ST. PAUL (AP) -- Park Place Entertainment, one of the largest casino companies in the world, has hired an improbable ally in its efforts to overcome opposition by Minnesota's Indian tribes to its plans for a Las Vegas-style casino at the Mall of America.
Oglala Sioux author and former Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Ed McGaa is one of the company's three lobbyists on the project. He said he took the job to help Minnesota Indians, but tribal leaders suspect he was hired to cause confusion within the tribes.
Minnesota's 11 Indian tribes have had a monopoly on casino gaming since 1989, when the state entered into a series of compacts with them. Since then, casino gambling has turned into an estimated $3 billion-per-year business for the tribes.
Non-Indians have been itching to get a piece of the action. They don't have it yet, but this year, a 6-year-old proposal to allow nontribal casino gambling at Canterbury Park racetrack in Shakopee got further than ever before at the Legislature because of pressure on representatives to find ways to erase the $4.2 billion state deficit. The state, which gets nothing from tribal casinos now, would have received a cut of the revenue from a Canterbury Park casino.
Park Place, which has not sealed a deal with the owners of the megamall in Bloomington, could be among many competitors seeking legislative approval next year.
If any nontribal casinos are allowed in Minnesota, it is generally assumed they will cut into the tribes' revenues. "It's the concept of once it starts, it'll never stop," said John McCarthy, executive director of the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.
Under the circumstances, it might seem odd for an American Indian to take up with the other side in this debate. But it's not the least bit unusual for McGaa to take an unexpected position.
When McGaa ran for the U.S. Senate as a Green last year, he was a controversial candidate. His pride in his military career a Marine pilot agitated Green activists who take the party's nonviolence platform to heart.
Party environmentalists were further outraged when the media reported McGaa had been involved in a plan in the mid-1980s to ship incinerated sewage sludge from the Twin Cities to the South Dakota reservation where he was born. There, a Nevada company planned to extract valuable metals from it.
McGaa protested that the material wasn't toxic and that the plan had won national environmental honors. But Ken Pentel, the party's candidate for governor, disavowed McGaa after the report, and a few days later, McGaa lost in the primary election.
McGaa's latest controversial stand comes from his belief that the large tribal casinos in Minnesota are not hiring enough American Indians and grooming them for upper management positions.
"This is my main point of contention," McGaa said. "The metropolitan Indian is not being employed at these large (tribal) casinos."
Park Place Entertainment officials told Angie Wozniak, a Minnesota lobbyist working with McGaa, that the company will put American Indians in upper management.
The tribes controlling Minnesota's casinos now, however, vehemently disagree with McGaa's position on their hiring practices.
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