Potawatomi Seek Community Support For Federal Trust Class 2 Bingo Casino

Aug 19, 2015

Illinois might get its first Native American-run casino in its history.

That's if DeKalb County officials give their blessing to put some land into federal trust after a seven-year hiatus.

Credit ncai.org

Earlier this month, the county's Economic Development Committee voted to discuss a resolution for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation to open a class 2 casino in Shabbona -- meaning it would only provide bingo.

Although the tribe does not need the county's approval to build the casino since they are a sovereign nation, a community alliance could help convince the federal government that they have a duty to protect that land.

 "Their thought is that that could help them with their application to put their land in trust if they could show that, 'Look, the town of Shabbona has agreed to support this, Waterman, and also all the elected leaders on the DeKalb County board,'" Mark Pietrowski, who is a DeKalb County board chairman, said. 

Pietrowski says the tribe promised to give funds across county departments, including $5,000 annually to the mental health department for impulsive behavior.  

But Peter Dordal, president of DeKalb County Taxpayers Against the Casino, says the town and county have everything to lose in the long term if plans to build the casino go through. 

Dordal says past treaties between the tribe and the government might not be enough to support the federal trust, since there's still some ambiguity about whether Potawatomi Chief Shab-eh-na forfeited the land on his own free will.

"This is something that really has arisen in the 21st century, long after Shab-eh-na's original situation, and yes, there's clearly some great injustice done to Chief Shab-eh-na … but this is not the right fix," Dordal said.

Dordal adds that light pollution, raised crime rates and increased traffic also are concerns for opponents of the casino. And, even if the tribe promises not to do so, he says there's always a risk that people could be driven out of their homes due to land possession issues.

Previously, the DeKalb County board and the Potawatomi Nation agreed to cooperate with each other concerning casino plans and federal trust establishments in 2008. The county will hold a meeting to discuss the matter again tonight.