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New Mexico Tribal Gaming

New Mexico legalized tribal gaming in 1987 and entered into its first gaming compacts in 1997 after 10 years of negotiations.

The gaming compacts have been renewed twice since then, though not without some controversy.

In 2001, the state negotiated new gaming compacts (allowing for Class III gaming machines) with all but the Mescalero Apache Tribe and Pojoaque Pueblo, whom the state had sued in 2000 for allegedly failing to pay money owed to the state – in excess of $20 million each – based on its revenue-sharing agreements.

The Mescalero Apache settled its lawsuit in 2004 and the Pojoaque settled its lawsuit in 2005. Both tribes then entered into the 2001 gaming compact.

New Mexico's compacts with its nine gaming tribes (which include the Pueblos of Isleta, Laguna, Sandia, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santa Clara, Taos, Tesuque and Ohkay Owingeh) and two nongaming tribes (the Pueblos of Nambe and Picuris) were amended again in 2007. The new compacts moved the expiration date of the deals from 2015 to 2037, increased payments to the state and placed limits on the number of casinos and off-reservation racetracks the tribes are allowed to operate.

Attempts to build two new casinos not covered by the compacts have fallen short. In 2008, the Fort Sill Apache wanted to build a bingo and casino facility. Gov. Bill Richardson ordered 50 state police officers to block access to the Fort Sill Tribe's land in Akela. Though the land was put into trust, he pressured the National Indian Gaming Commission (NIGC) to ignore the agreement. Later in the month, the NIGC sent a letter to the tribe, saying that the tribe could not open a facility without facing legal action.

In April 2008, the tribe opened a restaurant on the land, and a year later, in April 2009, the tribe began holding paper bingo three nights a week.

In July 2009, the NIGC ordered the tribe to stop bingo and threatened to impose fines of $25,000 per day for the violations. In addition to appealing the violation notice, the tribe also filed a motion in federal court to force the National Indian Gaming Commission to recognize the terms of a 2007 settlement, which the tribe believed gave them a legal right to operate a casino in southern New Mexico.

In an arrangement with the federal government, bingo operations ended 17 September 2009 and the fines were suspended pending the outcome of the tribe's appeal. In 2014, the tribe sued the NIGC for failing to rule on its appeal. The matter is yet to be resolved.

Three different efforts – dating back to 2004 – by the Jemez Pueblo to build an 48,000-square-foot off-reservation casino and hotel 45 miles northwest of Albuquerque have been stymied by significant opposition at the state and federal levels. The initial plan was rejected by the Bush administration in January 2008. The Obama administration rejected a second attempt in 2010, citing concerns about the tribe's ability to preside over a jurisdiction that is nearly 300 miles from the reservation.

In January 2012, the tribe and partner Gerald Peters applied a third time to have land placed into trust, but in 2013, Peter and the Jemez decided it was time to pause their quest for the casino because Gov. Susana Martinez hadn't shown much support for the idea.

In 2015, a new compact that allows tribes to operate up to four gaming facilities each was negotiated. The new compact doesn't expire until 2037.

New Mexico Tribal Gaming Properties

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