Gaming Tribes In Controversy
May 12th March Recalls '92 Gaming Standoff
It has been 14 prosperous years since the Fort McDowell Nation fought to keep gaming alive on its reservation and reaffirm its sovereignty.
It was early on a Tuesday morning in 1992 when a Mayflower van loaded up the tribe’s 349 video gaming machines from the Ba’Ja Bingo Center, but tribal members used construction equipment, cars and even their own bodies to create a blockade to stop the machines from leaving the reservation in a stand-off with the federal and state governments that lasted several months.
In 1993, then Interior Secretary, Bruce Babbitt, a former Arizona governor announced that Indian gaming would proceed.
Since then Fort McDowell, a tribe with nearly 1000 members, has diversified its investments. In addition to owning the casino, it produces construction materials, runs a farm and operates a gas station.
The tribe has a growing tourist economy with an RV park and the Radisson Fort McDowell Resort and the We-Ko-Pa Gold Club. The tribe also operates a Western Adventures attraction and the Radisson Poco Diablo Resort in Sedona.
Their next venture will be in cultural tourism as the tribe recently hired a new manager whose job will include marketing the tribe’s culture and the establishment of a museum on the reservation.
May 12th has become the Fort McDowell Sovereignty Day that includes a symbolic march beginning at 7a.m. through the reservation in remembrance of the 1992 protest that tribal members made to the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix.
The year, 1993, was a milestone for Native Americans throughout the nation as it marked the beginning of tribal casino gaming. Everything was going along at a smooth and steady pace until the Jack Abramoff scandal began to erupt more than a year ago that exposed the politically corrupt, greedy players (both Native and White) in the lobbying game.
One can’t help but wonder if there are forces in the making that are trying to kill off the goose that lays the “golden slot machines” across the country. Now, the spotlight is on all gaming tribes operated by a former friend, Arizona Senator John McCain, who has introduced legislation to take control of Indian gaming away from tribal government and putting it in the hands of the National Indian Gaming Commission.
Shame On Casino Market Wars
Editors Report - Indian Country Today
May 12th, 2006
The shame of anti-Indian lobbying - by Indians. It sure is hard to have much respect for tribes that actually lobby to hurt other tribes' financial opportunities. In the Abramoff affair, among the sins of the tribes involved, the most egregious is the greed that sees them go out of their way to monkey wrench other Indian tribal efforts at opening and sustaining their own gaming enterprises.
We know how two of Abramoff's clients - the Louisiana Coushattas and the Mississippi Choctaws - paid a lot of money to have Abramoff fight Texas gaming, which he did via the services of Christian conservative icon Ralph Reed.
As Dallas-Fort Worth's WFAA-TV reported May 5, ''Abramoff used money from two Indian tribes to mobilize the religious right to oppose gambling from other tribes.'' The report indicated that this season, as ''the legislature convened in Austin this year, lobbying expert [Andrew] Wheat was surprised to see that the Chickasaw tribe of Oklahoma had three lobbyists at the capital. ... State records show the Chickasaws are spending $120,000'' to oppose Indian gaming in Texas.
Planners and lawyers can justify ''market share'' wars among tribal casinos, but it begins to be a deadly disease when considering the nature of American Indian tribal interests in North America. It's bad enough when hugely successful tribes show no creativity in helping out the more needy reservations. But when successful tribal entities actually try to destroy the opportunities of others, it makes you wonder what kind of values makes them at all distinct from the worst of corporate rapaciousness? Don't tribes have enough enemies without trying to damage other Indians?
Another shady side of casino gambling - employee theft!
Federal Charges For Casino Worker
Arizona Daily Star, May 12, ‘06
An employee of Casino del Sol and Casino of the Sun has been indicted on federal charges of casino theft, according to Pascua Yaqui officials.
The employee is accused of using fraudulent winning gaming tickets to steal money, according to a letter sent by officials to tribal members Thursday.
In the letter, Chairwoman Herminia Frias reported that the U.S. Attorney's Office obtained an indictment against the tribal member charging theft from one of the Pascua Yaqui-owned casinos. The employee is not named in the letter.
The amount of theft was not detailed, but the letter states that in May 2005, a casino employee noted several "suspicious" winning tickets for payment. The casino later followed up with an investigation involving the tribe's Gaming Office, tribal police and the Attorney General's Office. The Arizona Department of Gaming and the FBI were also involved in the investigation.
"I and the other council members are troubled that this alleged theft occurred and we are taking the action necessary to protect the tribe, the casinos and you. As you know, the casinos are the tribe's primary source of revenue and therefore we must be diligent in protecting it from future crimes," Frias' letter states.
Nathan Pryor, assistant to Frias, would not comment on the situation, instead referring questions to Pilar Thomas, the tribe's attorney general.
Thomas said she could not comment because the U.S. Attorney's Office had not yet announced the indictment. She said the announcement will be made today.
The letter outlines that the investigation revealed several internal failures that allowed the theft to occur. Based on these investigation results, the letter states that the tribe and the casino have taken steps to correct those issues.
Outlining steps the casino enterprise has taken, the letter goes on to note several procedural changes with the hiring of new senior management, improving tribal laws and oversight of the casinos, and strengthening internal controls and procedures inside the casinos.
In February, the tribe announced the hiring of William Walsh, a former general manager of a Colorado casino, as chief executive of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe's gaming enterprises.
Both Casino del Sol, on West Valencia Road five miles west of Interstate 19, and Casino of the Sun, near South Camino de Oeste and West Los Reales Road, employ about 1,300 workers.
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