Friday, March 8, 2013

Sen. Dianne Feinstein Targets Reservation Shopping with Tribal Gaming Eligibility Act

Stopping reservations shopping.    How about violations of the Indian Civil Rights Act, Senator?


S. 477. A bill to amend the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to modify a provision relating to gaming on land acquired after October 17, 1988; to the Committee on Indian Affairs.

Mrs. FEINSTEIN. Mr. President, I rise today to reintroduce the Tribal Gaming Eligibility Act.

This bill sets forth what I believe is a very reasonable, moderate standard for where tribes are allowed to open gaming establishments.

The standard is simple: a tribe must demonstrate that it has a modern and an aboriginal connection to the land before it can open a gaming establishment on it.

The new standard is needed because too many tribes in California and across the nation are “reservation shopping”. They look for a profitable casino location, and then seek to put that land in trust regardless of their historical ties to the area.

To be clear, most tribes do not fit this mold. Most play by the rules and acquire land in appropriate locations.

But as wealthy Las Vegas casino interests search for ways to expand their gaming syndicates, the problem is getting worse. These syndicates have no interest in preserving native cultures and they have little interest in pursuing other forms of economic development; so they also have little interest in limiting casinos to bone fide historical tribal lands.

The tragic part is that these casinos are going up despite objections from communities and other Native American tribes. That is why I am introducing the Tribal Gaming Eligibility Act.

This legislation addresses the problems that arise from off reservation casinos by requiring that tribes meet two simple conditions before taking land into trust for gaming:

First the tribe must demonstrate a “substantial direct modern connection to the land.”

Second, the tribe must demonstrate a “substantial direct aboriginal connection to the land.”

Simply put, tribes must show that both they, and their ancestors, have a connection to the land in question.

California voters thought they settled the question of reservation shopping in 2000 when Proposition 1A authorized the Governor to negotiate gambling compacts with tribes, provided that gaming only occurred “on Indian lands.”

The words “on Indian lands” were critical. This made clear that gaming is appropriate only on a tribe’s historical lands, and voters endorsed this bargain with 65 percent of the vote.

But fast-forward 12 years and this agreement is being put to the test. More than 100 new Las Vegas style casinos have opened in the State in the last 12 years.

Unfortunately things aren’t slowing down; the Department of the Interior has approved three extremely controversial new casinos just last year, some nowhere near the tribe’s aboriginal territory or current reservation.

When given the opportunity voters have rejected the idea of reservation shopping. Two years ago in Richmond, CA, a tribe proposed taking land into trust at Point Molate to open a 4,000-slot-machine mega-casino. Proponents touted it as a major economic engine for a depressed area.

But the voters of Richmond knew the reality was far different. The project threatened to burden state and local government services, and it threatened to irreparably change the character of the community.

So Richmond voters made it clear how they felt by overwhelmingly rejecting the advisory measure by a margin of 58 to 42. Voters also elected two new city council members who strongly opposed the casino. It was an unambiguous rejection of this reservation shopping proposal.

Fortunately the Department of the Interior rejected the misguided Point Molate proposal. But voters in Yuba County were not so lucky.

In 2005, Yuba County voters had an opportunity to weigh in on a casino in this mostly rural and suburban Northern California community. By a margin of 52-48, voters rejected the proposal. Many cited concerns about crime as a reason they opposed the project.

But after the dust settled, the Department of the Interior decided to move forward with the project anyway. Despite the fact that voters rejected it and only one of the 21 public officials in the area polled on the issue expressed support for the project.

Moreover, the Department’s claim that even one local official supported the project is dubious. The so-called support is based on a Memorandum of Understanding the County entered into prior to the advisory election. The county never offered a letter of support when consulted and still has not to this day.

As a former mayor, I know the financial pressures that local governments face, especially in these tough times. The temptation to support large casinos, with the promises of hundreds of construction jobs, can be strong.

But I also know the heavy price that society pays for the siren song of gambling. This price includes addiction and crime, strained public services and increased traffic congestion.

Some Indian gaming proponents and their out of state gaming syndicate backers would have us believe that these off-reservation gaming establishments are a sign of growth and economic development.

But a 2006 report, titled Gambling in the Golden State, paints a different picture. The report compiled a comprehensive body of research on the effects of casinos on their surrounding communities. The results were staggering.

New casinos are associated with a 10 percent increase in violent crime and a 10 percent increase in bankruptcy rates.

New casinos are also associated with an increase in law enforcement expenditures of $15.34 per resident.

California spends an estimated $1 billion to deal with problem-gamblers and pathological-gamblers, 75 percent of which identify Indian casinos as their primary gambling preference.

The report confirms what many local elected officials and community activists already know: casinos come at a tremendous cost.

Some have tried to mischaracterize my legislation. They have said it limits the sovereignty of tribes or it destroys the ability to undertake economic development.

But I am here today to say that nothing could be farther from the truth.

The bill preserves the right of tribes to acquire trust land in any location, provided they secure the approval of the Governor and meet the strict two-part determination standards.

The bill puts no limits on where a tribe can acquire land for any purpose other than gaming.

