Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Myth of Inevitability, Part 3

Friday was a bad day for the St. Regis Mohawk and Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican tribes of New York.

Here they’d been, touting that their proposed Catskills casino plans were a ‘done deal’, with the Governor and several senators by their side - when they got a call from Secretary of the Department of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne, informing them that their applications to take the land into trust had been denied.

You see, the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 (IGRA) established criteria for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the director of the Office of Indian Gaming to follow when reviewing applications to take off-reservation land into trust for gaming purposes.

But the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (IRA) provides for the Department of the Interior (DOI) to exercise its discretion in determining whether to allow any land into trust.

So in essence, the DOI can trump the BIA in approving whether a tribe can or cannot use off-reservation land on which to build casinos.

And on Friday, the DOI issued some new guidelines for all parties to consider when reviewing applications for taking land into trust for gaming.

Apparently, the DOI is concerned that some of these applications were asking to take land into trust which was sometimes hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the original reservation. And since this was not a reasonably commutable distance, it could therefore not be considered a practical source of employment for tribe members. Additionally, there could be "negative impacts on tribal life" if tribe members were to move from their reservation to be closer to casino jobs.

And this was the problem for the two tribes which wanted to build in the Catskills, one of which was over 350 miles away from its reservation lands.

But there’s more than meets the eye to these new guidelines, referred to as Part 151, which I’ve quoted here from a Department of the Interior Press Release dated 1/4/08:

• Part 151 contains two provisions of particular relevance to applications that involve land that is a considerable distance from the reservation. It states that, as the distance between the tribe’s reservation and the land to be acquired increases, the Secretary shall give:

  • 1) greater scrutiny to the tribes justification of anticipated benefits from the acquisition; and
  • 2) greater weight to concerns raised by state and local governments as to the acquisition’s potential impacts on regulatory jurisdiction, real property taxes and special assessments.

• Part 151 does not elaborate further on how or why the Department is to give “greater scrutiny” or “greater weight” to the above factors as the distance increases.

Purpose of Guidance

• The guidance clarifies how to interpret and apply the Part 151 terms ‘greater scrutiny’ and ‘greater weight’ when considering the taking of off-reservation land into trust status for gaming purposes.

  • The guidance directs that a reviewer ask specific questions for those applications with lands that exceed a “commutable distance” from the reservation because of the impact that such a distant acquisition may or may not have on life on the reservation.
  • The guidance emphasizes that as the distance from the reservation increases, greater weight should be given to state and local concerns, including jurisdictional problems and potential conflicts of land use and the removal of the land from the tax

But what does this mean to us?

It means that it is the dawn of a new day down at the Department of the Interior. It means that they are aware of ‘reservation shopping’ and it’s abuses. And most importantly, it appears to mean that they’re prepared to do something about it.

A closer inspection of the new guidelines reveals that there will be “greater scrutiny” of benefits and “greater weight” to state and local governments. In other words, it’s not going to be a free ride for tribes and their casino investors any longer.

It cannot be understated that this is very hopeful news for any community under the cloud of becoming the home to an unwanted casino, not merely the ones many miles off the reservation.

Remember, the Mashpee Wampanoags are not an impoverished western tribe.

Remember, the Glenn Marshall debacle and other news of unrest within the Tribe has harmed the image of their tribal government.

Remember, we have an 18-member Regional Task Force clamoring to have a voice in this decision, and that seven towns have already voted to oppose it.

And remember, in a letter to the BIA, current Wampanoag Tribal Chairman Shawn Hendricks wrote that

"The lands in Mashpee are unsuited to gaming or other economic development ... because of their location on Cape Cod, which has a fragile ecosystem, including sensitive wetlands and limited highway access.”

We can certainly argue as much here on the South Shore.

And remember, the Wampanoags have taken the highly unusual step of asking to take their reservation land in Mashpee and the land in Middleboro into trust at the same time. Red flag?

But most importantly, always remember that it’s only a done deal if you don’t do anything.

(If you'd like to thank Secretary Kempthorne, please send a letter to him at Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., Washington DC 20240)


Anonymous said...

Alot of good people will move out of this town if the casino comes. It will cause a real estate plague. As far as affecting the region, people will move as far away as possible. People have already jumped ship,caused by the signing of the agreement. This town's economy will miss people's money. Don't kid yourself, the "well off" go first. Their money will go with them. Let's subtract that from the 7 mil.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gladys,
I agree we must contact the BIA and DOI and express our concerns. Also turn up the heat on our state Senator and representatives as well as our congressman. Votes matter! Let them feel the heat. We can win this fight.

