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BIA Caught in Off-Reservation Gaming Debate

15 July 2004

UNITED STATES – As reported by the "The Bush administration won't adopt a 'blanket' policy on off-reservation gaming, a top Bureau of Indian Affairs official said on Tuesday.

"In testimony before the House Resources Committee, principal deputy assistant secretary Aurene Martin said officials take off-reservation casino proposals very seriously. Currently, the Department of Interior is being asked to allow gaming on land far away from existing reservations. In some cases, tribes are looking at other states.

"…But despite the growing and controversial practice, a one-size-fits-all approach won't work, Martin said yesterday.

"…'Contrary to popular belief, tribes cannot simply buy a parcel of land anywhere and set up a gaming establishment,' Martin said.

"The BIA's approach to the issue drew some criticism at the hearing. Rep. Jim McCrery (R-Louisiana) said the agency hasn't been consistent in evaluating the Jena Choctaw Band's request for a reservation in his state. The tribe wants to open a casino on the land.

"…Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) accused the BIA of dragging its feet with regard to an Oklahoma tribe's out-of-state casino. He said calls to Secretary Gale Norton, her deputy J. Steven Griles and Martin went unanswered.

"Other witnesses at the hearing said the BIA acted cautiously due to inexperience but also out of concern for tribes…"

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