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Department of Interior rejects 22 off-reservation casinos

Article Index

Washington, D.C. (AP/ICC) 1-08

The Department of Interior sent letters to 22 tribes during Janaury rejecting their bids for off-reservation casinos, according to numerous articles produced by The Associated Press and regional newpapers.

In rejecting 22 of 30 off-reservation proposals, the Interior Department said for the first time it will study commute times as it considers whether to approve new off-reservation casinos.

As distance from the tribe’s reservation increases, greater scrutiny will be given to benefits of the planned casino, said Carl Artman, assistant secretary for Indian affairs.

Officials also will give greater weight to concerns raised by state and local governments, Artman said in a Jan. 3 memo widely considered as a tightening of federal guidelines for off-reservation casinos. That Interior memo was written one day before action was taken against the casino trust land applications.

The day after Artman’s memo, the Interior Department generated letters rejecting the plans for 22 off-reservation casinos across the country.

Fourteen were on land that is at least 100 miles from the reservation where tribal members live, with some as far away as 1,000 miles, said Shane Wolfe, a spokesman for the Interior Department.

mong tribes that were rejected were the Muckleshoot, Colville Confederated Tribes and the Lower Elwha in Washington state, and the Burns Paiute Tribe in Oregon. The Interior Department said applications by the four Northwest tribes were incomplete.

Also rejected was an application by North Dakota’s Turtle Mountain Chippewa to build a casino near Grand Forks and the Jemez Pueblo’s bid to build a casino in southern New Mexico, nearly 300 miles away; a proposal by the Mississippi Choctaw to build a casino in Jackson County, Mississippi; a 6-year-old effort of the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa to open a casino in Shullsburg, Wisconsin, and the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe who had sought to build a $600 million casino about 90 miles from New York City.

The Stockbridge Munsee of Wisconsin had also sought to build a casino in Sullivan County, New York. Both New York proposals were rejected in separate letters to tribal leaders by Department of Interior Associate Deputy Secretary James Cason.

Ysleta del Sur Pueblo, also known as the Tigua Tribe, near El Paso, Texas, proposed an off-reservation casino at Chaparral. However, the Interior Department, in the Jan. 4 form letter to Gov. Arturo Senclair, said the application was incomplete and the department would not consider it since no new information had been submitted for more than a year.

No action was taken on two other major Wisconsin proposals for tribal casinos, one at Kenosha and the other at Beloit, BIA spokesman Shane Wolfe told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and those applications remain pending.

Artman noted in a four-page letter to Lac du Flambeau President Victoria Doud that the proposed Shullsburg casino would be more than 300 miles away from the home base of the tribe in northern Wisconsin.

“The Department is concerned that approval of this application would not support the option for tribal members to live on their existing reservation and to have meaningful employment opportunities at the proposed gaming establishment,” Artman wrote.

“The Department is concerned that approval of this application would not support the option for tribal members to live on their existing reservation and to have meaningful employment opportunities at the proposed gaming establishment,” Artman wrote.

Wolfe refused to say why the BIA took no action on the proposed $808 million casino for Dairyland Greyhound Park at Kenosha or on the proposal of two Chippewa bands to open the $200 million Beloit casino.

The St. Croix Chippewa are leading the Beloit effort and has sued the BIA, alleging the rules are being changed to ease the process of denying applications.

The New York application rejections centered around the hotly-disputed question of whether tribes should be allowed to establish casinos far away from their reservations. The St. Regis Mohawk are located about 350 miles from its proposed site. The Stockbridge Munsee are more than 1,000 miles away.

“The remote location of the proposed gaming facility may encourage reservation residents to leave the reservation for an extended period to take advantage of the job opportunities created,” Cason wrote in identical language to the two tribes considering the New York proposals.

“The remote location of the proposed gaming facility may encourage reservation residents to leave the reservation for an extended period to take advantage of the job opportunities created,” Cason wrote in identical language to the two tribes considering the New York proposals. “The potential departure of a significant number of reservation residents and their families could have serious and far-reaching implications for the remaining tribal community and its continuity as a community.”

The decision was quickly criticized by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a lawmaker who has strongly supported the casino plans.

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