Anonymous said...

anonymous #1, you're quite correct.
When the casino fiasco began in Middleboro, I began to examine the changing demographics in CT.
Those who can, move.
At the Chamber of Commerce breakfast at which the Raven spoke, a banker explained to me all the great jobs that would be created. He knew. He had friends, both husband and wife were dealers, made great money. I asked where do they live? His response: Providence. Case closed! Who wants to live near a casino? No one.

Anonymous said...

What's this an application was denied! They must be racists in the DOI.

Written with tongue in cheek.


Anonymous said...

Thank you again Gladys for getting out "what's really happening" not what the Mashpee Wamponag's investers want us, (the public), to believe.
Scott Ferson, Mashpee Wamponag's spokesman, by the way is not a Native American or a member of their tribe but their spokesman anyway, BECAUSE the investers know how important it is for Mashpee Wamponag's to have a casino, (for them), and do not want the tribe to speak on their own & screw it up for them! FINALLY THE DOI HAS WISED UP TO THIS MONOPOLY!!
The real racists, the investers for keeping "THE PROFITS" for themselves & using the tribes, how sad for our Native Americans.

Anonymous said...

People seem afraid of their own shadows. A destination resort is just another industry. If criminal activity occurs, you have law enforcement. You're wasting your time with committees and insulting the intelligence of the federal government. The location in Middleboro seems like the perfect spot for such a resort.

Anonymous said...

Middleboro is a horrible location, and most of the people whom want it in Middleboro don't even know where it is proposed.

Anonymous said...

The Biotech industry uses a great deal of water.

Middleboro should get the governors touted Biotech jobs.

Give Cambridge the casino.

Anonymous said...

It is our right to challenge our government's intelligence.

Or we wind up with our troops being killed in Iraq.

It is correct to challange Big corporate leaders such as Worldcom or Lucent. WR Grace.

Those whom don't are weak.

And it would not be America now would it.

Gladys Kravitz said...

Dear Anonymous #5,


Gambling has always been highly regulated and confined to isolated places in this country - that is, until it was set free to roam suburbia - due to abuses of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, with the blessing and assistance of the BIA, while being supported by inept or corrupt politicians, financed by greedy billionaire casino investors, and enabled by the apathy or shallow understanding of the issue by people like yourself.

Here is a good place to learn more about casinos and crime:
Grinols Study on Crime

Here is a good place to begin to understand just one of many reasons Middleboro makes a terrible place for a casino, if the fact that it is smack dab in the middle of homes, near schools, and historic areas is not enough for you. Carverchick: Get the Real Facts

And, if you haven't already, please check out

Luv and Happy Reading,

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #5 must be Governor Patrick.

carverchick said...

This is great news! Thank you for writing about this, and once again showing that casinos are NOT inevitable here...commercial or Indian. It is a wonderful day...the DOI is finally opening their eyes to the corruption and the lies. Again, I thank casinofacts and especially you Gladys for reminding me that a small (but now large) group of people can make a difference. I do believe that we have a whole big bunch of great reasons why Middleboro is a horrible location for a casino. I can never, and will never support something that benefits the few and hurts in so many countless ways, the majority. The corruption and abuse of the IGRA by casino investors has got to stop and I most certainly will be writing a personal letter of thanks to Secretary Kempthorne.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous # 5 said If criminal activity occurs, you have law enforcement.

Great, so if someone breaks into my home or my car, they can come over and " Take a report" Yeah, that will help alot.

Gladys Kravitz said...

Thank you, Anonymous #10.

That is called a 'reality check'.

Anonymous said...

I'm being told that Middleboro has the second largest land mass in the state. Second only to Plymouth. Third is, apparently Carver. Is that true? If so where is all the industry and businesses in those towns to start paying taxes and help out the State. These towns are not pulling their weight. The state has a huge deficit.

Gladys Kravitz said...

Dear Anonymous #5 and #11,

Both of your questions are so inane that I can only be reminded of a certain limo driver, either that or Rep. David Flynn. Are they feeing you lines??? Hmmm... I suspect so.

OK...let's see, where do I start...

A.) Plymouth is a huge FAMILY tourist destination. That is a large industry there.

B.) Carver has a HUGE cranberry industry.

C.) Middleboro, despite it's land mass and numerous highway exits has nevertheless made poor decisions regarding local industry and now wants to take the low (irresponsible) road with the band-aid of a casino.

So, Anonymous #11, what have you done today to pull your weight with the deficit?

No luv for you today,

carverchick said...

