Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber has asked the Federal Government to reject a rule proposed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Gelber said in a letter to the US Department of the Interior that this proposed rule “can and will facilitate and hasten the introduction of off-reservation Indian gaming casinos.”
Under the proposal, Tribes can buy off-reservation land, put it into a trust and benefit from exemptions on both property tax and zoning regulations. Thomas Gede, a lawyer specializing in American Indian law, said Tribes may also benefit from “limiting oversight of state and local law enforcement.”
The Miami Beach City Commission has consistently opposed expansion of gambling, adopting six opposing resolutions on pending proposals since 2008.
Federal and state governments must both approve of Tribes operating casinos on their land; however, Gelber warned that the proposed rule “represents a direct threat to the city’s home rule powers and its policy against casino gambling.
"The policy will allow casinos and gambling operators to force casinos into cities, regardless of how incompatible they may be with the local economy and quality of life.”
The Bureau of Indian Affairs describes the new rule as an attempt at streamlining a host of previous rulings and opinions that have developed over decades relating to tribal land acquisition. The Bureau wrote “...This proposed rule seeks to make the land into trust process more efficient, simpler and less expensive to support restoration of Tribal homelands.”
Marc Dunbar, a lawyer and gaming law expert, who has represented both the Seminole Tribe and private casino operators, said that Gelber and his legal advisers are wrong to assume that the proposed rule will interfere with what the City of Miami Beach can do to keep casinos away.
Dunbar added, “Locals still have a very important role. Interior does not jam gaming down locals’ throats particularly if it’s an off-reservation site, or a new reservation.”