Because the fact of the matter is that most casinos are appropriately placed, on historical tribal lands, and there is no need to argue about the legitimacy of these establishments.

My legislation only deals with those proposals that are truly beyond the scope of Congressional intent when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act was passed in 1988.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on this important issue.


Anonymous said...

Tribes, tribal communiites, tribal lands, Native Americans, NAtive American culutre, Native American religion, and now economic development. When is the federal and State governemnt going to stop defining how an Indian is, what an Indian is, where an Indian is, and how an Indian makes money? THis is a bad idea, I believe that tribes should have the right to buy any land that they want, and do whatever they want to do with that land, including putting it into trust. Trying to deteremine who and where tribes are connected today and yesterday is wrong, and needs to stop. Every American in the United States has the right to buy land and do whatever they want, private poroperty is a fundamental right in this country, why shuld tribes be limited to what they can and cannot do interms of land? Because they are still under a colonial regimme that intends to limit and constrain any type of tribal propsperity. Stop Feinstein, and allow tribes the rights that their ancestros practiced before Whties and European-Americans stole the land, and carved it up and created it as porperty that they now want to control. Power to the tribes, power to tribal community empowerment, and stop colonial regimes and big governemnt telling tribes what to do, where to do it, how to do it, and if they are "Indian" enough to do it in specific places.

Erick Rhoan said...

I disagree. The potential for abuse and corruption is too great, and will only exacerbate existing problems. And remember, this bill is limited to casinos. If tribes want to use their casino revenues to open a vineyard, pool hall, hotel, spa, bed and breakfast, restaurant, mining company, bank, or KFC franchise, then this bill will not preclude that.

If individual tribal citizens want to buy their own land, with their own money, then they can buy wherever they choose. They're American citizens and are entitled to those fundamental rights to own and possess private property.

Tribes, as sovereign entities, however, do not have that right under the Constitution. And in this limited instance, I don't think they should. Everyone has a casino now. Tribes need to start diversifying.

Anonymous said...

@ 1:29

You are wrong. The Constitution does not apply to Indian Country, tribes shouldhave every right to operate a gaming facility on land that they buy. The government and the voters think that they can control tribal interests and livliehood, that is part of the colonial control and order. Why is it that you think tribes are corrupt and that any Casino situtated off of a rservation will somehow be wrong. Wake up, I do not think the federal governemnt should limit the options of tribes to build Casino's, especially reservations that are simply in the middle of nowhere and can't benefit from a Casino. For instance the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation in San Diego County could not possibly benefit from a Casino on their reservation. They want to better their lives, they would have to buy land away from the reservation in order to benefit from gaming revenue. Why shuld they be denied the abilioty to operate a Casino, this reservation barely received electricity a few years back. Remember, tribes were removed from any lands, forced onto uninhabited and useless pieces of land, and were forced to survive. Many tribes are still dealing with that process, gaming is a blessing that all tribes should benefit, and limiting Casino's to reservations is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Eric is right, start a Casino and 5 years later you have a corrupt tribal government with way too many outsiders putting their hands in the Kitty, and then disenrollments. You are better off making it without a casino. Go around to tribes that have them and see how sad it has become, families are fighting, some are wealthy while others have been stripped of every tribal right they had before, young people are partying way too much jeopardizing their lives and some are dying way too soon from drugs and alcohol. Elders are being shunned and disrespected. Mexican Cartel have infiltrated into the reservations and have control over certain areas while Irish Mafia have their hands in huge transactions and anyone that question the actions of the tribal leaders are ousted. They have lost the Indian way and tradition.

Anonymous said...

Where do you guys get all of your information? Sounds like crazy conspiracy theories and old time Indian hating and bashing. You guys are wrong. Tribes have the right to figure out their own communities, your facts are just plain and simply wrong.

Anonymous said...

Some of us live there and some of us have been dis-enrolled, and our families are fighting, our young relatives have died and have some major drug problems, our elders are dying with loss of health care, some of us have had to leave homes they known all of their lives, as we watch white lawyers, public speakers, race track owners, lobbyists, and God knows who else come in on our private jets, get picked up by our Casino Limos, pull into the under garage of our Casino, see money get loaded into a briefcase and handed over to them and they go back out the way they came in, and fly back to where they came from. We've seen areas overtaken by drug dealers and people who have not slept for days, so don't tell us that we do not know what we are talking about, we live it.

Anonymous said...

I have also lived on the reservation in Southern California. Elders have always seemed to be ignored, people have always died young, youth have always done drugs and abused alcohol, I just hate when people utilize an argument that bashes any tribal community that is trying to succeed through gaming revenue, and all tribes get stereotyped as bad, that every Casino is corrupt, and that all Indians are drunks and drug addicts, that tribal culutre is dying. These are all stereotypes that have been utilized to destroy tribal communities, and they need to stop. If you live this reality, then why not try to stop it, rather than blame the Casino and the tribal government, if yu were still enrolled, this blog, conersation, and "issues" would not even exist, and people would still suffer from health care deficenncy, drug and alcohol abuse, and cultural corruption. I grew up on a reservation in So. Cal, and my family has been involved in the political strucutre, so I have an opinion that problems are created and can be solved, do something not cry around and blame everybody else. When our ancestors were abandoned and left to starve to death, did they cry around and blame everybody else, no they did sommething about it, and surived. I think that this blog is great, that activism is needed for tribal communities that suffer injustice, but the answer is not to destroy the community revenue and go back to living in poverty, and/or bad mouth tribal communites with stereotypes promoted by non-Indians to get rid of tribal success and achievement. Nuff said.

for ALL nations...for ALL chukchansi people said...

