THIS LAND IS THEIR LAND

A tiny Indian tribe pitches a plan for a downtown St. Louis casino, but city officials aren't betting on the idea

The national study determined that income from Indian gambling enterprises provided "much needed improvements in the health, education and welfare of Native Americans on reservations across the country." The report concludes, however, that "Indian gambling has not been a panacea for the many economic and social problems that native Americans continue to face." Indeed, many tribes have refused to take up gambling out of concern that it "may undermine the "cultural integrity' of Indian communities," according to the report. More than two-thirds of the 554 federally recognized tribes have abstained from entering the gambling market, the report says.

Under a provision of the federal law, a tribe must negotiate a compact with the state, if it intends to operate a full-fledged casino. Supervision of the Indian gaming industry falls on the National Indian Gaming Commission, which is empowered to investigate individuals or firms with a financial interest in Indian gambling operations. Since the inception of Indian gaming, however, the commission and state regulatory agencies have been unable to prevent illegal gambling operations from flourishing on sovereign Indian territory. Two years ago, an increase in funding finally allowed the commission to better police Indian gaming.

Though the Western Delawares may not be getting the keys to St. Louis anytime soon, a successful land claim by the tribe could spell legal problems for the state. Once the claim is legitimized, existing land titles in a large area of southeast Missouri may become invalid, forcing property sales in the disputed territory to grind to a halt. Under these conditions, the state could be forced to give the tribe a piece of the action.

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