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Oklahoma tribe eyes possible casino near Deming

Deming, New Mexico (AP)1-08

A plan by an Oklahoma tribe for a casino on tribal trust land near Deming would not require federal or state approval if the tribe offers only Class 2 gambling.

Greg Saunders, a spokesman for the New Mexico Gaming Control Board, said Monday the Fort Sill Apache Tribe can begin operating when it wants as long as it offers high-stakes bingo but not slot machines, poker games with house-backed purses or other house-backed games.

“They would not be approaching the Gaming Control Board” for approval of Class 2 games, Saunders said.

Construction workers were at the site early January connecting portable buildings that will serve as the casino along Interstate 10 between Deming and Las Cruces.

A tribal consultant has said the facility will offer Class 2 gaming but that the tribe might later seek Class 3 gaming, which would require approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior and the governor.

The Gaming Control Board has not heard from the Fort Sill Apaches and has little information about the type of games planned, Saunders said.

Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Houser said the tribe’s 30-acre parcel, about 18 miles east of Deming, is federal trust land. The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act allows off-reservation gambling only on trust land controlled by a tribe.

“It’s been in trust since 2002,” Houser said. “We applied, and it was approved.”

The U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs received a letter of intent from the Fort Sill Apaches in April 2006 indicating interest in Class 3 gaming at the New Mexico site, said Dawn Selwyn, deputy director for the BIA’s Southwest Region. She said, however, the tribe never submitted an application.

“They’d need to request a federal action,” she said. “Right now all we have is the letter of intent.”

The members of the Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Apache, Okla., are descended from the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apaches of southwestern New Mexico, southeastern Arizona and northern Mexico. Their ancestors were removed from those areas in the 1880s and sent first to Florida and later to Oklahoma.

 

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