On the eve of a federal commission's recommendation of a temporary moratorium on the expansion of legal gambling in the United States, the nation's largest Indian casino lobbying group said yesterday that such a pause would be "devastating" to tribal economic development and would undermine social services on reservations.
Leaders of the National Indian Gaming Association said that while they were pleased with many of the 72 recommendations in the report scheduled to be released today by the National Gambling Impact Study Commission, congressional action on some of the proposals would mean "one less hospital, one less school or one less college scholarship" for many tribes.
Indian leaders said the proposed pause in gambling expansion would interrupt negotiations for casino "compacts" between tribes and state governments, which are required under the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.
In addition to the moratorium on expansion of legal gambling, the commission is expected to urge a ban on Internet gambling, call on states to curb the $600 billion-a-year gambling industry's growing contributions to political campaigns and urge an end to aggressive marketing of state-sponsored lotteries and other forms of gambling.
It also proposes prohibitions on all forms of gambling to persons under 21 and a crackdown on the proliferation of "convenience gambling" devices such as the video poker machines that are becoming increasingly popular in neighborhood stores across the country. It calls for no specific federal legislation or regulation, leaving it to states to police legal gambling.
Casino interests, which were represented by three of the nine members of the study commission, generally fared well in the recommendations, many of which have been leaked or discussed publicly by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), author of the legislation that created the body. Native Americans had only one representative on the panel, an Indian from Alaska, a state that does not have any Indian casinos.
Speaking at the news conference, Anthony Pico, chairman of the Vijas Band of Kumeyaay Indians in Southern California, said that Indian casinos, which produce only 13 percent of all U.S. gambling revenue, already contribute a disproportionate share of funds to programs for the prevention and treatment of gambling addiction. Therefore, he said, reservation casinos do not need any new regulations that would infringe on tribal sovereignty and undermine economic development.
"If you look at it, Indians have had a pause in economic development for the last 150 years," Pico said. "We already have layers and layers of regulations."