Pojoaque Pueblo may get new gambling compact through federal channels


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SANTA FE, New Mexico — A New Mexico tribe will be able to pursue a gambling compact despite possible resistance from the state, the Albuquerque Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1ifZ1bE) Friday.

The Pojoaque Pueblo was notified by the U.S. Department of the Interior that it can obtain the compact from the interior secretary directly.

Pueblo Gov. George Rivera said the tribe reached out to federal officials after negotiations with Gov. Susana Martinez's administration failed. The governor's office, however, argued that the Department of Interior doesn't have the final say.

"Pojoaque is attempting to cut the state and its Legislature out of compact negotiations, which would undermine the state's ability to address important concerns . This is unacceptable," Martinez spokesman Enrique Knell said.

According to Knell, a federal appeals court ruled in 2007 on a case in Texas that interior officials cannot force a state to abide by a gambling compact.

Both sides said the other was not operating in good faith. An issue of disagreement has been revenue sharing. Tribes with gambling operations typically pay the state in exchange for the state limiting the number of racetrack casinos and other non-tribal gambling enterprises. The tribe currently pays 8 percent, but the state wants to raise the rate to 10.5, according to pueblo officials.

Rivera said the tribe should not have to pay revenue to the state under a new compact because of how ubiquitous gambling has become. The promise of limiting non-tribal gambling is meaningless, he added.

"The recession has hit and flattened out the gaming market across the country," Rivera said.

Pojoaque Pueblo needs a new compact to maintain its casinos north of Santa Fe before the current one expires next year.

The tribe can now submit a proposed compact to the federal agency. Martinez would have 60 days to respond after reviewing it and could submit an alternate proposal. A mediator would be tasked with choosing one of them, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell would have the final say.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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