D. Rationale for Compacting

At its most basic level, the availability of tribal-state cooperative agreements allows the states freedom to create contracts that meet the needs of their constituents. Without these agreements, states and their non-Indian citizens would have no access to Indian land for non-criminal matters that affect both groups, matters ranging from minor contractual issues such as auto repossession to land development and zoning issues. States would also be unable to enforce child-support agreements or have state court rulings enforced in Indian Country. In addition to decreasing the likelihood of reaching mutually satisfactory solutions to disputes, the absence of intergovernmental agreements would also contribute to a possible escalation to violence.

One example of the need for amicable negotiation between tribes and states occurred when the Rhode Island State Police staged an armed invasion of the Narragansett reservation to forcibly shut down a tribal tobacco store that was selling tobacco products without charging state sales taxes. Fortunately, such violent confrontations are now the exception, and as tribes and states have found ways to work together, the areas of cooperation have expanded. In many instances, any political subdivision of a state can enter into cooperative agreements with tribes in pursuit of mutual interests. For example, states and tribes have used inter-jurisdictional agreements to integrate their respective judicial systems so that the two remain separate and distinct, supporting rather than contradicting each other. States also have found these agreements helpful in clarifying and simplifying the application of social policies, aiding the resolution of domestic disputes, and in dealing with issues surrounding religious practice. In some states, this cooperation even extends to issues of mental health.

Although the breadth of tribal-state compacting is extensive, gaming compacts have been the most prominent. More than twenty states have reached gaming agreements with more than 200 tribes that the Secretary of the Interior has approved and that operate under the oversight of the National Indian Gaming Commission. The fact that a compact exists, however, does not indicate that a casino is in operation, let alone profitable. As discussed in Part IV.B, however, tribes can also offer limited forms gaming even in the absence of a compact. In order to understand the nuances of tribal gaming compacts, the origins of Indian gaming must be understood.