Anonymous #11, with absolutely no respect to you I must say, Carver promotes the industry that it wants in the town. "It" meaning the residents. Believe it or not, some towns actually embrace their history and work very hard to preserve it while planning for controlled and smart economic growth. Carver relies on well water and septic systems...we are a farming community and yes, we like that - and yes, we want our local farmers to succeed. A town doesn't need a dunkin donuts or a burger king every half mile to qualify as "pulling it's weight" so please don't accuse Carver or any other town of not pulling weight here...this town does just fine and will continue to do fine without selling out to a bunch of deep pocket investors. You don't hear us complaining that our BOS is a bunch of clowns or that they spend money irresponsibly-or make bad decisions that affect the entire region, for that matter. In our Town, residents matter...residents have a say and our town officials not only listen, but they care - they care about the people who live here and care about the long term effects of decisions made. As far as I am concerned, we pull our weight and then some...which is alot more than I can say for the Middleboro BOs and what they have done to that poor town.

Anonymous said...

Carverchick, you speak the truth. This town is run by clowns. The sad thing is, as many registered voters have ill opinions towards the BOS and it's dealings, very few vote. Wayne Perkins showed his evil ways when he said the casino will effect the North more than the South of Middleboro,divide and conquer. If this BOS had their evil eye on another plot they'd play the same card again. If and when more people vote,we will see positive change. We'll chase the rats right out of town.

Anonymous said...

No one's looking for your luv! I read where the three towns have the largest land masses in the state and the residents fight industries from coming in. I thought industries lower the tax burdens for everyone. When you travel to other cities and towns you see development. They're pulling their weight. Why do you get off being so knowlegeable?

Gladys Kravitz said...


Anonymous #11, I'm glad you're not looking for luv - because you'll find none with that attitude.

I would be interested to know where you read this article - I would like to read it.

And yes, some towns do fight some industries. The people who live, own property, raise families and/or own businesses, or otherwise have a stake in each of the 351 Massachusetts towns are responsible for maintiaining their town's character, it's quality of life, and for paying it's bills. They decide collectively through (one would hope) the democratic process what is best for their community. Sometimes they will fight one industry, while opening their arms to another.

However, if you live in Carver and an industry that Middleboro is opening it's arms to will lower your quality of life, endanger you or make it hard to pay your bills - essentially hurting your town - it would be wrong to sit by quietly.

That is what is happening now, regarding the Middleboro casino issue. There was very little debate about it even in Middleboro, and town officials did nothing to educate residents about potential casino impacts. In fact, town officials did little more than listen to lawyers and Wampanoag Tribal Chief Glenn Marshall.

The town did appoint a citizen committee to study impacts, but gave them only a few weeks to do so - and their report was indicative of that short amount of time.

Now, say every town said a big YES to every industry that wanted to build there. We would have a state covered in asphalt. This would, among many other really bad things, destroy the State's tourism business - which is very important to Massachusetts.

So, while it might sound reasonable to fill a particular town with industry, it could actually harm the state as a whole.

And I haven't even opened the environmental can of worms. I don't know if you live on the South Shore, but we have serious water issues here.

And as Carverchick has said, open space can be very valuable to a town.

But the monetary benefits, positive or negative, of local industry are truly weighed on the local, not state level. If you live in Revere, your quality of life is not diminished by a field laying fallow in Middleboro.

It will likely be diminished, however, by legalized casino gambling which is an irresponsible source of state revenue.

It would be best for our state and towns to promote RESPONSIBLE industry.

Middleboro, Carver and Plymouth do have lots of land, but that doesn't automatically imply that they are somehow comparable to a trio of big lazy cousins who take up the biggest rooms in the house while contributing nothing to the household budget.

As for where do I get off being so knowledgable - I listen. I observe. I go to meetings. Lots of meetings. I meet lots of people with differing opinons. I read A LOT. I dig deeper. I no longer beleive everything I read in the paper because I've seen with my own eyes how they can skew the facts or not report them altogether. I am a stake holder in a town which borders a town which may or may not build the world's largest casino. In an effort to understand what that would mean to me, I have gotten quite an education in what can happen when you bring an irresponsible industry into a town, a region and a state.

If you have strong opinions, and a desire to do your best by our great State, and it sounds like you do, then I would suggest you continue asking questions and digging deeper into each issue.

Good luck,

Carl said...

Anonymous #11,
It appears you have the clueless misconception that somehow if a town or city doesn't have a certain amount of "development" then it is a burden to the rest of the state (aka tax $$ in the state coffers). On the contrary, if a city or town is living within its means with their current tax base and not screaming for the state to bail it out, then it is a benefit not a burden. It is not any town's responsibility to fill state coffers or vise versa unless the state in most cases mandates something that will cost the town. If the state would stop mismanaging the money that comes in, promote productive industries (of which gaming has no production) and not burden the taxpayer, then maybe it would suck up to mega-millionaire casino developers to get a small portion of the money taken in only to dish it back out for mitigation. As Dan Kennedy once said, "No casino = no mitigation necessary."