Opinion: Supreme Court reopens debate on casino acquisitions

"Placing land into trust is a “federal action,” which is supposed to require application the National Environmental Policy Act, but that law has been ignored or undermined frequently over recent decades. The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs has frequently granted categorical exclusions from NEPA to lands headed for, or already granted, trust status.

To be clear: If a tribe and the U.S. government take land into trust for a new casino, an environmental assessment under NEPA is required to determine if an environmental impact statement is needed before finalizing trust status.

A case can be made that NEPA has been violated, when tribal applications list the trust purpose as “economic development” — a means to mask the intended use for gaming.

If officials with Interior’s BIA knowingly granted categorical exclusions avoiding NEPA while aware that gaming was in fact the intended purpose, then the law was violated.

Some leaders of smaller American Indian tribes believe many trust decisions favoring larger tribes have been fraudulent, awarding unfair market advantages to the “big boys” over the smaller entities."

Get the Story:
Patrick B. McGuigan: Court decision could reopen casino land use policy in OK (Watchdog 8/3)

Supreme Court Decision:
Salazar v. Patchak (June 18, 2012)