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Tony Batt

Grand Casinos Founder Nominated for Indian Affairs Post

23 October 2003

WASHINGTON -- A Senate panel voted 13-0 Wednesday to approve the nomination of Dave Anderson to become assistant secretary of Indian Affairs.

Anderson, 50, is an American Indian who co-founded Grand Casinos in 1991.

The full Senate is expected to confirm Anderson, who also founded the Famous Dave's barbecue restaurant chain, by the end of next week.

As assistant secretary, Anderson would lead the Bureau of Indian Affairs and be mainly responsible for the government's trust obligations to the 562 recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments.

At a meeting Wednesday with members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, Anderson said economic development would be one of his top priorities.

That prompted the chairman, Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, R-Colo., to ask Anderson's views on Indian gaming.

"I think that gaming is only an opportunity that should be used as a stepping stone, and that as tribes we need to use it as a beginning, as a developing point so that we can go on and invest in other areas," the nominee said.

Anderson said young American Indians often tell him they want to finish school and go to work at a reservation casino.

"I hope that we can change that around so we can get our young people to say, 'I would like to learn how to be an accountant and work in that casino,' " Anderson said.

Anderson and Lyle Berman, a friend and former business partner, founded Grand Casinos in 1991. Anderson was a vice president of the casino company until he left in 1996 to start Famous Dave's restaurants.

Berman has several big casino projects awaiting bureau approval. Anderson told the committee he would recuse himself from any decisions on Berman's projects.

"Once I was involved in (gaming), I also realized though that that wasn't exactly where I wanted to have my family, have my son think that's all where I hung my hat in life," Anderson said. "I went out and diversified and became successful in the restaurant business."

Grand Casinos is a subsidiary of Park Place Entertainment Corp. Under questioning from Campbell, Anderson acknowledged he is still a shareholder of Park Place Entertainment.

"I will be disposing of those shares upon my confirmation," Anderson said.

Anderson said he also would resign as chairman of Famous Dave's.

A resident of Edina, Minn., Anderson is a member of the Chippewa and Choctaw tribes and an enrolled member of the Lac Courte Oreilles Lake Superior Band of Ojibwa in Wisconsin.