Native village applies for gambling license 4-7-07

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The Native village of Eklutna is seeking a gambling license that would allow for bingo, pull tabs or electronic versions of the games on tribal land within Anchorage.

The National Indian Gaming Commission in Washington, D.C., must rule within 90 days.

The village said in a written statement Friday that its proposed gaming center could be positive for the local economy, creating new jobs and enhancing tourism.

``We were told this would not be a full-on casino type operation,'' said city attorney Jim Reeves.

Anchorage and state officials are watching the village request closely. Under Alaska law, any kind of casino is illegal, including charitable or Native-owned.

In the past, Alaska has fought off attempts to establish casinos or high-stakes pull-tab games on tribal land here.

A key factor in getting federal approval for non-casino Class II gambling is determining whether Eklutna's tribal land can be used for gambling.

The village, which filed Tuesday, asked federal regulators to decide whether the 8-acre plot on which they hope to build a gaming center meets the definition of Indian land. The family-owned Native allotment is near the Birchwood Airport.

Indian land is a legal term for Native reservations, trust lands or allotments over which tribes exert government power.

The commission's decision turns on whether the land fits in this category, said Anchorage attorney Lloyd Miller.

Anchorage officials said Friday they want to know whether they'd have any regulatory authority over the land if Eklutna is allowed to pursue gambling.

``The land that the village identifies as its tribal land is within Anchorage. From the municipality's point of view, municipal laws apply there. The village might assert that some certain law doesn't apply to the village lands. We'd have to look at that on a case-by-case basis,'' said Reeves, the city attorney.

So far, the commission has rejected previous requests from Eklutna and other Native villages to use Native allotments for gaming. In 1995, the commission said it was unclear whether Eklutna exercised ``governmental power'' over the allotment it wanted to use then.

An attorney for Eklutna said Friday the tribe is pursuing gaming again because the past legal uncertainties seem to have cleared up. The commission has allowed gaming on Lower 48 Native allotments, said the attorney, Marissa Flannery of Anchorage.

The only gambling allowed in Alaska now is for nonprofit purposes, though even nonprofit gambling are big business in Alaska. In 2005, more than $349 million was spent on the games, according to state reports.