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CASINOS NOT LIKELY TO SPRING UP, PANEL SAYS

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The probability of casino-style gambling on Utah Indian reservations is "not high," according to a legal memorandum prepared by a coalition of attorneys including a former Department of Justice official.

However, the memorandum concludes that adopting a statewide initiative to allow pari-mutuel gambling by local referendum will "allow gambling on Utah Indian reservations to a greater extent than the gambling contemplated by the initiative."The referendum asserts if Utah voters approve an initiative for counties to allow pari-mutuel gambling on live horse races by local referendum, Utah's Indian reservations could negotiate a compact with the state of Utah to allow pari-mutuel betting on dog races, jai alai and off-track wagering on Utah's Indian reservations.

"Because of the existence of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, this is not a county choice bill. Initiative A legalizes gambling in Utah," attorney John E.S. Robson said Wednesday at a press conference at the state capitol.

The memorandum was researched by Robson, an attorney with Fabian & Clendenin. It was signed by five other attorneys in private practice: former U.S. Attorney Brent Ward; John T. Nielsen, former Utah Department of Public Safety Director; Rod Snow, former Assistant U.S. Attorney; Max Wheeler, former First Assistant U.S. Attorney; and James Jardine of Utah Citizens Against Parimutuel Gambling.

If compact negotiations between the state and the tribe could not be resolved in 180 days and an impasse were declared "there will be a federal lawsuit," Robson said.

Tony Hope, chairman of the National Indian Gaming Commission, said in a telephone interview Wednesday that Utah Indian tribes could only conduct the same gaming activity permitted off the reservation.

"The reality is, no court anywhere has said pari-mutuel racing is enough to give the tribes the right to put in slot machines. There is no law or court that has ever said that," Hope said.

The legal memorandum was prepared in response to an "opinion letter," on the Indian gaming issue prepared in August by Salt Lake attorney Patricia O'Rorke, for Citizens to Put Utah First, the organization backing the initiative.

"The key is the kind of activity that's allowed on a reservation is allowed off the reservation," O'Rorke said.

O'Rorke said UCAP has "retracted its earlier assertions, which were contrary to law, that if Initiative A were adopted that casino gambling and other activity prohibited by the state constitution and criminal law might somehow occur on Indian reservations. All the group is saying now is that there's some remote possibility that some lawyer could bring a lawsuit interpreting the statute to say something different than it says.

"If that were a reason to give up our constitutional right to vote and an entire industry, we would have no rights and no business in Utah," O'Rorke said.