Looking at the parking lot from the Graton Casino, owned and operated by the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria in Rohnert Park, California. Photo: Gary Stevens

Bureau of Indian Affairs allows nine gaming compacts to take effect

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has allowed nine tribal gaming compacts to take effect in California, a significant number for the Golden State.

The agreements are considered legal, but only to the extent their provisions are consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, according to a notice published in the Federal Register on Monday. The Secretary of the Interior otherwise did not outright approve or outright reject the nine compacts.

"The Secretary took no action on the compacts within 45 days of their submission," the notice signed by John Tahsuda, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs for the Trump administration, read.

Allowing a compact to take effect is not an unusual event in and of itself. But the publication of the notice increases the number of "deemed approved" compacts in California by a significant amount.

In all of 2016 and 2017, the BIA allowed nine compacts in California to take effect, so the number of "deemed approved" compacts has doubled with the publication of just one notice.

Still, the situation pales in comparison to the one seen in New Mexico. In that state, every single tribe is operating under a "deemed approved" compact.

According to the California Gambling Control Commission, 75 tribes are engaged in Class III gaming in the state. So the number of "deemed approved" tribes accounts for about 20 percent of the total.

Monday's notice covers the following nine tribes, each followed by the date of the announcement of their agreements in California:

• Dry Creek Band of Pomo Indians - August 8, 2017
• Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria - August 8, 2017
• Morongo Band of Mission Indians - September 6, 2017
• Quechan Tribe - September 2, 2017
• San Manuel Band of Mission Indians - August 8, 2017
• Tule River Tribe - September 1, 2017
• Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians - August 8, 2017
• United Auburn Indian Community - August 8, 2017
• Wilton Rancheria - July 19, 2017

Though most of the compacts were announced on different dates, they weren't formally ratified at the state level until October 3, 2017. The agreements would have then been sent to the BIA sometime after that -- going by the 45-day deadline in IGRA, the latest they could have arrived at the agency's headquarters in Washington, D.C., was December 8, 2017.

Notable compacts include the one for the Tule River Tribe. A provision recognizes the possibility that the tribe will move its Eagle Mountain Casino to a more lucrative location off the reservation, though a new agreement would have to be signed if that happens.

Another notable one is for the Wilton Rancheria. The tribe, whose federal recognition was restored in 2009, will join the Indian gaming industry once it opens a long-awaited casino in northern California.

Federal Register Notice:
Indian Gaming; Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compacts Taking Effect in the State of California (January 22, 2018)

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