In February, 2004, Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty stated that he wanted Minnesota's Indian tribes to share their casino profits with the state (Sweeney Pp). However, according to a legislative analyst speaking before the Minnesota House committee, Governor Pawlenty may have to "give the tribes as much as he gets from them" (Sweeney Pp).
John Williams of the nonpartisan House Research staff presented members of the House Governmental Operations and Veterans Affairs Committee as "detailed look at the negotiations fifteen years ago that set ground rules for the tribes' gambling operations" (Sweeney Pp). Williams was doubtful that officials in the federal Interior Department, which approves Indian gaming compact, would accept any effort by Governor Pawlent or Minnesota lawmakers to force the tribes to make gaming payments against their will (Sweeney Pp).
The federal Indian Gaming Act forbids state taxes on Native Americans' casino profits" (Sweeney Pp).
Although a number of states, including Wisconsin, California, and Connecticut, receive payments from Indian tribes operating reservation casinos, Williams felt it was unlikely that Interior Department officials would approve compact changes that would not expand tribes' gaming rights (Sweeney Pp). According to Williams, "They have to be voluntary payments...And they have to be in return for something of value that is provided to the tribes" (Sweeney Pp). The state of Minnesota now receives $150,000 a year from eleven tribes in connection with gambling (Sweeney Pp).
Governor Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, recently negotiated gaming compacts which increased tribal payments to the state from approximately $20 million a year to roughly $100 million and in return, Doyle authorized more casino games, such as craps and roulette (Sweeney Pp). Moreover, Doyle agreed that tribes could stop making the payments if Wisconsin ever allowed non-Indian casinos to compete with the tribes (Sweeney Pp).
In March, Ron Johnson, vice president of the Prairie Island Tribal Council, remarked, "We were given a compact from the state in good faith... I think it was assumed we wouldn't succeed in gaming. Now you have the bad economy and successful Indian casinos, and they want part of what we have" (Lopez Pp). House Speaker Steve Sviggum, responded, saying that times have changed, and the state budget has pressing needs, and that basically it wasn't fair that other states were receiving gaming resources, while Minnesota received nothing (Lopez Pp).
Henry Buffalo, the tribe's counsel, replied that the tribes are not responsible for the economic problems, nor are they the solution, that they have continuing employment, "with 14,000 jobs statewide and 30,000 jobs indirectly by gaming" (Lopez Pp). Johnson pointed out that they were the largest employers in Goodhue County, with one in fifteen jobs attributed to the casino and warned that expansion could create layoffs, thus creating an even higher unemployment rate (Lopez Pp). Sviggum also chastised the gaming tribes for not sharing revenue with other tribes (Lopez Pp). Buffalo explained that it was up to the tribes on how they use their revenues to move forward and take care of their own communities (Lopez Pp). And to ban video gaming would "eliminate thousands of jobs and force us back onto welfare rolls" said Johnson (Lopez Pp).
In March, United States Senator John Edwards made an endorsement of Indian gaming, stating the importance of gaming in relation to job opportunities (Adams Pp). Regarding the recent conflicts with the state, Edwards stated, "When tribes negotiate a revenue sharing agreement, they should have a say in how those revenues are allocated" (Adams Pp).
On April 7th, it was reported that "attempts to force the state's gaming tribes to contribute to the state's bank account under threats of video slot machine prohibitions and renegotiation of compacts" drew some 2,000 protestors at the state capitol in St. Paul (Melmer Pp). The legislative action was withdrawn when Rep. Jim Knoblach, tabled his version after he realized there was not enough votes to carry it through the process, however, the Senate version, introduced by Tom Neuville, is still alive although his staff confided that he realizes he will never get a vote in committee (Melmer Pp).
Rep. Nora Slawik, said it is all about greed, "They are using gaming money to take away budge deficits. When the legislators look for money they use gaming to fill holes in the budget" (Melmer Pp).
Although these two latest bills are dead for now, there are others sitting in the wings that will bring competition to Indian gaming (Melmer Pp). The racino bill, supported by Governor Pawlenty…