The so-called ‘commutability’ standard adopted in January 2008, ruled that tribal casinos could not open beyond the commuting distance from their reservations (100 miles). The measure led to the rejection of several projects to build new Indian Casinos, including new developments filed by the St. Regis Mohawk tribe and the Seneca Cayuga Tribe, which owns and operates the Grand Lake Casino in Oklahoma, along with 20 other projects around the nation.
The Stockbridge Munsee Community, owner of the Mohican North Star Casino Resort in Winsconsin, sued the department after the federal government rejected a plan to build a casino near New York, despite its approval by New York State. New York’s senior senator, Charles E. Schumer, along with other New York officials, rejected the ruling and argued that the casinos have local support and would create jobs.
Larry Echo Hawk, the assistant secretary for Indian affairs at the department, said the ruling be would be rescinded, adding that it “was unnecessary and was issued without the benefit of tribal consultation.” Even when the change does not guarantee that new casinos will be approved, the department will now take into account the views of local residents and elected officials and analyze proposed developments affected by the ‘commutability’ standard.