From the Mashantucket Pequot Nation in Connecticut to the numerous California Mission communities, Native American tribes have launched gaming operations, some making money and nearly all igniting controversy.

The complexities surrounding Indian gaming and why it is one of today's hottest political issues will be explored Oct. 9 at the 2006 Lou Watkins Endowed Lectureship at East Central University.

Professors Kathryn Rand and Steven Light of the University of North Dakota will discuss "Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty: The Casino Compromise" at 7 p.m. in ECU's Estep Multimedia Center. Admission is free.

The lectureship, which honors Lou Watkins, former chair of ECU's political science department, is funded by interest earned from the endowment through the East Central University Foundation Inc. The purpose of the lectureship is to bring recognized authorities to ECU to address subjects of public interest at the local, state, or national level. The event also is being sponsored by the Hayes Native American Center.

"In some cases, tribal communities see gaming as the new 'Indian buffalo' providing an important source of revenue for tribal economic development," said Dr. Thomas Cowger, director of ECU's Native American Studies Program. "Critics charge that it allows tribes an unfair economic advantage and brings gaming to states that may not welcome it."

As Indian gaming grows, he added, policymakers continue to strike a balance between its economic, political, and social costs versus its benefits.

"Clearly, at stake are a host of competing legal rights and political interests for tribal, state, and federal governments," Cowger said.

Rand and Light are internationally recognized scholarly experts on Indian gaming and co-directors of the Institute for the Study of Tribal Gaming Law and Policy at the University of North Dakota. Rand is the Floyd B. Sperry professor of law and the associate dean for academic affairs at the UND School of Law where she teaches.

Light is an associate professor of political science and public administration at UND. Together they have authored numerous articles and two books, been featured on C-Span, testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and are frequent commentators on the legal and political issues surrounding gaming.

Watkins began teaching at ECU in 1980. She was chair of the political science department from 1985 until 1991 when she and her husband, former U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins, moved from Ada. She is president of World Export Services Inc. in Stillwater and is a member of the Board of Regents for the Oklahoma Agricultural and Mechanical Colleges.

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