fond du Lac band’s halted payments from 2009 to 2011, which the band might be able to appeal.

The issues that arose in Duluth were similar to those when New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) was onboard for a plan to build casinos under the Seneca Nation in Rochester and other areas upstate.

Initially, like Fond-du-Luth, there was discussion of the state government receiving a negotiated piece of the casino’s gross intake, but the sovereignty issue again posed question.

“How could you put a sovereign nation in the middle of your downtown?” said Lovely Warren, Rochester city council president.

Steve Siegel, formerly of the College of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Niagara University, told Rochester City Newspaper that most of the time, when a tax-exempt casino is placed on what is claimed to be sovereign land within an urban setting, all of the gain goes to the casino complex.

“Local businesses are devastated because they can’t compete with this massive nontaxable entity,” Siegel said.

 

Native Americans are still Americans

Although the casino institutions themselves are not federally taxed, in 2006 the IRS issued a bulletin stating that individual Native Americans, especially those living outside of a reservation, are still subject to federal income tax every year.

More than seven in ten Native Americans and Alaska Natives now live in metropolitan areas, and 27 percent live in poverty, according to the Census Bureau.

The bulletin states:

“While there are numerous valid treaties between various Federally Recognized Indian Tribal Governments and the United States government, some of which may contain language providing for narrowly defined tax exemptions, these treaties have limited application to specific tribes … Taxpayers who are affected by such treaty language must be a member of a particular tribe having a treaty and must cite that specific treaty in claiming any exemption. There is no general treaty that is applicable to all Native Americans.”

Even so, many Native American families subject to treaties are still not exempt from taxes. The IGRA has provisions that permit tribes to make per-capita distributions from gaming activities to tribe members and the community. But according to the bulletin, “Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, any distribution of casino gaming proceeds to individual tribe members is also subject to federal income tax.”

Essentially, Native Americans are living in a nation where the majority of its population is struggling to make ends meet. They face taxes and economic strife while trying to support their families. Some may sit more comfortably than others, but the late-night hours from visitors at the slot machines or blackjack tables don’t quite live up to the dream.