October 26, 2011 16:36 ET

The Native American Fair Commerce Coalition Responds to Online Gambling Congressional Hearings

WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwire - Oct 26, 2011) - The Native American Fair Commerce Coalition (NAFCC), a representative organization comprised of like-minded tribes and tribal members that are committed to protecting the sovereign rights -- well settled in U.S. law -- of Native Americans to pursue business and economic opportunities for their tribes nationwide, has responded to the Congressional hearings on Internet gambling organized by Congresswoman Bono Mack as part of Mack's House subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade held October 5. The hearing focused on House Resolution 2366, The Internet Gambling Prohibition, Poker Consumer Protection, and Strengthening UIGEA Act of 2011, sponsored by Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX).

Said Darold Stagner, Executive Director of the NAFCC, "While many of its supporters view the bill as being fair to the tribe's interests, the devil, as always, is in the details. The bill includes two very important provisions which must be challenged and defeated. First, the bill creates a federal tax scheme for poker sites. American Indian tribes are exempt from federal income tax and allowing tribal gaming operations to participate only under these conditions is an impingement to tribal sovereignty. Second, while supporters claim that the bill allows anyone to seek a license, that really is not true. In fact, the bill takes the authority to license gaming operations away from the National Indian Gaming Commission (itself a federal agency) by establishing rules for what types of tribes can operate poker sites.

"The traditional tools of economic development -- water resources, tax-exempt bonding, labor protection and property tax incentives -- have not been available to Native American tribes. Gaming has been an important pillar in many tribes' ability to raise their populations from economic destitution. The knowledge gained from casino operations has provided many tribes with strong skills to continue to develop their economies in the new world of digital commerce. It is imperative that the tribe's ability to participate in any and all lawful economic activity be protected. There have been several attempts by political interests to exclude the American Indian tribes from online poker and exposing these attempts to the light is exactly what is needed."

Barry Brandon, board member of the NAFCC, said, "Indian country has learned many difficult lessons over the years, one of the most important being that attacks on sovereignty often come from seemingly unimportant technical details like these." He further stated, "We are grateful to the subcommittee for allowing these issues to be viewed and discussed in public rather than hidden in some unrelated legislation."

"Too many times, our Congress has passed laws without public hearings and simply attaching an ill-considered provision to an unrelated bill that the sponsors know will pass. This was tried with Internet gambling and was almost successful in prohibiting tribally owned casinos from participating in this very important area of digital commerce," added Stagner.

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