A change in the way the federal government considers applications for Indian gaming casinos could pave the way to move more of them off of traditional reservations.
The Obama administration said Tuesday it was lifting a rule limiting casinos to within commuting distance of existing reservations.
The federal government enacted a rule in 2008 requiring new casino developments to be within commuting distance of an Indian reservation. The Bureau of Indian Affairs said it will now consider expansion applications on a case-by-case basis.
In Minnesota, though, tribes have formally opposed off reservation expansion, even by their own members. Minnesota Indian Gaming Association executive director John McCarthy said his organization worries it would set a bad precedent.
"For tribes to step forward and say, 'we want to put a casino here, and a casino there,' I think the state would have to take a look," McCarthy said. "If you approve one, maybe you should approve another."
There's at least one off-reservation application in Wisconsin, McCarthy said, but in Minnesota, expansion is subject to negotiations with the governor. And he said tribes aren't interested. "The members of our association are opposed to off-reservation. We've been on record with that position forever," he said.
McCarthy said he wouldn't rule out future interest by existing tribes. But he also said that move might clear the way for more non-Indian gambling proposals for casinos at Block E and horse tracks. The state's bar owners are also proposing a gambling expansion at the Capitol this year.