"the answer is not to destroy the community revenue and go back to living in poverty, and/or bad mouth tribal communites with stereotypes promoted by non-Indians to get rid of tribal success and achievement"

when a tribal government hides behind their tribal sovereignty to violate the rights of over a THOUSAND of their own people--elders, language keepers, medicine people, and future generations included--through dismemberment of NINETY-EIGHT PER CENT of their people,there is no more COMMUNITY...

tribes such as picayune and pechanga who have done just that, set the pace for other gaming tribes to destroy and dismember their own people without sanction, and more and more tribes are doing just that...

the members of these corrupt tribal governments are the individuals responsible for the negative stereotypes of today--and these same people are the individuals posing a threat for the eventual loss of EVERY tribes sovereign immunity...

they ARE NOT about community, and they are as far as they can get from conducting themselves in the way of the red road...SUCCESS is not about stealing the very birthright of THOUSANDS of indian people for one's own financial indian country, success is maintaining and caring for the sacred circle of the people...being a NATION, NOT destroying your own culture, history, and blood to become an exclusive and powerhungry CORPORATION with no heart for the people...


Anonymous said...

@8:56PM Amen!
@5:14, you said it all when you said "my family has been involved in the political structure", That is the problem, the tribal governments hide behind sovereignty while they rip apart their tribes, destroying families, strip their members of their heritage and their is nothing that can be done. The politicians are being paid off, the FBI is slow to respond unless fraud is evident, the courts do not want to touch inter-tribal things, the tribal governments are releasing their ties with tribal-courts, and all they can do is claim sovereignty. They use their tribes money to pay for lawyers while those disenrolled go bankrupt trying to fight it, we have petitions, we have gone to congress to change the Indian Civil Rights Act to give the individual Indian more rights. The unjustly disenrolled members are faced with huge barriers, but we will knock them down, we are not crying we are just informing, we do not want to see this happen to any other tribes, it needs to end before their are no more Indigenous people of America, at least as far as tribes are concerned. We will always be who we are and nobody is taking that from us. I am not bashing, I am warning and worried. My ancestors fought a hard fight and now we are continuing to fight for our right which we should not have to do. We remain in the Sacred Circle without the greed and without the desire to disrespect our brothers.

Anonymous said...

I don't know of any community that disenrolled 98% of thier tribal community, or that disenrolled a thousand members. I do not even think their are CA tribes that large. Each community is different, and each community has the right to determine their tribal membership. I do not believe the CA disenrollment is starting something, tribes have always had ways of determining their membership, and getting rid of people that do not belong, and I think they should retain that right. Many tribes outside of California hae disenrolled families prior to any tribe having any Casino, but nobody seems to think that those disenrolled people are victims or that those tribal actions were wrong. When I said my family was involved in the "political strucutre" I meant the traditional leadership roles and the creation of the tribal governemnt systems within the early 20th centruy, but right away you assumed that I am corrupt, that my actions are wrong, and that anybody but me or my family would be adequate to lead. I suppose the best leaders and the best directions for the tribes are to put the disenrolled into power and let them decide how to run the governemtn. Start thinking about how and what you are saying before you say it. You do not know my family, my community, or my culture, but you seem to know what is best aobut how I need to think, react, and understand how things should be properly run. Indians and politics dont' mix, never have and probably never will. No matter who is in charge, it will never be enough, and their is always critics.

Anonymous said...

You misunderstand, I am not talking about previous leaders and governments, we are talking about now and the future of reservations. I do not assume anything about you. I am saying that in order to have Casinos the tribes must make sure their leaders are honest and forthright, and they must keep on top of them and follow their constitutions that they have set before the money starts rolling in. Many Casino tribal leaders are changing their constitutions without the vote of the general council. They are the enrollment committee, the executive committee, the tribal security, the tribal government. They are ruling in all areas and what they say goes and they are not giving the members due process which is all we ask. I understand cleaning up the rolls, but their have been thousands of disenrollments across the country. Chukchansi alone has disenrolled over 600 members. Read through the blogs on this site and you will see. There are more to come, and it is causing havoc amongst the tribes. My cousins, nieces, nephews, uncles, and aunts are scared to talk to us because of threats from our Chairman, anyone that speaks out against the actions face disenrollments for no reason and even are considered treasonous. The Auburn tribe has accused members of treason. Lawyers are helping them draw up papers of treason which is completely heinous. Pechanga has disenrolled over 200 members, and these are elders who know the language and helped the process for the Casinos to open. It is disgusting to see the greed that has taken over among the tribal leaders, this is not the Indian Way. I guess unless it happens to you, you will not understand.