Revisiting licensing of tribal casino vansOctober 15th, 2013 by travis baker
The in basket: In my most recent column, regarding government exempt licensing of Suquamish tribal vehicles, specifically a van serving the Clearwater Casino, Don Erickson says, “You failed to answer the question. The operative word in the question is ‘Casino.’ Are casino vehicles considered part of the tribal government? Is this a misuse of exempt vehicle status by the casino?”
The out basket: Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing expanded on his original answer and says, “State law grants recognized tribal governments the right to register vehicles with exempt license plates when the vehicles are used for tribal business. The law is not specific about exactly what a government can or can’t do with an exempt vehicle.
“In general, if a tribal government owns the vehicle and owns the casino, we tend to view that as tribal government business. If a casino is not owned by the tribal government, the use of a tribally owned vehicle with exempt license plates becomes questionable.”
The law says exempt vehicles include “Vehicles owned or leased by the governing body of an Indian tribe located within this state and recognized as a governmental entity by the United States department of the interior, and used exclusively in its service.”
Port Madison Enterprises is the nominal owner of Clearwater Casino and its Web site says it was established in 1987 as an agency of the Suquamish Tribe. That would seem to legitimize use of exempt plates on the casino’s vans.