Senators want changes to Indian Recognition
By Paul
Next to Internet gambling, Tribal casinos are the next biggest source of controversy and rancor in the US gaming fraternity, with some in the more established Casino industry seeing tribal casinos as having an unfair advantage. The recent spate of recognition claims, some from very small tribes, has led to accusations that the claims are merely a pretext for getting a casino license.

So it was no surprise when Senators Christopher Dodd and Joseph Lieberman, both Connecticut Democrats, introduced a measure in Congress Tuesday to halt future federal Indian recognition decisions until the process for making such decisions is changed. Connecticut legislators have complained that the current federal tribal recognition process administered by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) is political, inconsistent, and lengthy and doesn't fully take into account the views of all interested parties.

Dodd, Lieberman and Rep. Rob Simmons have proposed legislation to change the recognition process to increase public involvement and to ensure that tribes meet certain criteria before winning recognition. The amendment, if approved by Congress and signed by President Bush, would prohibit the BIA from granting federal recognition to more tribes until such changes are implemented.

'This measure recognizes this and ensures that the BIA doesn't continue to plod ahead before taking the steps necessary to put its house in order,' Dodd said.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal, who is scheduled to testify at Tuesday's recognition process hearing in Washington D.C., called the senators' proposal a 'serious and significant step toward reform.' 'I welcome this strong signal that our two senators are fully and actively engaged in seeking necessary urgent reform in the current recognition system, which surely is broken and needs to be fixed,' Blumenthal said Tuesday.

Dodd, Lieberman and other members of the state's congressional delegation have asked Congress' investigatory General Accounting Office to probe the BIA's recent decision to recognize two Connecticut tribes as one.

The newly-recognized tribe incorporates the Eastern Pequots and the Paucatuck Eastern Pequots, who share a 225-acre reservation in North Stonington. The tribe now has the right to negotiate with the state about building a casino, which would be the state's third.

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