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Judge: Indian Slot Machines Illegal

December 11, 1998

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) _ A federal judge ruled Thursday that slot machines at tribal casinos are illegal, clearing the way for the government to seize the gambling devices from two Eastern Washington Indian reservations, a tribal official said.

The Spokane Tribe plans to appeal U.S. District Judge Fred Van Sickle’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, tribal vice chairman John Kieffer said.

Kieffer said the judge found the slot machines are illegal under the Johnson Act, a 1950s anti-organized crime law that bans slot machines on Indian reservations.

Lawyers for the Spokane Tribe of Indians and the Confederated Colville Tribes had filed a motion seeking to order federal prosecutors to sue Washington state rather than attempt to seize the slot machines. The motion was denied.

A copy of the ruling was unavailable. The case prosecutor did not return a phone message left at his home.

The ruling allows federal agents to seize slots from the Spokane and Colville reservations pending the outcome of the appeal, Kieffer said. As many as 600 people may be laid off at the Spokane tribe’s four casinos, which feature a total of about 1,300 slots machines, Kieffer said.

``Without the slots, we’ll definitely have to close our doors,″ he said.

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