FROM THE ARCHIVE

Ariz. voters face Indian gaming question

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TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2002

After encountering numerous legal and political setbacks, Arizona's tribes are ready to take their quest for economic self-determination and Indian gaming to the people.

Voters this November will be faced with no less than three different gaming proposals. It's a high-stakes race where figures as high as $300 million in revenues for the state have been cited by competing interests.

Among those involved are the 17 tribes that make up the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. Having secured enough signatures to qualify, the Secretary of State on Monday certified Proposition 202, also known as "Arizonans for Fair Gaming and Indian Self-Reliance," for the upcoming ballot.

The initiative joins Proposition 200, simply titled "Yes for Arizona!" The proposal is the work of the Colorado River Tribes, whose leaders refused to sign casino compacts that eventually failed to pass the Legislature in May.

Also on Monday, CRIT secured a win of their own. The state Supreme Court ordered the removal of language accompanying an official state analysis of Proposition 200.

The tribes said the language -- inserted by the Arizona Department of Gaming -- was biased. The state claims the initiative will limit regulation of Indian casinos.

But that's not the only battle facing the two tribal initiatives. Proposition 201, or "Coalition for Arizona," calls for the continuation of Indian gaming but authorizes competition in the form of the racetrack industry.

The major issues are the benefits each initiative will provide and where casino gambling, currently limited to reservations, is allowed.

Prop 200 backers cite $50 million in revenues for the state, along with enhancements for education and elder health care. "As part of new tribal-state compacts, Arizona's Indian tribes are willing to contribute to the welfare of both the young and elderly," it reads.

Prop 202 closely mimics the agreements 17 tribes negotiated with Gov. Jane Hull (R). The state anticipates $80 million in the first year alone under a revenue sharing structure.

"The [Indian Gaming Preservation and Self-Reliance] Act also provides for tribal governments to share a percentage of their Indian gaming revenues with the state, to support state and local programs," the initiative states.

The racetrack industry, which has vehemently fought what it calls a tribal monopoly on casinos and won a case that declared the compacts illegal, thinks it has both petitions beat. Backers of Prop 201 claim up to $294 million a year for the state.

The proposition also mirrors the sharing provisions of the compacts cited by the Arizona Indian Gaming Association. It, too, requires non-tribal facilities to contribute money -- up to 40 percent of revenues -- to the state.

In all cases, the tribes face a deadline of 2003, when the existing gaming compacts start to expire.

Read the Proposals (As submitted):
Proposition 200: Yes for Arizona! | Proposition 201: Coalition for Arizona | Arizonans for Fair Gaming & Indian Self-Reliance

Relevant Links:
Arizona Department of Gaming - http://www.gm.state.az.us
Arizona Casinos, The Arizona Republic - http://www.azcentral.com/casino/arizona

Related Stories:
Ariz. tribes sue over voter ballot (7/17)
Tribes dispute gaming study results (6/27)
Ariz. governor opposes tribal ballot (6/4)
Ariz. gaming compacts killed (5/23)