FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 2, 2009
SCHUMER: DECISION ON OFF RESERVATION GAMING IS NEAR; SENATOR URGES INTERIOR SECRETARY TO REOPEN APPLICATIONS AFTER DECISION AND NOT REQUIRE TIME INTENSIVE RESUBMISSION, IF BIA MODIFIES THE KEMPTHORNE RULE
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Department of Interior (DOI) will make its decision on whether to overturn or modify its blanket ban on all off reservation gaming – set in place by former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne – in the coming weeks. Schumer learned of this updated timeline in a conversation with current DOI Secretary Ken Salazar. Schumer placed the call to the Secretary to continue his efforts to convince the DOI to overturn the precedent that would prevent any gaming facilities from being built in the Catskills, where they enjoy broad and diverse community support. Schumer is also urging the DOI, if the precedent is overturned, to evaluate the applications that have already been submitted instead of forcing interested parties to go through a time consuming reapplication process.
Schumer said that pending applications in the Catskills have broad and deep community support, have been developed in consultation with state and local officials, have revenue sharing agreements with localities and the state, have involved extensive environmental review, and deserved to be considered. There has been extensive effort on both state and local levels to ensure that these proposed gaming facilities would be developed within the confines of federal and state law, because they are critical to the economic redevelopment of an area that used to be a center of commerce and tourism.
“After over a year of hard work, a decision on whether to overturn the flawed Kempthorne precedent is tantalizingly close,” said Schumer. “As we continue to work to overturn the blanket ban, we must also be mindful of the next steps in this process and begin laying the groundwork so that we can move forward as quickly as possible with the evaluation of the pending applications.”
The Stockbridge-Munsee seek to build a casino outside Monticello in the Town of Thompson in Sullivan County. The St. Regis Mohawks sought to build a casino at the Monticello Raceway. In January of 2008, then Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne denied their applications, along with 21 other off-reservation land-into-trust applications with the creation of an artificial “distance test” claiming they were too far away from existing reservations and damaging to life on those reservations. Schumer feels that this blanket ruling is too broad, and that the BIA has a responsibility to look at applications on a case by case basis, and in locations when there is broad and deep community support, consider approving them. Today he announced that this decision will be made shortly.
Schumer also urged the Department of Interior, if the blanket ban is overturned, to reopen the review of the applications that have already been submitted for gaming facilities in New York State. Schumer said the forcing the parties interested in building gaming facilities to resubmit their applications and once again repeat all paperwork could add months to the process – time that could be better spent bringing job creating economic activity to Sullivan county.
“If the precedent is overturned, the Department of Interior should be evaluating the applications that have already been submitted,” said Schumer. “After such a long delay in reviewing the applications caused by the debate over the Kempthorne precedent, it makes eminent sense for DOI to simply pick up where they left off, and continue reviewing the existing applications.”
Because of the widespread community support, Schumer has long been supportive of the pending applications to build gaming facilities in the Catskills. He has lobbied Secretary Salazar and Bureau of Indian Affairs head Larry EchoHawk in phone calls, letters and meetings, asking them to overturn the precedent set by former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
Up to three casinos in the Catskills were authorized by state law in 2001, but those efforts must first pass muster with the BIA. In processing applications for gaming, the BIA consults with the community and determines whether gaming is in the best interests of the tribe and whether it will be detrimental to the community. The BIA then seeks the approval of the state’s governor. This is known as a “two-part determination” under the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. Final State approval is generally done by way of a compact, which the governor is authorized to form on behalf of the state, once several labor, revenue sharing, and liability conditions are met.