On the southeast side of El Paso, there's a casino that has
up among the sagebrush of the Tigua Indian Reservation. Tribe
members call it the Speaking Rock. Texas Gov. George W. Bush calls
Like a growing number of officials in other states, Governor Bush
is using the courts to slow the spread of gambling in his state, if
not shut it down altogether. But closing the casino is proving more
difficult than might be expected. The tribe claims they are
operating within state laws. And the legal wrangling is just
How the dispute is resolved here and in states from Florida to
California will help determine the limits of Indian sovereignty -
of the oldest legal disputes in the United States. It will also
impact the livelihoods of thousands of native Americans, as more
tribes turn to casino gambling - the most lucrative tribal venture
history - to raise money.
"Every state in the country, with the exceptions of Utah and
Hawaii, has some form of legal gambling, usually a lottery," says
Nelson Rose, a law professor and expert on Indian casinos at
Law School in Costa Mesa, Calif. "The tribes are simply saying they
have the right to do the same thing. But from the point of view of
the state, it's untaxed and unregulated gambling."
Limits to self-rule?
Since 1830, the US Supreme Court has upheld the right of tribes to
self-rule, allowing them to regulate everything from fishing,
hunting, and mineral rights to the setting up of gambling casinos.
But in 1988, these broad rights were tempered, as Congress passed
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. The controversial new law allows
states and tribes to sign compacts on what kind of gambling can take
place on reservations. This more direct relationship has sometimes
brought peaceful resolutions, and other times brought state and
tribal rivalries to a head. But nationwide, it has unleashed the
biggest expansion of casino gambling in US history.
The economic impact of this boom has been uneven. Eight of the
184 tribal casinos in the country generate 40 percent of all Indian
gambling revenues, and these casinos tend to draw from urban areas.
For every Mashantucket Pequot tribe that operates a successful
near an urban area (in Connecticut), there are dozens of more
impoverished rural tribes that have either rejected gambling or have
been unable to cash in on it.
In Idaho, the Coeur d'Alene tribe has staked a claim in
cyberspace, offering a lottery game over the Internet. Idaho
officials say the tribe's activities are abiding by state laws, but
officials in other states, including Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl (R) of
Arizona, are urging Congress to pass laws to make this and other
forms of Internet gambling illegal. …