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Arizona Allowed to Make Gaming Compacts

20 September 2002

ARIZONA – As reported by the Associated Press: "A federal appeals court has overturned an order that was blocking Arizona's governor from negotiating Indian gaming compacts without the Legislature's consent.

"But Thursday's decision may have little impact. As Gov. Jane Hull's powers were embroiled in litigation, three gambling measures qualified for the November ballot. If one wins, that measure is expected to guide Arizona's gambling future.

"…David LaSarte, executive director of the Arizona Indian Gaming Association, applauded the San Francisco-based court's decision. Still, despite the ruling, he said it is now up to the electorate to craft the state's gaming regulations.

"…The dispute began as a challenge to Indian gaming interests by the dog and horse racing industry, which fears Indian gaming is eating up its profits.

"The racing industry, also eager to expand its gambling opportunities, sued the governor on assertions that she did not have the authority to negotiate 10-year gaming compacts with 16 Arizona tribes in the Legislature's absence. The current compacts were set to begin expiring next year.

"…On Thursday, without ruling on the merits of the racing industry's suit, the 9th Circuit dismissed the case on procedural grounds.

"The decision overturned U.S. District Judge Robert Broomfield, who nullified Hull's new agreements that called for more slot machines, allowed Las Vegas-style blackjack and gave the state a cut of the take. The proposal also restricted gaming on reservation lands, maintained the state limit of 14,675 slot machines but would allow tribes to offer Las Vegas-style blackjack and some poker games.

"One ballot proposal, backed by a host of tribes, is nearly identical to the compacts Hull agreed to and would give the state 8 percent of profits. A second initiative, backed by the Colorado River Indian Tribe, would allow a wider range of table games, such as craps and roulette, and grant the state 3 percent of profits.

"…Under Thursday's court ruling, if none passes, Arizona's next governor would have the power to negotiate Indian gaming compacts unless another court intervened…"

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