Monday, January 10, 2005

Tribe could get boost from e-bingo ban

By Brodie FarquharStar-Tribune Correspondent

RIVERTON -- The closure of electronic bingo parlors around Wyoming could make the Northern Arapaho tribe's 789 Bingo hall an even busier place.While other bingo parlors around the state were dark and silent, the tribal operation just south of Riverton along Wyoming Highway 789 was busy Friday afternoon, from a full parking lot outside to thebuzzing, blinking and beeping machines inside.State District Judge E. James Burke in Cheyenne ruled Wednesday that electronic bingo games are prohibited in Wyoming because they fall under the definition of "gambling devices" in state law. Lawyers for the tribe have reviewed Burke's ruling and say it does not apply to the tribe's gaming operations, which fall under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, said Mark Howell, a spokesman and government relations consultant for the tribe.
We're the only game in town -- in the state, I should say, said Howell, reached Friday in his Washington, D.C., office.I don't see any effect, said Andrew Baldwin, a Lander-based attorney for the Northern Arapaho. He explained that under the federal law, tribes are entitled to Class II gaming, of which bingo and pull-tabsare the most popular in the industry.Under the act, the tribes are entitled to electronic aids for their Class II games, he added. That's why789 Bingo has electronic machines where customers can play those versions of bingo and pull-tab games.The only effect on the tribal operation could be an influx of e-bingo players who no longer have places to play around Wyoming. Howell said Friday 789 Bingo -- which already draws people from throughout the region -- hadn't yet noticed an increase, but the tribe anticipates seeing more players.In fact, 789 Bingo recently added a couple of dozen new machines.It is a growing business, Baldwin said.Howell said the new roomful of games may look like Class III slot machines, but they function legally as Class II pull-tab games in an electronic format. Class III gaming essentially means Las-Vegas stylegaming. The Northern Arapaho plans to open a Class III casino next fall, just down the road on a bluff overlooking the Big Wind and Little Wind rivers.Howell said he'll be involved in conference calls with Department of Interior officials next week to work out further details about the proposed casino. Hopes and plans for the casino were invigorated by a 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision in November saying the tribe could offer any sort of gaming it wants, potentially doubling anticipated revenues.The state of Wyoming has appealed that decision and asked for a review of the three-judge ruling by all the judges in the 10th Circuit. Howell and Baldwin said to date, there's no word from the 10th Circuitas to whether there will be a rehearing before all the judges.

Post a Comment