States wary of Indian plans for big, call-in lottery

March 03, 1995|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

WASHINGTON -- A Native American tribe from Idaho plans to announce next week the creation of potentially the largest lottery in the nation, setting the stage for a battle with states that fear their own lotteries will suffer.

The National Indian Lottery will be operated by the Coeur d'Alene tribe and Unistar Entertainment Inc., a Denver-based management company.

The lottery will be available through an "800" telephone number in Maryland, Pennsylvania and 34 other states as well as the District of Columbia. Callers will be able to use credit or debit cards to buy chances at a jackpot that could grow into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

But states are already gearing up for a fight over the new venture. States predict it not only would cut heavily into their own revenues but also would create a regulatory nightmare.

"It's one thing for them to set up these games within their reservations," said Anthony S. Cooper of the North American Association of States and Provincial Lotteries. "But it's another thing for them to bring their gambling outside, into people's homes. Every house that has a telephone will have a lottery terminal, under what they're doing. I suspect many states will oppose this."

Bob Bostwick, a spokesman for the Coeur d'Alene tribe, declined yesterday to provide further details on how the new lottery would work.

But he said it has won the approval of the National Indian Gaming Commission -- the agency that implements the 1988 federal law that gives Indians the right to gamble on their land.

The tribe plans a news conference Monday in Washington to announce its lottery. When it begins later this year, its jackpot is expected to jump quickly into the hundreds of millions of dollars, according to gaming industry experts.

That's because the Indians will have a far greater reach than any existing lottery.

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