Gaming compacts need even hand

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By Sherry Robinson

In the just completed legislative session, the Senate shot down the proposed Navajo Nation gaming compact, which was years in the making. After hearing all the testimony and talking to some of the players afterward, I think the Navajos got a raw deal.
Five other pueblos and tribes whose compacts expire next year are also getting a raw deal. It’s because of the way the negotiations and the compacts themselves have evolved.
Sifting through the wreckage, you find immediately the strenuous objections of other gaming tribes who are also in line to negotiate new compacts: the Mescalero and Jicarilla Apache tribes and Acoma, Laguna and Pojoaque pueblos. (Acoma in particular, with two strong voices in the Legislature, was the mouse that roared.) Their leaders made an eloquent case during hearings, and they had a host of lobbyists working behind the scenes.
Add to that some influential Albuquerque legislators, who feel their city has more than enough casinos, plus a certain number who just don’t like gaming. And then, I’m told, the governor threatened to veto the capital outlay of any Republican who didn’t support the Navajo compact. House Republicans lined up like good soldiers, and the compact passed 36 to 30. The Senate, known for its independence, got its back up and voted against, 31 to 10, with one recusal.

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