The Bush Administration may be sounding the death knell for the Kenosha casino project following its denial of 22 similar applications for off-reservation Indian gaming projects.
The common thread in the denials is extended distance from the reservation.
Assistant Interior Secretary Carl Artman testified at a congressional hearing that the Bureau of Indian Affairs "is used to dealing with requests for land 20, 30 or 50 miles away from a tribe's reservation. The BIA is not accustomed to assessing applications for land 100, 200 or 1,500 miles away from a tribe's reservation."
The committee chairman, Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.V., called the implications of the decision "disturbing," and suggested the administration may be advocating a policy "to keep Indians on the reservation."
I side with the Bush administration on this one.
Building casinos on the reservation comports with federal law permitting such operations in places where ordinarily state law would prohibit gambling parlors. Plus, it would bring tourism to economically depressed reservation land prompting direct improvements. Finally, it would end the charade of designating off-reservation properties as reservation land solely for the pujrpose of building a casino.
That said, I have no qualms with allowing casinos a reasonable distance from reservations, such as the close proximity of the Oneida complex in Brown County to the tribe's reservation.
But here it's nearly 200 miles from the Menomonee reservation to Kenosha and several times that distance to Connecticut where the eastern tribe that would actually run the Kenosha casino is headquartered.
And Rahall is blowing smoke in his attacks on the BIA. Confining Indian gambling operations to land either on or near reservations provides a strong incentive to improve reservation conditions plus provide employment opportunities for tribal residents. Far from being evil, it's a solid policy.