Last month, the United States Department of the Interior declined to accept land into trust for off-reservation gaming requested by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in New York. The Middletown Journal reported that the Tribe had filed a request to have the land taken into trust in 1998. Among other reasons for declining the request, the Department stated that the land was simply too far (more than 350 miles) from the Tribe’s reservation.
Blake Watson, a law professor at the University of Dayton, commented that the recent decision is a “death knell” for the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma’s proposal to open an off-reservation casino in Ohio by the same process. Watson believes that the most recent decision clearly establishes that the Bush administration is unwilling to expand off-reservation gaming by the use of land trusts.
The process to place land in trust for off-reservation gaming is very long and complicated, however. It is almost certain that, by the time the Eastern Shawnee’s proposal is complete, a new administration will be in office.