Apaches' giveaway riles New Mexico gaming officials
The Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma continues to thumb its tribal nose at New Mexico gaming officials, this time testing the fine line between a legal sweepstakes and an illegal raffle at its Apache Homelands casino in Akela Flats, New Mexico.
On Nov. 29, the tribe gave away a l955 Ford truck in a contest. Entries to the contest were given out with purchases of meals or smoke shop products, as well as to people who wanted a free entry but didn't purchase anything.
When the gaming commission got wind of the contest, it sent the tribe a letter warning it not to conduct the event, saying it was a “raffle,” which is "illegal because it constitutes Class III gaming, and the Fort Sill property is not eligible for gaming."
The letter apparently arrived at the casino on Nov. 26, the day before Thanksgiving, but Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Houser said the tribe didn't see the letter until after the vehicle had been given away. Not that it would have made any difference. Houser, rejecting the board's characterization of the event, says he would have held the event anyway because it was a sweepstakes, which is legal.
The casino has been aggressively opposed by Gov. Bill Richardson, who with the gaming board claims the tribe has no right to provide gambling at the facility. Earlier this year, the casino opened with a roomful of electronic bingo machines that ended up being returned to the distributor when the tribe could not obtain permission to open. Since that time, the casino is open to sell food and smoke products.
Gov. Richardson is soon leaving New Mexico for Washington, D.C. where he will become part of the presidential cabinet. New Mexico Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish has not gone on record opposing or supporting the casino.
(For more background on this developing story, see Ground Report stories, Latest move by government gives Apaches hope; Governor Richardson Challenges Apaches in New Mexico; Apaches Still Fighting, But Losing the War in New Mexico; and Apaches Routed by the Feds in Southern New Mexico.)
Tags: Fort Sill Apaches , Commanche Nation Of Oklah , Indian Gaming , New Mexico Casinos
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