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Red Lake Band to vote on alcohol sales at casino properties

RED LAKE—Banning of alcohol at two of Red Lake's Seven Clans Casinos could be lifted pending the outcome of a mandatory referendum vote on Aug. 19.

Red Lake Tribal Secretary Donald Cook Sr. announced Friday members of the Red Lake Nation will be voting on the sale of alcoholic beverages at the Thief River Falls and Warroad casino locations.

"This shall not include any part of the diminished reservation," Cook said in a release. "Therefore, alcohol would not be allowed on the Red Lake Reservation nor would it be served at the Seven Clans Casino Red Lake."

Band members will be voting on each property separately. The tribal council voted unanimously to put the vote to the people, Cook said in an interview with the Pioneer Wednesday. Whether alcohol will be permitted as both on- and off-sale will be determined after the vote comes back to the council in August.

"When people are gambling or when they go out, they want to have a drink with their meal," Cook said. "It's working at Northern Lights in Walker and Shooting Star in Mahnomen."

Cook, who is in favor of approving alcohol sale at both casinos, stressed alcohol will not be allowed on the reservation, only at casino properties. He said it's a "win-win" for the tribe as proceeds from alcohol sales will help with operation costs at the casinos.

The referendum vote comes after an advisory vote conducted by the Red Lake Tribal Council in 1999. Cook said an advisory vote is on a non-binding question whereas a mandatory referendum vote binds the Red Lake Tribal Council to act in favor of the results. Since the advisory vote, the tribal council has had community meetings in Red Lake, Little Rock, Redby, Ponemah, Minneapolis and Duluth.

"The people are going to decide," Cook said.

Polls will be open between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Aug. 19 at the Red Lake, Redby, Little Rock and Ponemah district community centers. The Absentee Ballot Committee will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Red Lake Nation Headquarters Library in Red Lake, where any tribal member age 18 or older can vote anytime. Absentee voting is also open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays on Aug. 8, 9, 15 and 16. Absentee and regular voting will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on voting day, Aug. 19.

Band members living in the Twin Cities can vote from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Aug. 17 at the Minneapolis American Indian Center, 1530 East Franklin Avenue, in Minneapolis. Questions can be directed to the Absentee Ballot Committee at (218) 308-0446 or the Tribal Secretary's Office at (218) 679-1838.

Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts, tribal relations and social issues for The Bemidji Pioneer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
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