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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 14, 2011

AFTER SCHUMER’S URGING: DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR TO RESCIND BLANKET BAN ON OFF RESERVATION GAMING – MAKES CASINOS IN THE CATSKILLS A POSSIBILITY


AFTER SCHUMER’S URGING: DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR TO RESCIND BLANKET BAN ON OFF RESERVATION GAMING – MAKES CASINOS IN THE CATSKILLS A POSSIBILITY
Schumer Applauds DOI Action, Supports Case-by-Case Evaluation of Potential Projects Based on Local Support And Appropriateness
Schumer: An Insurmountable Roadblock Has Been Removed, But More Hurdles Remain

U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today announced that the Department of Interior (DOI) has overturned its blanket ban on all off reservation gaming – the so-called “commutability rule,” which was set in place by former Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne. After repeated phone calls, letters, and personal meetings, the Department of the Interior informed Schumer today that they are rescinding the memo which established the commutability rule, that precluded gaming facilities from being built in the Catskills, where they enjoy broad and diverse community support due to their job-creating economic development potential.
 
Schumer said that the previous Catskill casino applications deserve to be reconsidered because they: demonstrated broad and deep community support, were developed in consultation with state and local officials, have revenue sharing agreements with localities and the state, and completed extensive environmental reviews. 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 was a center of commerce and tourism.
 
“Today’s announcement cracks open a previously locked door and presents a renewed opportunity to pursue a Catskills casino,” said Schumer. “Though barriers still remain, this groundbreaking action by DOI removes what was an insurmountable hurdle on the path to a Catskills casino. The Department of the Interior has seen the light and overturned this unfounded administrative standard, which will open the door for applications to build casinos in the Catskills, which have enjoyed broad support, and because they can create jobs and new economic opportunities for upstate New Yorkers in one of our state’s most economically challenged areas.”
 
The Stockbridge-Munsee have sought 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 the past, several other tribe have explored the possibility of making an application, as well. In January of 2008, then Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne denied the pending Catskill 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 argued that this blanket standard is too broad, did not adequately assess local support or appropriateness, 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, after aggressive lobbying from Schumer, he announced that this blanket ruling would be overturned.
 
Because of the widespread community support, Schumer has long been supportive of the previously-made applications to build gaming facilities in the Catskills.  He 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 as they did today.
 
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.   

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