Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tribes, New York governor say Interior secretary is biased against off-reservation gaming

Indian tribes contend Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne is letting his personal beliefs dictate policy when it comes to off-reservation gaming, reports the Legal Times. Tribes say they have submitted applications for gaming facilities, only to see lengthy delays in the processing — delays they say are costing them millions of dollars, writes Carrie Levine. Some tribes, such as the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe of New York, have been outspoken with their complaints about Kempthorne, but others are holding back publicly — at least until after the next presidential administration takes control.

Tribes and others have asked Congress to correct these delays. The Native Americans' allies include New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who sent a strong letter to Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, a fellow Democrat and chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, asking for a hearing. Writing on behalf of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, he said Kempthorne, “as a government official, should not be able to hold up a project by a continuing failure to reach a decision,” and notes that the tribe’s application has been complete for about seven months. “I am aware that Secretary Kempthorne does not like off-site Indian casinos, but this cannot be the basis of a refusal to act.”

When he was governor of Idaho, Kempthorne, a Republican, opposed nonreservation casinos, a stance that many say is guiding his work at the Interior Department, Levine writes. “As secretary, he has a different role to play, and he has to reconcile his public policy stance with his role as a trustee," an Interior spokeswoman told Levine. "So he’s looking at past precedents and decisions, and the circumstances in individual cases, in order to come up with a proper, well-founded, balanced decision." (Read more; registration or subscription required)

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