New Mexico tribes voice concerns about track licensing 6-21-07

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) - A proposed state Racing Commission rule about giving tribes a say in new racetracks does not go far enough, some tribes say.

Several New Mexico tribes want the commission to tighten the language and add restrictions, they told the Racing Commission during its regular meeting Wednesday.

Sandia Pueblo said the proposed regulation isn't adequate to carry out the intent of new gambling compacts with the state.

“The draft proposed regulations simply restate the compact language and do not provide any substantive procedures by which the tribes' views will be solicited and more importantly, by the commission,” the pueblo said.

The New Mexico Legislature approved a new compact between the state and a number of tribes earlier this year that restricts the number of casinos a tribe may have and lets the state add only one more off-reservation racetrack casino.

Former Laguna Pueblo Governor Roland Johnson suggested language that in effect would require applicants to prove there would be no harm to existing tribal gambling operations.

He said tribes need protection from other gaming establishments since the vitality of the tribes depends on gaming.

“That is a resource we acquire and utilize to operate our tribal government and pay for the services we provide to the people,” he said.

Several tribes also said they want stricter policies to create a cap on gambling expansion.

The recommendation pushed by at least five pueblos - Isleta, San Felipe, Tesuque, Sandia, Laguna - and the New Mexico Indian Gaming Association, was for the commission to consider and evaluate the financial impact new facilities would create to the tribes.

They also urged the commission to create a rule that would provide a timeline for financial impact statements.

“Basically, we want to make sure the intent of the compact, which says the Racing Commission must notify (the tribes) and consider their comments and concerns is followed,” said Drew Setter, who represents the gaming association.

Frank Demolli, general counsel for Pojoaque Pueblo - a tribe that did not agree to the compact and is not an association member - said such stipulations would overstep the intent of the law.

“It seems to be expanding what would have to be given by any licensee,” he said. “When they put in an application, they would have to show they would not have an effect on the tribes.”

The commission's legal counsel, Chris Coppin, agreed.

He said applicants should not have to prove how their race track would effect every single tribe in the state.

New Mexico Racing Commission director Julian Luna said he believes an acceptable agreement will be reached soon.

“I think we are in a cooperating and communicating mode,” he said.