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Interior Department Eases Restriction on Tribal Casinos

17 June 2011 by admin

department of interiorThis week, the Department of the Interior, which oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, eased a restriction on tribal casinos. The rule change could make it easier for tribes to expand their casino reach, bringing in more money and reaching areas that had been closed to them.

In January of 2008, the Interior Department initiated a rule that any off-reservation tribal casinos must be within commuting distance of the tribe’s reservation. That made many proposals, such as for a casino in the Catskill Mountains in New York, get rejected immediately without any consideration. Prior to 1988, tribal casinos weren’t allowed off the reservation at all. However, in 1988, Congress passed a law that allowed off-reservation casinos as long as it was in the best interest of the tribe and did not have any detrimental effects to the local community. To be eligible for an off-reservation casino, the Interior Department first has to take the land into trust.

This week, the Interior Department rescinded the Bush-era rule, allowing any off-reservation casino proposals to be decided on a case by case basis. Though tribal casinos far from reservations are now allowed, don’t expect to see them spring up all over the place. Since 1988, when off-reservation casinos were legalized, only 22 have been allowed to operate.

This change by the Obama administration was praised by many, including tribes who want to operate off-reservation casinos that are not close to their land. Chuck Schumer, New York’s senior senator, praised the decision as paving the way to a Catskills casino. However, many others criticized the decision. Some casinos owners decried the extra competition it will create. Some worry that it will lead to having too many casinos in neighborhoods that have no established ties to the tribe. The New York Gaming Association said that it is “not fair to existing facilities that have invested billions” to get their operations running.

Casino expansion has been a hot topic lately, with governments looking for ways to increase revenue. Many are still hoping that the federal government elects to establish an online casino.

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