BIA allows two more New Mexico gaming deals to go into effect

Ohkay Owingeh owns and operates the Ohkay Casino in northern New Mexico. Photo from Facebook

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has allowed two more Class III gaming compacts in New Mexico to take effect, bringing the total number so far to nine.

The compact with Ohkay Owingeh goes into effect today while the one for Zuni Pueblo goes into effect tomorrow. Both agreements are considered to be "deemed approved" to the extent their provisions are consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

The two tribes join the Navajo Nation, the Jicarilla Apache Nation, the Mescalero Apache Nation, Acoma Pueblo, Jemez Pueblo, the Isleta Pueblo and Taos Pueblo with deemed approved compacts. The BIA allowed those agreements to take effect in June and in July despite questions raised by Assistant Secretary Kevin Washburn about a higher revenue-sharing rate.

Washburn, however, said the tribes assured him they were satisfied with the provisions, according to a June 9 letter that went out to the first five tribes that signed the compact.

The number of deemed approved compacts in New Mexico now accounts for more than half of the tribes with casinos. It appears that no other state has such a high number.

The number will continue to rise as more tribes have already signed the deal or are close to signing it. The holdout is Pojoaque Pueblo, whose leaders contend the higher revenue-sharing provisions are not in their best interests.

Under IGRA, the BIA has 45 days to review a Class III gaming compact. The agency can either approve it or reject it at the end of that period.

But in cases where the decision is too close to call, the agency lets the agreement take effect. These compacts are considered to be "deemed approved."

Most of the New Mexico tribes that signed the compact already operate casinos. Zuni Pueblo and Jemez Pueblo have not yet opened any facilities.

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

Forthcoming Federal Register Notice:
Indian Gaming [Pueblo of Zuni] (To Be Published August 14, 2015)

Federal Register Notices:
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)

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