Catawbas working to change minds about jurisdiction of proposed bingo parlor - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Catawbas working to change minds about jurisdiction of proposed bingo parlor

(Columbia) Aug. 7, 2003 - The chief of the Catawba Indian Nation is speaking out about a proposed bingo hall for the Santee Area.

The Catawba Nation wants to buy 100-acre plot of land off Interstate 95 in Santee for the hall. Orangeburg County Council has unanimously voted for the plan, saying it will boost the area's economy, and will now send its resolution to the governor.

The governor, and other state leaders, oppose the parlor on the grounds that it could lead the way for casino gambling. The tribe is allowed to have two bingo operations in the state as part of a federal and state land claims settlement in 1993.

Catawba Chief Gilbert Blue says the tribe needs to get federal legislation passed that would allow it to offer enhancements for the Santee operation, like longer hours, jackpots of more than $100,000 and an electronic connection to other tribe's operations.

Chief Blue says the plan will fail if the hall is not placed under federal jurisdiction with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, "It just gives you an enhancement of the bingo game. It is still bingo, but you will be able to do it in connection with other Indian bingo operations across the states. It is kinda like Powerball. You hook in and hook up and do better."

Blue talked about the tribe's plans, "In the next 30 days we're going to be talking to those people to see if we can get some support and change some minds and inform them a little bit better about what we're trying to do, that it's not going to be detrimental to the community. So, all we can do is just do the best we can and, when they return from recess, we'll see what happens then."

Senator Lindsey Graham says he wants more time to consider the consequences of federal legislation that would grant the Catawba's the ability to build a high-stakes bingo hall. Graham says he doesn't want to do anything at the federal level that would allow an expansion of gambling into the area of casinos.

The Republican Senator had supported a proposed law sought by the Catawbas that would place the tribe under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Nevada Senator John Ensign put a hold on the bill at the request of Senator Graham. The legislation won't be debated until lawmakers get back from summer recess.

Updated 7:21pm by Chris Rees

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