Back in 1988, part of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act stated gambling was strictly prohibited on lands acquired after 1988. Since then, some tribes have fought tooth and nail in uphill legal battles desperately hoping for ways around the ruling.
The Cowlitz Tribe may have found a way. They were not federally recognized until 2002, putting their land in federal trust shortly thereafter. The tribe claims to have been a part of the land for over 150 years. In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled tribes who wanted land had to be under federal jurisdiction in 1934. However, the Supreme Court didn’t quite define what that exactly meant.
For more than a decade, the Cowlitz have been trying to build a casino in Washington, and they have finally received approval to do so, by a U.S. District Court judge last month. Opponents of the plan are already planning their appeal, which may end up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Washington, under state law, card rooms are not allowed to have slot machines. John Bockmier, who represents several card rooms in the city of La Center, said, “They’re just in a different regulatory environment and wouldn’t be able to compete, and it would be the end of their business.”
He went on to say La Center receives about 10 percent of the gross revenue from the card rooms. The development site is within 20 miles of Portland, which could also spell disaster for the Confederated Tribe of Grand Ronde, whose Spirit Mountain Casino is 68 miles southwest.
Back near La Center, Cowlitz tribal Chairman Bill Iyall (above) disagrees with the Grand Ronde and others who feel his tribe does not belong there. “We’re here in our homeland,” he stated. “This is where we belong.”
On the other end of the country, in Massachusetts, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe is hoping the Cowlitz ruling helps them in their pursuit of a $500 million dollar casino in Taunton. Their argument is that in 1763 they had a land deal with King George III of England, which they feel is akin to a treaty.