An attorney general's legal review of legislation seeking to ban lucrative video gaming at tribal casinos in Idaho says the measure could spark multiple legal headaches for the state and has holes in its language.
House Assistant Minority Leader Ilana Rubel of Boise requested Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's office review HB 127 earlier this week.
The House State Affairs Committee is expected to vote on the measure Tuesday during a hearing.
Rubel isn't on the committee but said she wanted her caucus to know the facts about the bill.
"I'm certainly concerned about the tribes, this seems like an effort to bring them to their knees," Rubel said.
Under federal Indian gambling law, Idaho tribes can only operate their own bingo and lottery operations as long as the state has already authorized those forms of gambling.
Prolonged disagreements prompted the tribe to successfully push a 2002 ballot initiative amending Idaho law to say the video machines could not be defined as illegal slot machines and are not a simulation of casino gambling as long as the machines do not have a lever or dispense coins. The machines only dispense cash-out tickets.
Rep. Tom Loertscher, R-Iona, introduced legislation earlier this month that would remove a key section of that 2002 law. The proposal would allow the banning of the machines even if they do not have a lever or dispense coins.
Loertscher says the move is needed to bring the tribe into compliance with Idaho's ban on casino gambling.
Assistant Chief Deputy Brian Kane said the measure's current language would not modify the authorization of the tribe's use of video gambling.
None of the business compacts, which detail what type of gambling can take place on a reservation, that Idaho currently has with four different tribes have a termination provision, meaning they must remain intact until replaced or renegotiated.
In a 2016 opinion that Kane attached to this year's legal review, he found that the state would have to show that removing the tribe's most lucrative form of gambling was "reasonable and necessary," which would most likely be a "no."
"In this regard, a court may well be troubled by the Legislature's failure to exercise its power to repeal the proposition," Kane says, "despite the fact that its constitutionality was challenged both immediately before and after the 2002 general election."
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