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Interior updates land into trust, gaming compact processes

The DOI has updated land into trust and gaming compact processes for tribes. (Hard Rock Bristol)

The Department of Interior (DOI) announced Dec. 5 a draft publication that it said provides more transparent and efficient processes for tribes to place lands into trust or to enter into gaming compacts.

“Taking land into trust on behalf of tribes is critical for tribal sovereignty, self-determination, preservation of history and culture, economic development, the well-being of tribal citizens, and to help right the wrongs of past policy,” Bryan Newland (Ojibwe), assistant secretary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) at DOI, said in a news release.

Newland said the federal government also had a responsibility to provide clarity on Class III gaming compact negotiations. Class III games that are commonly played at casinos include slots, blackjack, craps, and roulette, among others.

The DOI is now seeking feedback from tribes as it finalizes the updates – which began as a result of talks conducted earlier this year with tribal officials.

DOI Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) proposed changes to improve the land into trust process early in her tenure. In April 2021, she issued a memorandum that redirected the authority of the process to BIA regional directors instead of staff members at BIA headquarters.

Land into trust acquisitions transfer a land title to the federal government to be held in trust for the benefit of a tribe. Acquisition of land in trust affects a tribe’s eligibility for federal services and programs, among other advantages.

The gaming updates would provide more clarity on the criteria the DOI considers when deciding whether to approve compacts by “clarifying boundaries as to allowable topics of negotiation, better defining key terms, and clearly outlining when the DOI must review a gaming compact.”

The DOI is scheduled to conduct two virtual tribal consultation sessions Jan. 19 and Jan. 30, 2023, and two in-person sessions in Phoenix, Arizona, on Jan. 13, 2023, for further tribal input. The sessions will be open to tribal leadership and representatives. The DOI will also accept written comments via email at no later than March 1, 2023.

For more information on the sessions, go to and search “upcoming tribal consultations.” To read the publication updates, go to and search “land acquisitions” and “Class III tribal state gaming compacts.”