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Echo Hawk's Memo Overturns Effective Ban on Off-Reservation Gaming

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Interior Assistant Secretary Larry Echo Hawk, the head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, rescinded a controversial 2008 memorandum by the Bush Administration that effectively banned off-reservation gaming.

Echo Hawk told tribal leaders today at the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that the memo issued in January 2008 was "unnecessary."

“Our balanced and considered approach to reviewing off-reservation gaming applications was affirmed during deliberate consultation with tribal leaders,” Echo Hawk said in a BIA statement. “The 2008 guidance memorandum was unnecessary and was issued without the benefit of tribal consultation. We will proceed to process off-reservation gaming applications in a transparent manner, consistent with existing law.”

Following extensive tribal consultations, Echo Hawk overturned the memorandum issued January 3, 2008 that set limits on acquiring land in trust for gaming. The following day, the memo lead to the rejection of more than a dozen off-reservation casinos, reported

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After Echo Hawk broke the news, Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-New York) released a statement that the previous Catskill casino applications should to be reconsidered, specifically citing the Stockbridge-Munsee, which have sought to build a casino in Sullivan County, and the St. Regis Mohawks, who sought to build a casino at the Monticello Raceway.

“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.”