The BIA’s Back Baby! And More Indian Casino Fun

1212681757In a moment, why the Department of the Interior has made it harder for the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe to open a casino in Massachusetts, but first, Boston Daily would like to give an official “HIP! HIP! HOORAY!” to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

That office—which is, by the way, in charge of deciding whether or not the Mashpee get to open their casino—can now finally enjoy unfettered, unbelievable and unlimited access to Google! It’s true, after years of court mandated internet blackout, an appeal judge ruled that the BIA is once again allowed to connect to the internet.

We even heard a rumor that they may soon be upgrading employees’ beepers to cell phones. Welcome to the late 20th century guys. We’re thrilled to have you.

Now for a bit more substantive Mashpee news.

Just three days before the Bureau kicked out the Slowskis and got Comcastic, its overseer, the Interior Department revised a number of regulations, adjusting one of them ever so subtly, yet significantly, for the Mashpee. Previously, one of the guidelines for deciding whether to grant a tribe a new reservation was whether it had both a “modern” and “historical” connection to the land. But in an effort to crack down on tribes that go “reservation shopping” for casinos (sound familiar?), that guideline was changed into a requirement.

The Bush administration has long been hostile to expanded Indian gaming, and according to our favorite expert on the matter, Kathryn Rand of the University of North Dakota School of Law, the regulation changes have been in the works for some time with an eye toward getting them out now.

“I don’t think it’s an accident that they were promulgated before an expected change in administration. Now these are going to bind new decision makers,” she says.

According to Rand, George W. Bush’s Interior Department has long treated the modern/historical guideline as a requirement, so functionally little changes for now. Same goes if John McCain—who like Bush, is hostile to expanded tribal gaming— wins in November. The Mashpee can pretty much just forget about all this reservation business.

But, if Barack Obama wins, the effect is quite a bit different.

Here’s why: The net impact of this regulation change is to take any “wiggle room” out of the process, Rand says. So, say there was a president who had a close buddy who was the Governor of Massachusetts. Let’s say that the governor/buddy wanted ever so badly to bring gambling to his state. Under the old regulations, that president would have been able to do his governor friend a favor by greasing the skids in his Interior Department and helping a tribe, like the Mashpee, slide around the modern/historical connections guideline. (Because it was just that, a guideline).

But now that guideline is a regulation, thus tying any future president’s hands on the matter. The Mashpee, then, will be forced to rigorously and thoroughly prove their ties to the land.

If they have any questions, at least now they can send the BIA an email.