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Tony Batt

Congressman: Tribes Shouldn't Purchase Land to Build Casinos

14 July 2004

Stephens Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- American Indian gambling operations should be restricted to reservations and tribes should not be allowed to buy land anywhere they want for their casinos, a Louisiana congressman told a House panel on Tuesday.

Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., said the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 may need to be changed to prevent what he called "forum shopping" by gambling tribes.

"I fear that if there are no changes, there will be a proliferation of gambling that hasn't been explored properly or in depth, and I don't think we'd like the results," McCrery said.

McCrery was complaining about the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, which unsuccessfully sought to open a gambling facility in Logansport, a town in McCrery's district.

Christine Norris, a chief of the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians, said her tribe is landless and Logansport's mayor supported the casino proposal. She blamed competing gambling interests, both tribal and nontribal, for thwarting her tribe's effort in Logansport.

"The opposition of well-heeled, well-established gaming concerns can make it incredibly difficult for newly recognized tribes to participate in the economic benefits which have been made available to most other tribes," Norris said in testimony submitted to the committee.

The hearing was the Resources Committee's latest in a series on Indian gaming. Last month, the panel heard from Michigan lawmakers and Indian leaders who debated two bills that would allow tribes to obtain land for casinos in exchange for surrendering claims on other property.

Under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988, tribes must obtain the approval of the secretary of interior before purchasing land away from their reservations for gambling. The interior secretary has approved 32 of these applications since the law was enacted.