Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Tribal News…

Alan Sayre of AP, by way of the Sun Herald, reports on the Jena Choctaws’ ongoing pursuit of approval for a casino. I find this story more interesting than the usual gambling story because of the feud it is causing (or simply playing out)between the Governor and our new Senator. This not to say that I ever thought that Blanco and Vitter were going to form a constructive alliance, but to exchange shots via public letters is a bit unseemly. Somebody get them each other's phone numbers!

Here are some excerpts from Sayre’s report:

Although the Jena Choctaws may be able to get a limited casino without state approval, the tribe is asking Gov. Kathleen Blanco to negotiate a deal to allow it to have a full-blown gambling hall in central Louisiana.

The tribe has failed in two previous efforts to enter Louisiana's gambling market. In 2002, Gov. Mike Foster signed an agreement allowing the tribe to have a casino in Vinton, near the Texas border in southwestern Louisiana, but federal officials struck down the deal.

Another proposal to build a casino in DeSoto Parish, in northwest Louisiana near the Texas border, was being studied by Foster when his term expired in January 2004. The proposal died after it was handed over to Blanco, who has said she is opposed to expanding gambling.

Now, the tribe is pushing for a casino in Grant Parish. If the tribe decides to have only electronic bingo machines, instead of slot machines and casino table games, no state approval is necessary, according to the National Indian Gaming Commission.

Facing public pressure from U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Blanco on Monday responded to a letter sent by the Louisiana Republican in which he demanded that she oppose the casino. Blanco said she was not negotiating with the tribe - and called on Vitter to push federal legislation that would give states more say in blocking tribal gambling.

In his letter, Vitter, R-La., said it was clear that Blanco did not have to sign a compact with the Jena Choctaws, citing a 1996 U.S. Supreme Court ruling involving a Florida tribe that wanted a casino. The Jena Choctaws, a small tribe which has yet to establish a formal reservation, had similar bids rejected in Mississippi before it moved its effort to Louisiana.

Vitter, a longtime public opponent of legalized gambling, recently said he unwittingly accepted political help in 2002 when he was campaigning against the Vinton casino proposal from a group linked to the Coushatta tribe, which runs a reservation casino at nearby Kinder.

In 2003, the Coushatta's Washington lobbyist, Jack Abramoff, organized a fundraiser for Vitter. The Coushattas have said they plan to file a lawsuit to get back the $32 million they paid Abramoff, whose dealings are now being investigated by a congressional committee and a federal grand jury.


jbv's Competitive Edge 


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