Land Acquisitions | NIGC
Salazar tells BIA to continue work on gaming land applications

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told the Bureau of Indian Affairs to move forward with pending gaming land applications but did not offer any new policy in a memo that was released today.

Salazar asked Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk to process nine applications for off-reservation casinos. He said the BIA should consult with tribes before making any decisions under the two-part determination section of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

"I realize that engaging in this exercise in connection with the application of the two-part test may cause some delay, but given the [Interior] Department's discretion in this area, it is appropriate that we take the necessary time to identify and adopt principled and transparent criteria regarding such gaming determinations," Salazar said.

The two-part determination section of IGRA requires a state governor to concur with a tribe's application. Since 1988, only three tribes have completed this process.

Salazar also told the BIA to process 24 other gaming land applications in cases where a tribe is seeking to qualify for an exception in Section 20 of IGRA. The exceptions allow newly recognized tribes, tribes with land claims or tribes with land contiguous to an existing reservation and tribes with a "last recognized reservation" to open casinos on land acquired after 1988.

For these applications, Salazar urged Echo Hawk to ask Interior's Office of the Solicitor to determine whether the tribal applicant qualifies. Salazar used the word "recommend," leaving open the possibility that the National Indian Gaming Commission, which issues its own Indian land opinions, would still remain a part of the process.

Tribes have been waiting since January 2009 for the Obama administration to develop a policy on off-reservation gaming. Salazar's memo, however, doesn't directly address any of the controversial decisions made during the Bush administration that make it nearly impossible for tribes to acquire land away from existing reservations.

Get the Story:
Press Release: Interior Details Path Forward on Indian Gaming Policy (DOI 6/28)

Off-Reservation Gaming Policy:
Guidance on taking off-reservation land into trust for gaming purposes (January 3, 2008)