The Pueblo of Pojoaque owns and operates the Buffalo Thunder Resort & Casino in New Mexico. Photo: I-5 Design & Manufacture

Bureau of Indian Affairs allows last casino deal in New Mexico to take effect

It's official -- every tribe in New Mexico is operating under a Class III gaming compact that was neither approved nor outright rejected by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act of 1988 envisions situations in which the BIA won't take a direct stand on a compact between a tribe and a state. In those cases, the compact is considered to be "deemed approved," to the extent its provisions are consistent with IGRA.

Still, New Mexico is unique. It's the only state in America where every single tribe with a casino is operating under a "deemed approved" compact.

The last such deal that takes effect is for the Pueblo of Pojoaque, whose leaders resisted signing the compact because it requires them to share more of their revenues with the state. The state did not offer the tribe much else in exchange.

The BIA questioned the wisdom of that approach when the first set of New Mexico compacts came up for review back in 2015. But the tribes that willingly signed the deal defended the provisions and so the BIA let them take effect.

Since then, every other tribe has signed onto the compact. Pojoaque did so only after losing a lawsuit in which the state punished vendors for doing business with the tribe. The state also refused to negotiate a different set of terms with the tribe, an issue that was the subject of a second lawsuit.

The compact requires all 17 tribal signatories to share between 9 percent and 10.75 percent of Class III revenues with the state. That's higher than the 8 percent rate in a prior version.

A notice of Pojoaque's compact was published in the Federal Register on Thursday. The document was signed by Gavin Clarkson, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy and Economic Development at the BIA. His portfolio includes the Office of Indian Gaming.

Federal Register Notice:
Indian Gaming; Tribal-State Class III Gaming Compact Taking Effect in the State of New Mexico (October 26, 2017)

10th Circuit Court of Appeals Decisions:
Pueblo of Pojoaque v. State of New Mexico (July 18, 2017)
New Mexico v. Department of the Interior (April 21, 2017)

Relevant Documents:
Bureau of Indian Affairs 'Deemed Approved' Letter (June 9, 2015)

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