Governor Wants Local Goverments to Get Increased Payments

The Associated Press
April 20, 2001

KINDER, La. (AP) — Citing increased expenses since the arrival of an Indian reservation casino, the state wants the Coushatta tribe to give a bigger take of its revenue to Allen Parish.

The tribe has been paying 6 percent of its net gambling revenue to local governments in the parish since the casino opened in the mid-1990s. But the administration of Gov. Mike Foster wants that raised to 11 percent.

The Coushattas were informed of the state’s demand in an April 6 letter, a copy of which was obtained by The American Press of Lake Charles.

The governor’s assistant executive counsel, Patrick Martin, said the demand is based upon studies that show the casino has resulted in costs of over $15 million to Allen Parish governments.

“The study showed the local costs to maintain roads and prisons had gone up almost 15 percent since the casino opened. We felt 11 percent was a good compromise,” Martin said.

Tribal chairman Lovelin Poncho called the demand “so outrageous we consider it to be disrespectful.”

“How or why they chose to approach us with a proposal that requires us to give 11 percent of our net revenue is puzzling,” Poncho said.

Martin said the governor’s office is open to further negotiations with the Coushattas.

The current compact extension between the state and the tribe expires at the end of June. If not renewed, the casino could be forced to close.

Since Indian casinos are on federal reservations, states are not allowed to tax the gambling halls. However, the tribe and the state must have an agreement and contributions to local governments have been part of all the compacts between the state and Louisiana’s three reservation casinos.

Negotiations between the tribe, the state and Allen Parish governments have been locked up for some time. The tribe has paid $25 million over the past six years and contends local governments did what they pleased with the money. The tribe wants an accounting of how the funds are spent in the future, an idea that is being resisted.

Under a current offer from the Coushattas, the tribe would pay $49 million over the next seven years. The governor’s demand would raise that contribution to nearly $100 million.