Local News

Lumbees cancel contract with gaming consultant

Posted June 5, 2010 1:57 p.m. EDT

— The Lumbee tribe announced Friday that it has ended a contract with a gaming consultant that had become a "distraction" from the tribe's bid for federal recognition.

The Lumbees had contracted Lewin International to act as a lobbyist as the U.S. Senate considers overriding a 50-year-old law banning the tribe from certain benefits and privileges.

"We appreciate all that the folks at Lewin International have done to help, but unfortunately, the contract itself has become a distraction from our mutual efforts to achieve full federal recognition for the Lumbee Tribe," Swett said. "We all know that perception is reality up there in Washington. Anything that could take away from our recognition work – whether real or imagined – has to be dealt with."

The contract would have given Lewin a stake in future economic developments by the tribe, including exclusive rights to develop a casino. The contract stipulated that if the tribe were to vote down gambling on its land, the Lumbees would owe Lewin $35 million.

The 1956 law recognized the Lumbees but barred it from getting funds through the Bureau of Indian Affairs or exercising the privileges of a sovereign nation. The new bill would grant the tribe those privileges but ban it from operating a casino.

"This contract was never about gaming," Tribal Speaker Ricky Burnett said in a statement. "This agreement was about supporting the Lumbee Tribe in recognition in return for being able to work with the tribe to build a recreational facility."

Swett said the decision to end the contract with Lewin was mutual, and the terms do not include penalties for either party. He praised the company for its "good intentions."

Swett said the Lumbees will concentrate on getting the new bill passed by the Senate.

"Regardless of what contracts are in place or who we are working with, it all comes down to whether we can get a vote in the Senate," he said. "We are confident that if put before the Senate, our bill would be approved."