The Pueblo of Pojoaque owns and operates the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in New Mexico. Photo: MyEyeSees

Pueblo of Pojoaque loses $10 million in gaming revenues in dispute

The Pueblo of Pojoaque is crying foul after attorneys from the Trump administration seized more than $10.1 million in gaming revenues from the New Mexico tribe.

The money was being held in a bank account while the tribe was locked in a Class III gaming dispute with the state. The two parties have since reached an agreement which requires the tribe to share even more of its revenues.

Despite the subsequent agreement, the Department of Justice said the funds represented the proceeds from "illegal gambling" in a court filing on Friday The money was seized as a result, The Santa Fe New Mexican reported.

“I am disappointed that the Department of Justice has chosen to pursue this course of action,” Pueblo Gov. Joseph M. Talachy said in a statement to the paper. “The money in this account by law should help provide food, shelter, education and other basic necessities for the Pueblo’s people, including funds to fight the overwhelming opioid epidemic that is devastating the Pueblo.”

The tribe was forced to sign the compact last August after two negative rulings from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. In April 2017, a panel of three judges barred the Bureau of Indian Affairs from issuing Class III rules for the tribe because the state was never found to be in "bad faith."

Then in July, the court said the state could punish vendors that continued doing business with the tribe in the absence of a compact. The decision was split by a vote of 2-1.

Both cases were cited in a notice that was submitted as part of the civil forfeiture case.

The new gaming compact requires tribes to share between 9 percent and 10.75 percent of Class III revenues with the state. That's higher than the 8 percent rate in a prior version.

During the Obama administration, officials at the BIA questioned the increase because they said it appeared the state wasn't offering anything "meaningful" in return. But the agency allowed it to go into effect and every tribe has signed it.

The agreement is considered legal but only to the extent its provisions are consistent with the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Read More on the Story:
U.S. seizes $10.1 million in gambling revenue from Pojoaque Pueblo (The Santa Fe New Mexican March 23, 2018)

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decisions:
Pueblo of Pojoaque v. State of New Mexico (July 18, 2017)
New Mexico v. Department of the Interior (April 21, 2017)

Relevant Documents:
Bureau of Indian Affairs 'Deemed Approved' Letter (June 9, 2015)

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