A Washington, D.C., attorney has brought some welcome news to Kansas legislators: the state cannot be compelled to accommodate Indian gambling.
Admittedly, the attorney has his own interests in mind. He represents the American Greyhound Track Operators Assn., and race tracks likely would be the big losers if casino gambling is allowed to come to Kansas.
But the representative also offered the legislative interim group that is studying casino gambling some hope that Indian gaming operations aren't a done deal in Kansas.
Tribal leaders and Gov. Joan Finney have tried to portray casino gambling in just that light. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act requires states to negotiate gambling compacts with tribes, they have said. Finney signed compacts with three Indian tribes, and that's that. But John C. Dill, the Washington attorney, says that ain't necessarily so.
The issue is bound to arise again when the Kansas Legislature goes back into session in January. Two tribes, the Kickapoo and the Potawatomi, have filed lawsuits against the state alleging that Kansas officials have not negotiated in good faith on compacts to permit the gambling.
If Kansas needs to be the test case on the Indian gambling issue, so be it.
The intent of laws giving Indians the right to bypass many state laws were intended to give tribes sovereign rights over their reservation lands. Yet, tribes in Kansas don't plan to be content to operate gambling casinos on their own reservation land. Their plans take them into Kansas City and other metropolitan areas with, by the way, the blessing of some city officials desperate for any kind of economic development.
But there is little doubt that such off-reservation operations thwart the authority of the state Legislature to set gambling laws for the state. Whether Indian tribes should be allowed to operate casinos and deal with the accompanying problems on their own reservations is somewhat debatable. But there seems little question that residents of other Kansas cities shouldn't be forced to accept casino gambling without even having their elected legislative representatives vote on the issue.
Legalizing lotteries and pari-mutuel wagering required constitutional amendments in Kansas; how can the legalization of casino gambling be slipped through without so much as a legislative debate?
Finney is wrong on this one, and so are the Indian tribes. Kansans shouldn't be bullied into accepting casino gambling operations they oppose.