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Gambling expert decries Indian tribes' attempts to get land for casinos


Mark Reutter, Business Editor
217-333-0568; mreutter@illinois.edu

John W. Kindt
University of Illinois Photo
Business professor John W. Kindt, in testimony before a House Resources Committee, denounced efforts by some Indian tribes to acquire land for casinos acoss state lines.

6/6/2005

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In testimony before a congressional committee, an expert on gambling at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign denounced efforts by some Indian tribes to acquire land for casinos across state lines.

“Reservation shopping” is what John W. Kindt, Illinois professor of business and legal policy, called requests by tribes to set up casinos outside of their home states in testimony before the House Resources Committee.

A proposal for a casino in Lynwood, a suburb south of Chicago, was unveiled last year by U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., D-Ill., and the Wisconsin-based Ho-Chunk Nation.
Construction of the casino hinges on the Ho-Chunks winning congressional approval to establish reservation trust status for 432 acres near Stoney Island Avenue. Jackson told the House panel that the casino complex, which would include an 800-room hotel, restaurants and a sports complex, would be an economic development tool for the depressed south suburbs, creating 5,000 jobs.

Kindt said a Lynwood casino would have the opposite effect, and neighboring communities would lose thousands of jobs over time from the transfer of local dollars spent on gambling to out-of-state interests. “Legalized gambling operations consist primarily of a transfer of wealth from the many to the few,” he asserted in his April 27 testimony.

The Illinois professor also cited statistics that the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act – which gave tribes the right to own and run casinos – has done nothing to increase job prospects for most native Americans.

Since 1988, poverty rates have changed little for Native Americans, Kindt reported. At the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation, the unemployment rate climbed from 27 percent in 1991 to 74 percent in 1997, despite the establishment of two casinos.

“The 55 tribes with casinos before 1992 had their 1991 unemployment rate of 54 percent increase somewhat to 54.4 percent by 1997, “ Kindt testified. One reason for the persistently high unemployment rates, he said, is that non-Indians hold three of four jobs in tribal casinos.

Kindt said congressional approval of off-reservation gambling by the Ho-Chunks would open the door for other tribes to operate casinos in any state where gaming is allowed. Currently, for example, the Miami Nation of Oklahoma wants to build a casino in Gary, Ind., and the Potawatomi Nation of Kansas seeks a casino in Shabbonna, Ill.

The Ho-Chunk bid at Lynwood, Kindt said in an interview, was aimed at locating a gambling site near a major population center. The Ho-Chunks currently run three casinos and a bingo center in Wisconsin.

Kindt recommended that Congress set up a federally administered “gambling proceeds trust fund.” With this money, existing Indian casinos could be phased out and the facilities turned into educational, business or cultural centers for Native Americans, he said.