N. Idaho tribe says state poker ban doesn’t apply

WORLEY, Idaho — The Coeur d’Alene Tribe in northern Idaho plans to offer poker after deciding Idaho’s constitutional ban on the game doesn’t apply to the tribal-owned casino.

The Spokesman-Review reported that the tribe has announced plans to open a poker room on May 2, offering Texas Hold’ Em and Omaha.

Helo Hancock, the tribe’s legislative director, said several legal opinions have led the tribe to conclude that poker is exempt from state regulation under the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

But Jeff Anderson of the Idaho State Lottery Commission said poker isn’t exempt.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act does exempt some non-house banked card games on tribal lands from state regulation, he said, but only when the games aren’t prohibited by state law.

“Poker is specifically prohibited in Idaho,” he said.

Anderson has asked the National Indian Gaming Commission to make a determination.

Eric Shepard, the Indian gaming commission’s acting general counsel, said a decision has yet to be reached.

“We’re aware of the tribe’s intention to offer poker, and we’re working through our own analysis of the matter right now,” Shepard said.

Meanwhile, the tribe said it has hired poker dealers.

Hancock said marketing studies have found that the casino south of Coeur d’Alene is losing business to casinos in Washington state that offer card games.

“We’ve been looking at ways to stay competitive in the gaming industry,” Hancock said. “Poker is something that we consistently get requests for.”

Laura Stensgar, the casino’s executive marketing director, said adding poker could bring in more customers.

“It’s a way to broaden the experience,” she said. “The husband plays poker; the wife plays the slot machines or goes to the spa. They stay to have dinner together.”

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