Kansas Versus Congress in Gambling Rights

A new bill challenges gambling rights in Kansas

While gambling at tribal casinos is legal in Kansas, most other forms of gambling are illegal.

The passing of the HR 1619 bill on Nov. 1 is concerning for many Kansas citizens. The bill could usher in a new way to remove their rights in state legislation deciding where casinos are built.

First off-reservation casino granted by Congress


H.R. 1619, or the Catawba Indian Nation Lands Acts is a bill to clarify the status of gambling conducted by the Catawba Indian Nation. The bill specifically places approximately 17 acres of land in Cleveland County, North Carolina, into trust.

This fast-tracked land trust bypasses strict state laws against gambling and allows for the first off-reservation casino granted by Congress

On Monday, Catawba Chief Bill Harris said the decision:

“Reaffirms the Interior Department’s action recognizing the Catawba Nation’s historical and ancestral ties to North Carolina.”

The bill also establishes federal protection and regulation of the tribe’s gambling endeavors. And, it ensures that the tribe is the primary beneficiary of the gaming operation.

Generally, the process of placing tribal land into a trust is to help tribes regain original land bases. The tribes determine the use of trust lands, but it’s subject to certain federal restrictions. However, the land is usually not subject to state laws.

Most newly acquired tribal trust lands are within Indian reservation boundaries or adjacent to them. Under certain conditions, there may be off-reservation acquisitions.

However, many states are concerned that placing land into trust for gaming purposes confuses other legitimate intents for the trust land designation. 

In the case of H.R. 1619, this paves the way for other off-reservation casinos in other states. This legislation allows federally recognized tribes to cross state lines to set up gaming facilities apart from where they currently reside. 

Kansas wants to decide what’s right for them

Some lawmakers feel that this is an act of circumventing the law. Lawmakers believe the purpose is to seek title and land to which the tribes have no connections and build casinos on them.

Proposals as far back as 2005 petition that these tribal land acquisitions follow the clearly defined gambling laws and regulations.

Kansas maintains strict laws around gambling. The state has yet to move a Kansas sports betting bill. This indicates KS agree that gambling legislation should remain in the hands of citizens and state lawmakers.

Tim Huelskamp, former Representative for Kansas Senate and Congressman, feels strongly that this bill holds negative implications on state laws and its citizens.

Huelskamp feels that gambling isn’t sustaining true economic growth. He argues that it is an:

“Artificial revenue source that shuffles money from some pockets (often the poor) to others (casinos, lobbyists, and the government). Legislation and the citizens in the states should hold the right to determine what policies make the most sense for their communities, not Congress.”

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