Ute tribe, Dinosaur consider cooperating on casino

Craig, Colorado (AP) October 2011

Officials in the western Colorado town of Dinosaur are talking with the Ute Tribal Council about potentially collaborating on a casino project.

Informal conversations between Dinosaur Mayor L.D. Smith and members of the Ute Tribal Council have been going on for some time, said Dinosaur Town Attorney Ed Sands.

A casino is among options Dinosaur has examined to boost the economy. The Ute tribe is based in Utah, which prohibits gambling, but its land crosses into Colorado and ends about two miles west of Dinosaur.

After a meeting with representatives of the Town Council, Moffat County Commission and tribe, the Town Council appears to favor entering an agreement with the tribe and studying whether it’s feasible to bring a casino to the area, The Craig Daily Press reported (http://bit.ly/otyf5l).

A predevelopment agreement between the town and the Ute Indian Tribe of the Uintah and Ouray Reservation would have to be signed by both parties before proceeding.

According to a draft of the agreement, the Utes and the town council would evenly split the estimated $10,000 cost of contracting a third party to conduct a feasibility study.

Sands said the town and tribe are interested in developing a destination resort that would include a casino, a lodge or hotel, an RV park and a golf course.

“With the rafting industry and a national monument in the area, it would be nice to build a destination resort to attract visitors there for a few days,” Sands said.

The draft agreement includes an option for the Utes to purchase land. Under federal Native American gaming regulations, a casino must be built on tribal land. The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and the governor’s office would have to approve an acquisition.

Because the casino will legally be located on tribal land if the bureau approves the project, Moffat County and Dinosaur would not be able to collect tax revenue.

Sands said the Utes are willing to enter into an operating agreement to compensate Dinosaur for police services and exterior maintenance in lieu of taxes.

He said the Utes would enter into an equal partnership with the town for the potential project.

“That would allow us to capitalize on 50 percent of the revenue,” Sands said. “But, that also means we would have to come up with 50 percent of the financing.”

He said the town could issue revenue bonds to meet its share of costs.

Moffat County Commissioner Audrey Danner said she doesn’t have enough information yet to say she supports a casino project.