Compacts | Litigation

Pojoaque Pueblo disputes state's 'illegal tax' on gaming revenues

The Buffalo Thunder Resort at Pojoaque Pueblo in New Mexico. Photo from Facebook

Revenue sharing is a given in the Indian gaming industry but one New Mexico tribe won't give into the state's demands for a cut.

Leaders of Pojoaque Pueblo have refused to sign a new Class III gaming compact that calls for the revenue sharing rate to increase from 8 percent to 10.5 percent. Nearly every other tribe in the state has agreed but Gov. Joseph Talachy explains why his people won't.

“I don’t care what anybody says about revenue sharing. It’s an illegal tax," Talachy tells The Santa Fe Reporter. “Why do we fight? Because my stores of maize are being depleted already, and now if I give that up, that means the well-being of my people ultimately gets negatively impacted.”

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act bars states from directly taxing tribal revenues. Yet revenue sharing has become common as a way to pay for the costs of regulation and to address the impacts of tribal casinos.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs, however, has determined that a state must provide "meaningful concessions" -- such as exclusivity -- in order to justify taking a cut of a tribe's proceeds.

In the case of New Mexico, the BIA has raised questions. Former assistant secretary Kevin Washburn, who left the Obama administration in December to rejoin the University of New Mexico School of Law, said he was "troubled by the apparent increase in revenue sharing rates" when the compact showed up on his desk last summer.

Still, he allowed the agreement to take effect after tribes said they were satisfied with the provisions. New Mexico is now home to 15 tribes with "deemed approved" compacts, the most of any state.

Pojoaque Pueblo continues to operate the Buffalo Thunder Resort and the Cities of Gold while litigation plays out in federal court. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in one case last September but a decision hasn't been issued. A second case is pending.

Get the Story:
Ante Up (The Santa Fe Reporter 5/11)

Federal Register Notices for New Mexico Class III Gaming Compacts:
Indian Gaming; Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact Taking Effect in the State of New Mexico [Sandia Pueblo] (April 4, 2016)
Indian Gaming; Notice of Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact Taking Effect in the State of New Mexico [San Felipe Pueblo] (April 4, 2016)
Indian Gaming; Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compacts Taking Effect in the State of New Mexico [Nambe Pueblo] (December 29, 2015)
Indian Gaming [Pueblo of Laguna] (October 23, 2015)
Indian Gaming [Pueblo of Tesuque] (October 23, 2015)
Indian Gaming [Pueblo of Santa Clara] (October 23, 2015)
Indian Gaming [Pueblo of Zuni] (August 14, 2015)
Indian Gaming [Ohkay Owingeh] (August 13, 2015)
Indian Gaming [Pueblo of Taos] (July 30, 2015)
Indian Gaming [Pueblo of Isleta] (July 28, 2015)
Indian Gaming [Jicarilla Apache Nation, Mescalero Apache Tribe of the Mescalero Reservation, Navajo Nation, Pueblo of Acoma, and Pueblo of Jemez] (June 22, 2015)

Relevant Documents:
BIA Deemed Approved Letter (June 9, 2015)

Related Stories:
Two more Class III gaming compacts in New Mexico go into effect (04/05)
Pojoaque Pueblo rebuffed in complaint against state gaming board (01/25)
Pojoaque Pueblo secures injunction in New Mexico gaming dispute (10/08)
Pojoaque Pueblo asks 10th Circuit to overturn gaming decision (09/29)
Pojoaque Pueblo to attend 10th Circuit hearing in casino dispute (09/24)
Editorial: Pojoaque Pueblo acts in bad faith in gaming fight (07/24)
Pojoaque Pueblo files new suit in New Mexico gaming feud (7/21)
Santa Clara Pueblo wants Pojoaque Pueblo to shutter casinos (7/16)
Pojoaque Pueblo resists higher revenue sharing rate at casinos (7/15)
Four more tribes in New Mexico enter Class III gaming compact (07/02)
Editorial: Pojoaque Pueblo gets pass on illegal gaming operation (07/02)
Pojoaque Pueblo keeps casino open after gaming deal expires (7/1)