July 27, 2006
Bill to block casinos advances
By Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON – A House committee on Wednesday approved an Indian
gaming bill that would block efforts by the Eastern Shawnee
Indian tribe to open casinos in Stark County or elsewhere in
The committee’s approval of the legislation is the latest
development in an effort by lawmakers that some observers
believe will result in enactment of tougher legislation
regulating Indian gaming before the end of the year.
The Oklahoma-based Shawnee recently reached an agreement with a
private property owner in Lawrence Township, near Canal Fulton,
to purchase 49 acres for use as a casino.
Earlier this year, the tribe was courting Massillon as the site
for the casino, but it has since switched its focus to Canal
The Shawnees sued the state of Ohio and several units of local
government in federal court last year to reclaim 93,000 acres of
ancestral land in what many saw as a bid to open casinos in the
But if the bill approved by the House Resources Committee
becomes law, it would effectively prohibit the Shawnees from
opening casinos in Ohio because the tribe is based in Oklahoma,
said a congressional staff member who spoke on condition he not
The bill, sponsored by House Resources Committee Chairman
Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif., bars tribes from conducting gaming
“on Indian lands outside of the state in which the Indian tribe
is primarily residing and exercising tribal government
The legislation also would prohibit tribes from acquiring
casinos through what is known as a land claim, an option the
Shawnees have pursued in their lawsuit. In addition, the bill
would do away with what is called a “two-part determination,” an
avenue for opening a casino when approval is received from the
U.S. Department of the Interior and governor of the state in
which the casino would be located.
A similar bill, sponsored by Senate Indian Affairs Committee
Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., won approval in that committee in
March and is awaiting action on the Senate floor.
Terry Casey, a spokesman for the Eastern Shawnee, said he had
not seen a final version of the bill approved by the House
committee but added it was “premature to speculate on something
that has only come out of one committee in the House.” Any
legislation affecting Indian gaming would have to win approval
in both the House and Senate and then be signed by President
Steven Light, co-director of the Institute for the Study of
Tribal Gaming at the University of North Dakota, said he expects
Congress will pass legislation similar to the McCain or Pombo
bills before the end of the year.
“I don’t have any doubt that there will be some form of an
amendment to (the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act) in this
legislative session,” he said. Pombo’s bill passed with strong
support, with 27 members of the committee voting in favor and
McCain’s bill won even stronger backing when it was approved by
the Senate committee.
Since then, the legislation has run into opposition from a
handful of senators who either contend that it goes too far in
limiting Indian gaming or does not go far enough in curbing what
has grown into a $23 billion a year industry. Proponents of the
bill are still hopeful that it will win passage in the Senate
“I think there’s a lot of momentum to do something, that’s the
encouraging side of it,” a congressional staff member said.
Independent reporter Matthew Rink contributed to this story.