Prop 1: A threat to tribal self-reliance

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The Coeur d’Alene Tribe opposes Prop 1 and I want Idahoans to understand why.

We have joined with thousands of others across Idaho and we are contributing significant resources for the Vote NO campaign because Prop 1 is deceptive and it threatens our ability to provide for our community and contribute to Idaho.

Prop 1 is about legalizing commercial gambling machines across the state — not saving horses, not creating jobs, not funding education. Promoters are not telling the truth. Prop 1 would allow any facility hosting at least eight days of live racing a year to install an unlimited number of these casino-style gambling machines and run them every day with very little regulation. Proponents also included a hidden exemption for the dog track in Post Falls, even though it has never hosted a single horse race and is owned by out-of-state interests. This is deeply concerning to us.

Gambling, regardless of whether you support or oppose it morally, is a major policy decision that needs to be presented clearly and needs to follow the law. Idaho already tried historical horse racing in 2013. The law was repealed when it became clear the promoters misrepresented the machines and their real intentions. Politicians didn’t shut down racing or kill jobs. The fact is that a few track owners decided on their own to shut down horse races in Idaho.

Idaho’s past experiment with instant racing contrasts sharply with 20 years of limited Indian gaming which is highly regulated through federal, state and tribal law. Indian gaming has allowed the Coeur d’Alene Tribe to firmly establish our self-reliance, provide jobs and fund programs, creating a better place to live for our people and we have shared those benefits with many others. These efforts are now a driving force in the state’s economy, and our economic footprint extends far beyond the contributions outlined in the Idaho state gaming compact.

We have grown to become the second largest employer in North Idaho. We hire nearly 2,000 employees between the Resort, Tribal Government, Marimn Health and Development Corporation — half of whom are non-native. The Tribe’s flagship $300 deductible medical plan for employees and dependents ensures that 3,000 people in our community never have to worry about health care.

The Tribe has contributed more than $330 million to the state’s economy and its operations generate $13 million in taxes to state, county and local governments — annually. Additionally, the charitable efforts from the Coeur d’Alene Tribe have made a real difference in Idaho’s communities; to date the Tribe has contributed more than $33.3 million to Idaho schools, school districts, universities and nonprofit organizations.

Conversely, Prop 1 was written so that very little money goes to Idaho’s communities, leaving most of it for the authors of the initiative. A plain reading of the measure shows that the track owners funding this effort will keep 18 times more money than public schools will receive.

Like so many other Idahoans, the Tribal community has its own reasons to fight Prop 1. For us, it is about providing for our community and our dedicated employees, as well as standing up for transparent government and the rule of law. For others in our coalition, they are simply looking to protect Idaho communities, values and way of life.

Please look into the facts and join us in voting NO on Prop 1 in November.


Ernie Stensgar is chairman of the Coeur d’Alene Tribal Council.

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