It’s stupid to lose more than a few insignificant bucks at any casino, especially if said casino is operated by the 250 or so Indian tribes in that business. Some answer to state gaming commissions; others don’t. Sometimes patchwork federal and state laws leave gray areas.
In other words, your $1 million slot jackpot is more likely to be deemed a “mechanical failure” at an Indian casino than in Nevada or New Jersey.
I take no joy in much of the news I present, but this story is an exception: The tax scofflaws of the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida owe the IRS approximately $1 billion. Nick Sortal reports for the Miami Herald: “Unlike every other tribe, the Miccosukees, in west Miami-Dade County, have claimed that revenues distributed to tribal members are exempt from income taxes. That claim is despite a federal law passed in 1988 to address Native American casino operations. Almost everyone familiar with the case shakes their head at the Miccosukees’ belligerence, saying that tribal leaders know they’ve been holding a ticking time bomb.”
(I just got a vision of an Indian hopping around holding a bomb in the kind of cartoon long banished by the PC crowd.)
Mr. Sortal continues: “On Aug. 19, U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga ruled a tribal member must pay $278,758 in taxes, interest and penalties to the Internal Revenue Service after she failed to file a 2001 return. The decision provides the IRS power to compel other tribal members to pay personal income taxes on casino gaming distributions dating back more than a decade, attorneys said.”
The Miccosukees have sneered at paying federal tax since opening their first bingo hall in 1990. When a tribal leader was ousted and replaced with a reformer who ordered taxes withheld from distributions, members quickly reversed their decision. More from Mr. Sortal:
“Reports say each of 600 tribal members receives $120,000 to $160,000 annually as a [taxable] share of casino profits. … That position was cemented by the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988. Among the spending priorities in IGRA are funding tribal government programs and the general welfare of the tribe – taking care of everyone. If those needs are met, a tribe can then distribute annual payments to tribal members. But the tribe must have a Revenue Allocation Plan, which is approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Guess which tribe refuses to do that?”
Of course, the feds should shut this criminal operation down, but they won’t. In fact, the Miccosukees don’t even have an agreement with the state of Florida, which should have done the same long ago.