ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — The state of Alaska has filed documents opposing a tribe’s push to open a gaming hall north of Anchorage.
Officials with the Alaska Department of Law said in the documents filed Tuesday that other Alaska tribes would open similar operations if the Native Village of Eklutna prevails, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Colin Cloud Hampson, an attorney representing the Native Village of Eklutna, said he had not yet reviewed the state filing that came in response to a lawsuit filed in August by the tribe seeking approval for the gaming hall.
The Eklutna lawsuit seeks to overturn a 2018 ruling by the Department of the Interior that a particular parcel of land near Chugiak is not “Indian lands” and is ineligible to host a tribal gaming hall.
“A ruling that the opinion is invalid may open the door to (Indian Gaming Rights Act) gaming on other properties across Alaska,” assistant state attorney general Lael Harrison wrote in the new filing.
The case extends beyond Indian gaming, she added.
“It is about the territorial jurisdiction of Alaska tribes in general,” Harrison said.
The state requests that it be allowed to intervene in the lawsuit on the side of the federal government.
Eklutna is a Dena’ina community within the municipality of Anchorage. The Native Village of Eklutna is a federally recognized tribal government.
According to the tribe, the proposed facility would be limited to games such pull-tabs, bingo and lotteries and possibly electronic versions of those games. The facility would not offer blackjack and slot machines that are not authorized under state law.
Eklutna’s lawsuit did not make statewide jurisdiction claims. Harrison, however, wrote that the 2018 ruling by the Department of the Interior is about territorial jurisdiction of Alaska tribes in general.
Most Native lands in Alaska are owned by Native corporations representing shareholders as set up by the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971. Alaska tribal governments are sovereign but have little or no land to exercise their laws.
The state has historically opposed attempts by tribal governments to exercise jurisdiction. contending that Alaska could devolve into a patchwork of conflicting laws. The state also opposed Eklutna gaming in 2007.