COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Oct. 6 -- Focus on the Family today announced its support for the revision of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA) -- the law governing the federal regulation and oversight of tribal gaming.
"It is past time to reconsider IGRA," said Chad Hills, gambling analyst for Focus on the Family. "Nearly 17 years have passed since IGRA was approved. The intent of this law was to provide a framework within which American Indian tribes could seek to economic development, self-sufficiency and the well-being of tribal members through the establishment and regulation of tribal gambling. But the reality is that tribal sovereignty is being jeopardized and our nation is increasingly divided over the issue of off-reservation gambling expansion.
"IGRA's language is flawed, and easily exploited. A loophole in Section 20 allows tribes to pursue off-reservation casinos. Citizens have no ability to approve or reject a tribal casino under IGRA, as is often required with commercial casinos. Furthermore, the federal government cannot provide sufficient oversight and fiscal accountability for the numerous tribal casinos -- these establishments are essentially regulating themselves."
Even more disturbing, the fruit of gambling is not prosperity -- it is addiction and the dissolution of marriages, families, neighborhoods and communities affected by it.
"Strategically, gambling is a poor vehicle for economic development," Hills said, "as it exploits other humans for monetary gain, much like pornography or illegal drug sales. This predatory industry may provide revenue for Native American tribes, but the social costs placed on tribal families and non- Indian communities are devastating. Despite their $18 billion gambling enterprise, Native Americans continue to suffer from higher rates of poverty, unemployment, violence and child abuse and neglect than the general pubic.
"Native American tribes will prosper when policies are put in place that protect and rebuild families -- not undermine them. The forward thinking of an intact marriage and the stability it provides for the well-being of children cannot be replaced by gambling revenues. Addiction, bankruptcy, child neglect, spousal abuse, crime and suicide are left in the wake of gambling - not healthy families
"We call on Congress to revisit IGRA," said Hills. "This poorly written language has been tolerated too long, allowing the exploitation of tribes and communities. Congress must act to amend IGRA. Our government should be in the business of supporting and strengthening its citizens -- not dividing our nation."
Hills will be attending a press conference sponsored by the National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling Friday, October 7, at 10 a.m. at the Lisagor Room of the National Press Club.