Itís that time of year again. There are rumblings on Capitol Hill about Internet gambling. Congressional leadership is considering a bill to authorize Internet poker. American Indian tribes are naturally concerned. Tribal governments are recognized in the Constitution as prior sovereigns, with continuing rights to self-government. Treaties are authorized by the Constitution and classed among the supreme law of the land, and Indian tribes zealously guard their original agreements with the United States.
In the past 25 years, Indian gaming has grown to a $26 billion industry, generating more than 500,000 jobs nationwide while funding essential tribal government services, including education, health care, housing, water and sanitation services, police and fire protection, and cultural renewal. In short, Indian gaming means a grandmother gets dental care, a grandchild gets shoes, a mother gets running water for her house and a father has a job. Indian country is determined to maintain these economic gains.
So Indian tribes are simply calling for fairness in any Internet gambling legislation ó fair access for tribal governments to the Internet, respect for our existing federal-tribal government relationship and recognition that Indian gaming revenues are essential governmental revenues, not subject to federal taxation when dedicated to tribal government programs and services. (Naturally, individual Indians pay federal taxes on our wages and salaries, and any gaming distribution to tribal members is taxed at the federal government rates.)
We are not trying to promote Internet gambling. Yet, if Congress decides to pass legislation, make it fair. Respect our first Americans, the Constitution and the original treaties that recognize and affirm our continuing rights to self-government.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.