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Trump Suing U.S. Over Indian Gaming Rights

May 4, 1993

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) _ Donald Trump is suing the federal government for giving special treatment to Indian gambling, but American Indian groups say the billionaire’s lawsuit is based on greed and fear of competition.

Trump attorney John Barry said Monday the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act violates the Constitution because it requires states to permit gambling but denies them the right to tax and regulate the games.

Trump owns three casinos in New Jersey. The Ramapough tribe is seeking federal permission to negotiate a gambling agreement with that state.

″This guy is unbelievable,″ said the tribe’s attorney, George Schneider.

″His father hands him a multimillion-dollar empire. The Native American Indians are lucky if they can give their children food, clothing and a roof over their head,″ said Schneider, who represents 2,000 Ramapoughs in northern New Jersey and New York.

Trump’s lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Newark, argues that the gaming regulation strips states of their ″sovereign, constitutional powers to tax, regulate and police gambling activities conducted within their borders.″

A 1987 U.S. Supreme Court decision gave tribes sovereignty over gambling on their territory. The case was brought by the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians near Palm Springs, Calif.

Cabazon Chief Executive Officer Mark Nicols said he wasn’t surprised by Trump’s lawsuit.

″Mr. Trump is echoing commercial interests’ resistance to Indians getting involved in gaming,″ said Nicols. ″People are trying to protect their markets.″

The gaming act, passed by Congress in 1988, stipulates that tribes can run the types of gambling operations already permitted by the state in which their reservation lies only after agreements on specifics are reached with the state.

But Mary Helen Thompson, a spokeswoman for Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, said the games are regulated under the agreements.

The act ″precisely sets the terms of Indian gaming and while the Indian lands are sovereign lands, the tribes still have to enter into a compact with the state they’re in regarding the kind of gaming and how that gaming takes place,″ Thompson said.

Trump’s lawsuit names Babbitt and the National Indian Gaming Commission as defendants.

The lawyer for the Ramapoughs said Trump was being greedy.

″He cannot accept the potential honest competition that the Native American may present to his casino empire,″ said Schneider.

Trump, his New York-based organization, and his three Atlantic City casinos - Trump Castle, Trump Plaza and Trump Taj Mahal - are plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Charles Keechi, chief of the Delaware Nation in Oklahoma and past chairman of the National Indian Gaming Association, said money used from Indian gaming revenues is spent on such social services as health care, education, housing and roads.

Barry said the lawsuit doesn’t seek to ban Indian gambling, but rather to give states the power to accept or reject it within their borders and to tax and regulate such operations.

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