BIA stymies tribes with off-rez rule

Jul 22, 2008 6:59 PM

By GT Staff | Indian tribes that want to build casinos away from their reservation will have a more difficult task in the wake of a new rule published by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The BIA last week released a new rule requiring new Indian casinos be located within 25 miles of the reservation.

Affected by the rule are about a dozen tribes that have acquired or planned to acquire potential casino sites, often located in more accessible and/or populated locations than the reservation.

The BIA used the reasoning that tribal members were unlikely to benefit from jobs at casinos located several hundred miles away.

The rule, however, has exceptions. Tribes may be allowed to operate an off-reservation casino if they can show tribal members live near the site, can demonstrate a current connection to the property, or if other tribal government facilities have been located on the remote site for at least two years.

The new rule leaves the Fort Sill Apaches of Oklahoma in a kind of limbo. They have been trying to open a casino in southern New Mexico on land purchased in 1998 and taken into trust in 2002.

Now the tribe must try to meet the burden of connection as delineated in the BIA rule.

In the past, tribes had a relatively low threshold in gaining BIA approval for off-reservation casinos. They only had to show they would benefit from operating a casino, and that there would be no detrimental effects on the community where the casino was to be located.