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Anti-Indian group cites DOI letter as progress
One Nation United, a group opposed to federal Indian policies that recognize tribal sovereignty and treaty rights, says the Interior Department's letter about off-reservation gaming is "true progress."
Barb Lindsay, the national director of the group, has been circulating via e-mail a copy of a letter sent to the Manzanita Band of Mission Indians. The California tribe is seeking land away from its reservation for a casino.
The letter from Jim Cason, the associate deputy secretary at Interior, urges the tribe to consider the risks associated with off-reservation gaming. Nearly identical letters were sent out to about two dozen tribes with similar applications.
Interior is currently finalizing rules that could place additional hurdles in the land-into-trust process for gaming sites. But efforts in Congress to restrict off-reservation gaming have failed.
Off-reservation casino rules may shift
Applications accepted could decrease
By TOM WILEMON
BILOXI --A top official with the Department of the Interior has notified Indian tribes that the agency is reconsidering how it handles applications for off-reservation casinos because of public opposition to the expansion of gambling.
James E. Cason, associate deputy Secretary of the Interior, said the agency "anticipates changes to the rules that may result in fewer off-reservation properties being accepted to trust" in letters mailed to tribes that are seeking casinos.
"In particular, we expect to consider a paradigm where the likelihood of accepting off-reservation land into trust decreases with the distance the subject parcel is from the tribe's established reservation or ancestral lands and the majority of tribal members," Cason wrote.
He also advised the tribes that the agency plans "more detailed consideration of the broad implications associated with new gaming operations with established communities where gaming is not currently conducted." As part of that process, the agency will review how it solicits and considers the views of city and county elected officials, Cason said.
The policy change could make it more difficult for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians to open a proposed casino in Jackson County, where gambling is illegal. The Ocean Springs Board of Aldermen has officially gone on record as being opposed to the casino. The proposed casino site is about 200 miles from the Choctaw reservation.
Barb Lindsay, the national director of One Nation United, a group opposed to the expansion of tribal casinos outside of historic reservation lands, said the policy shift is "true progress."
"This is a huge change in policy at the Department of the Interior," Lindsay said. "In the past, they just about 'rubber-stamped' approval for anything a tribe wanted. They have finally come to recognize that there are more competing issues and interests to consider before they act to approve construction of tribal casinos in local communities."
Dennis Puzz Jr., a member of the Yurok Tribe and lawyer in Best & Flanagan LLP's Native American Law Section, said there is a tremendous backlog of applications in the pipeline because tribes were trying to beat the implementation of a new law that Congress was considering last year. Although no such law was passed, the move did spur the Department of Interior to review its regulations for tribal casinos.
"The officials at the Department of Interior haven't officially said they are going to stop processing applications until the regulations come out, but I think it's safe to say that people in the Interior may not want to stick their necks out and make determinations until further guidance that is forthcoming comes out," Puzz said.
Dan McDaniel, a lawyer who represents commercial casinos in Mississippi and is against a Choctaw-operated casino in Jackson County, said the Department of Interior may be anticipating the passage of a new law. U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced the legislation that would curtail the expansion of tribal gaming, which opponents refer to as "reservation shopping."
"There has been a huge movement in Congress," McDaniel said. "I predict something will be done about it. It's just a matter of time."
Department of Interior letter
http://media.sunherald.com/smedia/2007/ … ate.77.pdf