Tribe Owned Businesses in Downtown USA?

By | Feb 4, 2013

So… U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote a letter January 28, 2013 to The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs asking the agency to reject the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma’s land-into-trust application. The Oklahoma-based tribe bought 229 acres of vacant land in Cayuga County, NY for $738,554 in 2002. The Bureau rejected their plans for a casino in 2006 and 2008. The agency said, “the tribe had not demonstrated the casino plan would provide an economic benefit to the tribe’s members in Oklahoma.” Strange…

What’s the implication for other tribally owned businesses? What if this “geographically remote,” federally recognized  tribe were to build a call center in downtown NY coupled with a technology center to offer small dollar loans exceeding New York’s usury rates? Certainly this enterprise would employ both tribe and local residents thus benefiting both parties economically. How will local tax payers, officials and state attorney’s general respond as this scenario is repeated in cities throughout the USA?

According to Glenn Coin | gcoin@syracuse.com , if the trust application is approved this time, the land will be taken off the tax rolls, costing local taxing entities approximately $9,541 in revenues, based on 2012 real property records. What about the jobs that would be created for employees of the call center and all the construction and materials employment resulting from this construction? Any thought given to the impact on local businesses from restaurants to equipment suppliers?

Read more here and here.

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2 Comments so far
  1. MartinF February 4, 2013 9:20 pm

    Wow! So a payday loan office in the middle of Manhattan that is actually a tribe owned “sovereign nation?” Doing face-to-face payday loans? And the NY attorney general has no regulatory power? It’s going to take a tribe/lender with dep pockets to go first!

  2. Allen Parker February 5, 2013 10:25 am

    Apples and Oranges and Lemons.

    Apples: Off-reservation casinos are a two-step process. First, the tribe must gain the approval of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to bring the land into federal trust, and the land should have historical ties to the requesting tribe. Second, if the request is approved, the tribe must then secure the approval to put a casino on that land. As a rule, off reservation casinos are strongly opposed by tribes having a casino and are almost impossible to obtain. It takes strong political wherewithal to be successful.

    Oranges. Non-gaming tribally-owned businesses off the reservation require no such approvals. My understanding from having worked for a federally-recognized tribe for six years is that tribes conform to local zoning and building codes for their off-reservation businesses just as any non-tribal party. So if it’s legal to put a call center and/or a payday loan business in downtown New York, then it’s legal for a tribe to do so.

    Lemons. The article also asks the question: If a federally-recognized tribe opens a brick-and-mortar payday loan store in downtown New York, would that tribally-owned business, which has the sovereign immunity of the tribe if it has been duly created as an arm-of-tribe, be immune from New York State’s usury regulations? Perhaps so. But as a wise person once told me, there’s a right way, a wrong way and a political way. The politics of this situation begs the question: “Why risk throwing the baby out with the bath water?” Allen Parker – allen@consultants4tribes.com
    Tribe Payday Loans

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