Opinion

Setback for Catawbas

The refusal by the Supreme Court to hear an appeal by the Catawba Indian Nation to allow video poker on the reservation should be the last word.

While Catawba attorney Jay Bender said the tribe would examine all its options, he said it has only two: Give up on video poker or try what he concedes is the unlikely attempt to convince state lawmakers to change the law to make an exception for the tribe.

We think giving up on video poker is the only viable option. There is little, if any sentiment in the Legislature to reverse the ban on video poker, and members of the local delegation are adamantly opposed to any attempt to reintroduce electronic gambling in any form.

To a large extent, the battle over video poker on the reservation was part of a larger campaign to open a high-stakes electronic bingo parlor on Interstate 95 near Orangeburg. Tribal officials indicated that they would be willing to drop plans for a local video poker operation if lawmakers would support the plan for a casino with high-stakes bingo machines that allow gamblers to play multiple games in a matter of seconds.

But a number of state legislators, including state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-Rock Hill, pledged to block any attempt to bring back electronic gambling, and that plan, too, was abandoned. If the Supreme Court had approved the video poker operation, the tribe might have had some leverage to use with lawmakers, but that now is a moot point.

The tribe now is pursuing a bingo operation as part of an entertainment complex in Marion County. The bingo hall would offer high-stakes payoffs but would be traditional bingo, not electronic bingo.

The plan still must be approved by the S.C. Department of Revenue, and the Catawbas have not cemented plans with developers of the complex. But the proposal is promising for the tribe, which could use an economic shot in the arm.

The Catawbas' recently elected chief, Donald Rodgers, said that while the high court ruling was a setback, the tribe still has other opportunities it will review. We hope the list includes a variety of options.

With new leadership, the Catawbas have a chance to explore different options and seek new ways to bring money into the tribe. Now, at least they know that high-stakes electronic gambling won't be part of their future.

IN SUMMARY

Best option for tribe after Supreme Court ruling is to give up the battle over video poker.

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