White Earth casino plan ‘misguided’ MIGA tribes say

22 February 2012

A statement issued today by the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) says the White Earth Band of Ojibwe’s offer to partner with the State of Minnesota on a casino to benefit the Minnesota Vikings is “misguided,” and contrary to long-term tribal interests. Here is the full text of the statement:

The member tribes of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association (MIGA) continue to oppose efforts by the White Earth Band of Ojibwe to develop an off-reservation casino in the Twin Cities. White Earth has put forth similar proposals at least three times in the past, and MIGA has opposed them on numerous grounds.

First, we believe that any effort by a tribe to expand gambling into off-reservation locations is misguided and contrary to the spirit of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA), the federal law under which Indian gaming is conducted and regulated. IGRA was intended to create jobs and stimulate economic activity on Indian reservations, where traditional approaches to economic development have failed.

Second, White Earth’s proposal is contrary to long-term tribal interests because it compromises sovereignty, diverts tribal revenues to non-tribal purposes, in violation of federal law and the tribal government’s responsibility to its own members, and sets a dangerous precedent for unwarranted revenue-sharing. By positioning itself as a financing partner offering to develop a casino and share proceeds with the State of Minnesota outside the framework of IGRA, the tribe has waived its sovereign status and put itself on the same level as any private-sector developer.

Third, the premise of the White Earth proposal is that it would address “the extreme disparity in revenues generated by tribal casinos.” Since Indian gaming was intended as a tool for economic development on the reservation, it was never envisioned or intended that tribes would benefit equally. IGRA recognized that each tribe would be operating its gaming enterprises on tribal lands with all the benefits and limitations inherent in those locations. Moreover, the proposal as currently written would not remedy revenue disparities; it would merely increase revenue for one tribe, at the expense of others.

Fourth, the White Earth bill (Article 1, Section 1) asserts a “lack of significant direct revenue to the State of Minnesota” from tribal gaming. In fact, federal law and the rulings of the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) both have reaffirmed that tribes may not divert gaming revenues to states or cities except to pay for benefits or services provided by those entities.

The intent of Indian gaming was to produce revenue for tribes, not states. The suggestion that the state has a right to tribal gaming revenues is simply wrongheaded and totally inconsistent with the stated intent of IGRA. In Minnesota, tribal casinos were developed without a nickel of state assistance. The 41,000 jobs created, directly and indirectly, by Indian gaming have not cost Minnesota taxpayers a dime.

Fifth, the suggestion that the state would bind itself to an exclusivity agreement for thirty years in exchange for 50 percent of the proceeds of a White Earth-owned casino is patently absurd. There is not a single state in the U.S. that, having entered the casino business, has stopped at one casino. What happens when Minnesota decides it needs another casino, and then another?

MIGA member tribes take no pleasure in opposing White Earth on this matter. However, the tribe’s proposal is so inimical to the interests of the other tribes in Minnesota that we believe we have no alternative.