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Arizona casino profits lead to problems

15 October 2007

ARIZONA -- As reported by the Arizona Daily Star: "Casino profits have given the Pascua Yaqui tribe a reason to hope — and an excuse to fight.

"Gaming revenue has funded services for the elderly, scholarships for the young, health care for the needy and classes for people who want to learn the tribe's fading language.

"But behind the closed doors of the legislative chambers, bitter infighting, entrenched nepotism and a lack of accountability have hindered the progress gaming was supposed to fuel, a Star investigation found.

"...Casino del Sol and Casino of the Sun brought in around $104 million in gross gaming revenue last year, according to a Star analysis based on the tribes' mandatory contributions to local agencies and governments as well as other financial information.

"But despite the windfall, the Yaquis have made limited progress toward fulfilling state and federal requirements that tribes use casino money to promote self-sufficiency, develop their economies and strengthen their governments. The tribe's per-person spending of federal taxpayer money has more than doubled since 1997 and the portion of members using a state indigent health-care plan is up 27 percent since 2001.

"...Political infighting is commonplace and old conflicts 'continue to prevent the tribe from achieving economic goals,' said a report by a consultant the council hired last year to draft an economic development plan.

"...The fights mean policies often don't last past one council's term and economic-development plans stall without majority support.

"...The tribe has reduced its average monthly reservation unemployment rate to 13 percent this year — a far cry from the pre-casino rate of 65 percent 30 years ago, but still more than three times Tucson's average this year..."

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