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Arizona Tribes Weigh Casino Initiative

12 July 2001

ARIZONA – July 12, 2001 –As reported by the Arizona Republic: "Arizona's Indian casino quandary is increasingly likely to be settled in one of two places: the Legislature or the ballot box.

"Both have been tried with mixed results in neighboring states.

"…Arizona's Indians have not yet decided what strategy to advocate, but several tribal representatives are meeting today to discuss their options in the aftermath of last week's federal court ruling invalidating Gov. Jane Hull's power to negotiate gambling compacts by herself. One strong possibility is the tribes will take their case straight to voters in November 2002.

"…The idea was on the table long before U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield's July 3 ruling. Paul Mandabach, a Santa Monica, Calif., political consultant who engineered a successful 1998 ballot initiative on behalf of 40 California tribes, has been on retainer to the Arizona Indian Gaming Association since February.

"…Initiatives can also be expensive: The 1998 measure in California cost tribes there $67 million.

"But even a costly media-heavy campaign might be a bargain for Arizona tribes, which rake in an estimated $830 million every year in a business they are determined to keep alive at all costs. Arizona voters also have a history of making compacts with Indians by ballot. In 1996, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community took its gripes with then-Gov. Fife Symington to an initiative, spending $2 million to win the right to run casino-style games on its land. Mandabach was the architect of that effort.

"If Arizona's 15 gaming tribes were able to pass their own compact, it almost certainly would add blackjack games and the right of rural tribes to trade away their slot machine allotments to urban tribes.

"…At least two state lawmakers, Senate President Randall Gnant and Sen. Scott Bundgaard, both Republicans, have already called for a special session to give the Legislature powers of approval over the compacts that Hull negotiates.

"`It is important to give the Indian communities the tools they need to improve their economic situation,' Bundgaard wrote Hull in a July 5 letter. `However, it is also important to provide these tools within the framework of our law.'…"

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