Panel: Tribe versus tribe legislation complicates Indian gaming matters Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · April 3, 2019 at 11:43 am SAN DIEGO – John Harte, a Washington D.C. policy consultant on Indian gaming issues, said Tuesday there are zero active bills in Congress threatening the nation’s tribal gaming market. “I’ve been able to say that for close to a decade,” said Harte, a principal with Mapetsi Policy Group, said during a panel discussion at the National Indian Gaming Association’s tradeshow and convention. “We’ve been lucky to have not had any red alarm threats to Indian gaming.” Legislation pitting tribe against tribe is another matter. The Catawba Indian Tribe of South Carolina is seeking federal approval to take roughly 17 acres of land from across the border in North Carolina into trust, which isn’t sitting well with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, who own the two Harrah’s casinos in the state. The Catawba want to build a $580 million casino on the site. Attorneys for both Catawba and the Cherokees were also part of the panel. Both summarized their opening arguments for a lawsuit that has been filed to block the move. The suit is backed by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who introduced the legislation last month, and both North Carolina senators, Republicans Thom Tillis and Richard Burr. The Catawba is the only federally recognized tribe in South Carolina. The status was restored to the tribe in 1993, 34 years after its sovereignty was stripped under the federal government’s Indian termination policy. However, the agreement the tribe signed to restore its status restricted the Catawba from offering gaming on their South Carolina land. Gregory Smith, a partner in the Washington D.C. office of Hobbs, Straus, Dean and Walker, who represents the tribe, said the Catawba’s aboriginal reservation extends through North Carolina into Virginia. “The tribe would like the status of other tribes,” Smith said. “The land is 20 miles over the North Carolina border. The tribe has a lot of local support for the project.” However, attorney Wilson Pipestem, a partner in Ietan Consulting, who represents the Cherokees, said allowing the South Carolina tribe to claim land in another state “would set policy and precedent” and would constitute a change in federal policy. Pipestem also disputed the Catawba’s claim to the land, saying the Cherokees have “aboriginal territorial claims” to the site. “We have concerns about the roles of casino developers in this matter,” Pipestem said. “Other tribes across the country should be concerned about this bill. We have never seen Congress expressly authorize an off reservation casino.” Harte gave his opinion on two other federal issues potentially facing tribal casinos nationwide – the recent reinterpretation of the Federal Wire Act by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, and the potential federal regulation of sports betting. He brushed aside both matters. A bill introduced during the lame duck Congressional session late last year by former U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, “was deeply flawed and won’t be reintroduced,” he said. The bill did not treat tribes as sovereign nations, and Harte said he doesn’t see Congress stepping into sports betting, even if there was an extreme matter, like a point shaving scandal. “The is no immediate push for federal oversight,” Harte said. “Three tribes are operating sports betting under (the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act). What’s important for tribes now is (that) we have leverage.” He was also critical of the Wire Act opinion, which he termed “Sheldon Adelson’s interpretation.” Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, had long sought a reinterpretation of the Wire Act that would reverse a 2011 opinion that led to the expansion of legal online gaming and the sale of lottery tickets through the Internet. Tribes have not invested much in Internet products, Harte said, focusing efforts on traditional casinos. “Trying to put everything back into a box is difficult,” he said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.