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Interior Department rejects trust land for Jemez Pueblo casino

Sue Major Holmes
Albuquerque, New Mexico (AP) 1-08

The U.S. Department of the Interior has rejected a request by Jemez Pueblo for land in southern New Mexico nearly 300 miles away to be put into trust so the tribe could build a casino.

The department, in a letter to Jemez Pueblo Gov. Raymond Gachupin, said the proposed trust land near Anthony, N.M., 293 miles away from the pueblo, was too far away to provide jobs to members of the pueblo northwest of Albuquerque.

The decision means the pueblo cannot build the casino.

The tribe applied on Dec. 23, 2004, for nearly 79 acres near Anthony off Interstate 10 to be taken into trust for the pueblo to build a resort and casino, in which Santa Fe developer Gerald Peters would be an investor.

Jemez sought the property because the pueblo is too far from major population centers and faced too much competition from established Indian casinos. About a dozen New Mexico tribes already operate casinos, many in the Albuquerque and Santa Fe areas.

Before the federal government would place land in trust, Jemez Pueblo had to prove an off-reservation casino was in the best interest of the tribe and its members and was not a detriment to the surrounding community.

Jemez’s proposed casino would not directly improve its high unemployment rate – more than 50 percent – and could encourage tribal members to leave for jobs at the casino, causing “serious and far-reaching implications for the remaining tribal community and its continuity,” Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Carl J. Artman wrote.

The pueblo was counting on casino revenue, rather than jobs, to benefit its members, he said.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows off-reservation gambling only on trust land controlled by a tribe – which required the pueblo to ask the secretary to put the land in trust.

The 1934 Indian Reorganization Act requires the department to consider how proposed trust land will be used and its distance from the tribe’s land. Artman’s letter said that as the distance increases, more scrutiny must be given to the tribe’s justification of benefits and greater weight to local government concerns.

The New Mexico Indian Gaming Association opposed Jemez Pueblo’s request in December 2005. The association said it did not object to a tribe entering into gaming or seeking economic development, but opposed any proposal for off-reservation gaming in New Mexico.

 

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