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Copyright © 2002 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of October 2 - 8, 2002

News

Tribes campaign for gaming initiative


By GREG STAHL
Express Staff Writer

In a five-day whirlwind tour of Idaho last week, Coeur D’Alene Tribe Press Secretary Bob Bostwick pushed tribal gaming as a viable and necessary component of Idaho’s Indian economy.

Voters will be asked Nov. 5 to weigh in on Proposition One, which would enact the Indian Gaming and Self-Reliance Act and continue to allow Idaho’s tribes to use video gambling machines.

In Bostwick’s words, the proposition would essentially maintain the status quo and head off complications.

But complications already exist.

Idaho Sen. Laird Noh, R-Kimberly, is helping lead efforts against the initiative.

"The slot machines used by the tribe are illegal under the Idaho Constitution, as well as being a public nuisance," Noh said. "The Constitution basically makes all gambling in Idaho illegal, except for three exceptions: the state lottery, horse racing and charitable bingo."

Bostwick was very careful not to use the words "slot machines" during interviews. He said the tribe’s gaming machines are called, respectively, "video lottery machines, video lottery, video pull tabs. Only politicians refer to them as anything else."

But Noh said that, if passed, Proposition One may require amendments to the state Constitution, which states, "Gambling is contrary to public policy and is strictly prohibited…"

Noh continued, "The initiative would redefine these machines as something they aren’t."

Noh also said the initiative, which applies to all Idaho tribes, should, if approved at all, be specific to separate tribes.

"You have to weigh this against the millions and millions of dollars of a very sophisticated public relations campaign by the tribes to try to influence the vote," Noh said.

Nonetheless, Bostwick said the tribes have come to rely heavily on gaming and need to "avoid ongoing legal battles in the future" to help give the tribes a "clear picture of the future."

According to the tribes, gaming helps support 4,455 local jobs; generates $83 million in wages, $250 million in sales and $10 million in state and local taxes each year. It attracts more than 1 million out-of-state visitors to Idaho each year and saves taxpayers $6 million per year in reduced welfare and social service payments.

"A great deal of what we’re doing is benefiting non-Indians in that region of the state," Bostwick said. "Gaming has been an economic engine. This would put some clarity in the future of the tribes."

There are five Indian reservations in Idaho.

 

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