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Thursday, 23 October, 2014

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New Mexico tribe can't get a new gambling compact

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A federal judge in Albuquerque ruled Friday against a New Mexico tribe trying to obtain a new gambling compact from the Interior Department.
U. S. District Court Judge James Parker invalidated Interior Department regulations that allow a tribe to go to the agency for a gambling agreement when it's failed to negotiate a compact with the state.
Pojoaque Pueblo Gov. George Rivera said the tribe is considering an appeal of the decision.
“We are looking at the long term for the win,'' he said.
The court ruling also suggested another possible option of having the federal government sue the state on grounds that New Mexico hasn't negotiated in good faith.
If a judge made that determination, it could trigger a court monitored mediation process for a compact.
Pojoaque's compact with the state expires in June 2015.
The state has offered a compact to Pojoaque that other tribes agreed to in 2007, but it would require the pueblo to pay a higher share of its gambling proceeds to the state.
“The state is trying to extort money from the pueblo for a compact,'' Rivera said.
The Pojoaque Pueblo operates a casino near Santa Fe and is among 14 tribes in New Mexico that operate casinos under compacts with the state.
New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez's administration sued the federal government in August to stop the Interior Department from approving a new gambling compact for Pojoaque Pueblo.
The suit contended that the interior secretary doesn't have the authority to implement a compact under procedures being followed by Pojoaque after it failed to negotiate a new gambling agreement with the state.
It also said the Pojoaque's proposed compact would stop tribal revenue sharing payments to the state, allow the serving of alcohol in gambling areas and allow the tribe to lower the gambling age in casinos from 21 to 18.
Martinez said the proposed changes in casino operations would give the pueblo a competitive advantage over other New Mexico tribes with casinos.
Tribes pay the state a share of slot-machine proceeds after a deduction for how much gamblers win and regulatory fees. New Mexico received about $69 million last year from all tribes.
Martinez's Deputy Chief of Staff Jessica Hernandez said the governor's office was “pleased that the federal court agreed that compact negotiations should be between the state and the tribes and not dictated by the federal government.
“As we have from the beginning, we look forward to continuing negotiations with the Pueblo of Pojoaque as well as other tribes whose compacts are close to expiring,'' Hernandez added in a statement.

Acoma woman gets 366-day federal prison sentence

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — An Acoma woman has been sentenced to 366 days in federal prison for an assault conviction. 
Prosecutors say 26-year-old Roxanne C. Lewis also was sentenced Friday to one year of supervised release after her prison term.
Lewis was arrested on Jan. 21 on a criminal complaint alleging that she assaulted a 25-year-old Kewa Pueblo man by stabbing him with a knife.
Authorities say the assault occurred in a location within Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico's Cibola County on Jan. 9.
Lewis entered a guilty plea in June to aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
Lewis admitted assaulting the victim with a knife during a domestic dispute. 
The victim sustained three stab wounds that required medical treatment.

Judge: Factions behind closed casino need to talk

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A casino in Central California shut down after an armed confrontation last week between tribal factions will remain indefinitely closed pending court-mandated talks, a judge ordered October 15.
U.S. District Judge Lawrence O'Neill said at the outset of a hearing that he did not see a good outcome if he imposed settlement negotiations among three disputing factions behind the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino in Coarsegold. His mind changed by the end of the two-hour hearing when attorneys said they felt there was room for agreement.
“Take your job seriously, and get it done,'' O'Neill said.
The judge on Friday, acting on an emergency request by the state attorney general, ordered the casino closed when armed members of one the factions entered the casino to try to collect boxes of records. The National Indian Gaming Commission also ordered the casino closed, citing a need to protect the safety of casino patrons and employees.
About 500 people fled the casino, some leaving chips on the tables.
In his ruling Wednesday, the judge also banned any members of the tribe's factions from bringing firearms into the casino. The casino's general manager will be allowed to handle the finances, such as depositing money into the bank, while the dispute is resolved, which could take weeks or longer.
Until then, the casino, which takes in more than $1 million a day from gambling, remains closed to the public.
Madera County Sheriff John Anderson, whose deputies responded to last week's confrontation, said after the hearing that he was encouraged by the three sides agree to court mediation. Anderson said he is hopeful the dispute will finally be resolved.
“That's the first time I've heard somebody say they'll sit down and figure it out,'' he said. “Everybody in open court agreed to it.''
No criminal charges have been filed stemming from the physical confrontation.
In another case, a federal judge in Sacramento earlier this year also ordered mediation for divided members of a Native American tribe vying for control of the Rolling Hills Casino in Corning.

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