Alaska Native village sues federal agency over gaming hall

    ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska Native Village filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Interior Department in a continuing campaign to open a tribal gambling hall, officials said.

    Officials from Eklutna filed the lawsuit seeking to open a hall in Chugiak, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of downtown Anchorage, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

    The complaint filed in August in federal district court in Washington, D.C., represents the tribal government's latest attempt to open the area's first federally licensed gambling facility. The tribe has pursued the plan for more than 20 years, saying the gambling operation could boost jobs, tourism and the economy, officials said.

    Eklutna is a Dena'ina Native community and a federally recognized tribal government, which would allow it to avoid paying a state gambling tax and fee.

    The Chugiak hall would have pull-tabs, bingo and lotteries, as well as electronic versions of the games. It would not host blackjack, slot machines and similar Vegas-style games permitted under federal law but banned by the state, officials said.

    The lawsuit challenges the Interior Department's 2018 decision that the tribe does not have governmental authority over an allotment of land where it wants to build the facility.

    Eklutna tribe President Aaron Leggett said the lawsuit is "an important step toward solving longstanding issues and creating new opportunities for the first people of Alaska's largest city."

    The state expects to decide by the end of the month whether to intervene, Alaska Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr said.

    The office of Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy did not comment. Officials representing Alaska's U.S. senators, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, both Republicans, had no comment.

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