Lumbee Recognition Act Revives Casino Chances
Special Report - February 1, 2005
Legislation that could potentially expand gambling in the Tar Heel state has been reintroduced in the U.S. House. On January 4, Representative Mike McIntyre (D-NC) introduced H.R. 21LUMBEE RECOGNITION ACT, which is cosponsored by Rep. Robin Hayes (R-NC), and would grant federal recognition to the Lumbee Indian Tribe, which is based near Lumberton, North Carolina. Full Federal recognition would make the Lumbee Tribe eligible for government aid, as well as other benefits and services, including the possibility of conducting gambling operations. Although H.R. 21 does not specifically authorize the Lumbee Indians to gamble, it would open the door for the tribe to seek authorization from the State to operate a gambling casino along Interstate 95 in Robeson County. Under federal law, federally recognized Indian tribes that meet certain requirements (including possessing “Indian land”) are eligible to seek a gambling compact with the State where their tribal lands are located. North Carolina already has a gambling compact with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, which operates a casino on their reservation. Rep. McIntire introduced a bill identical to H.R. 21 last year, but the legislation never made it to the House floor for a vote. Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) is expected to reintroduce the Senate version of the bill soon. According to press reports, Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who was recently appointed to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, has also promised to support the measure. H.R. 21 currently resides in the House Committee on Resources.
In April 2004, North Carolina Family Policy Council president Bill Brooks told members of the U.S. House Committee on Resources that a bill to grant the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina full federal recognition could eventually lead to a massive gambling casino in eastern North Carolina. In his testimony he stated, “While I understand the passage of this bill will not immediately grant the Lumbee Tribe the right to gamble, it would represent a significant step in that direction, and this is a major concern for many in my state.” In addition, Brooks noted, that a gambling casino “would result in numerous adverse social effects on the region,” including increases in gambling addiction and related increases in “crime, domestic violence, child abuse, divorce, unemployment, theft, bankruptcy, embezzlement, and even suicide.” Ultimately Brooks asked the Committee to amend the bill to expressly prohibit the Lumbee Tribe from gambling should the bill move forward.
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