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Home / Articles / News / Cover Story Sidebars /  Navajo Bingo No-Go
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Navajo Bingo No-Go

Even Utah’s Indian reservations aren’t immune to Utah’s gambling laws.

By Randy Harward
Posted // April 14,2010 -

In 1987, the Court ruled in California v. Cabazon Band of Mission Indians that, as sovereign political entities, American Indian tribes may operate gaming facilities free of state regulation. In response, the states, wanting to tax American Indian gaming revenues, lobbied federal government to allow regulation, leading Congress to pass the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988. The act states tribes can operate gaming facilities on reservation land provided the state already allows some form of gaming.

Now, well over 200 of the 562 tribes in the United States operate casinos, which produce billions of dollars and employ many tribal members, thus improving the quality of life on those reservations. But, since gaming is illegal in Utah, our tribes are out of luck.

“It’s really sad,” says Kenneth Maryboy, San Juan County Commissioner and Navajo Nation Councilman. It’s a real struggle for the Utah Navajos, because we’re sort of like a stepchild to both sides of the government.” He says the Navajo Nation, headquartered in Window Rock, Ariz., “doesn’t want a whole lot to do with us as Utah Navajos,” although Utah Navajos' oil revenues inject about $250,000 into the Nation’s coffers.

Meanwhile, since November 2008, the Navajo Nation has enjoyed revenues generated by its first gaming facility, Fire Rock Navajo Casino in Gallup, N.M. Nation President Joe Shirley told the Gallup Independent that within five months, Fire Rock was the most successful Indian casino in the state, and announced plans for three more. “It’s really hard [to watch],” says Maryboy, “for those of us trying to make it into the economic mainstream.”

Maryboy says Utah Navajos are pursuing a class II gaming facility—a bingo hall—at Montezuma Creek near the Four Corners area, but so far, state government balks at the plan. “The legal opinion is that Utah is a non-gaming state, therefore, they can’t show anyone special treatment; they have to abide by the law. If that’s the case, then why are there bingo establishments in Salt Lake City? What makes that different?

“So, it’s quite sad … but that doesn’t mean that we’re gonna [give up]," Maryboy says. We’re very eager to develop and further this endeavor. The Utah Navajo don’t want to depend on the government. We want to be self-sufficient.”

 
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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // April 18,2010 at 17:39

The 1987 Cabazon versus California Decision did NOT hold that Indian tribes could offer gambling within a state as long as others in the state "offered SOME FORM OF gambling" as erroneously stated in this article. What they held, and what was incorporated the following year in the IGRA (25 USC 2710 d, (3) WAS A TRIBE COULD ENGAGE IN THE SAME KIND OF GAMBLING GAMES OFFERED BY OTHER NON-INDIANS IN THE AFFECTED STATE AND THAT THE TRIBE COULD THEN REGULATE THE RULES OF THOSE GAMES, (SIZE OF PAY-OFFS, HOURS, ETC.) Free from the rules imposed by the state on those games being offered by other non-Indians!! The Cabazon court made it clear that no Indian tribe could operate gambling games prohibited in the state by everyone as a matter of strong public policy.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // April 15,2010 at 19:07

Revenues from any Navajo casino should benefit all enrolled Navajos whether in AZ, NM or UT. Mr. Maryboy and others near Flagstaff who think it should be only for your communities do not understand the Navajo is one Nation. If there are any misgivings to this concept it is because of current nearsighted leaders. Get your head out of the sand-the Navajo in NM, AZ and UT are one Nation. Current aspiring political leaders should understand this very clearly and treat all Navajo equally.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // April 15,2010 at 12:33

A comprehensive feasibility study determines where gaming is possible, basically in populated areas like Gallup. Navajo's unemployment and poverty level CANNOT support 6 casinos. Thought Maryboy would know this - he sits on the economic development committee. Navajo badly needs proper gaming expertise. 6 casinos can be disasterous.

 

Posted // April 16,2010 at 00:59 - I-40 (Pinta Rd) is a dirt lot, nothing for miles around. Chinle is a joke. ABQ is over-saturated with 8 casinos. There are 2 Ute casinos near Shiprock/Farmington and an OTB. A feasibility study determines best location, end of story.

 

Nez
Posted // April 15,2010 at 15:49 - As the comment stated Navajo casinos near populated areas are possible. The Navajos say they are putting up casinos near Gallup, Farmington, on I-40, Flagstaff, Page and Albuquerque. These have large populations, so 5 to 6 casinos is realistic.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // April 14,2010 at 17:51

I didnt know Navajo Nation has its headquarters in New Mexico?

 

Posted // April 15,2010 at 21:38 - Editor's note: Sorry about location error for Navajo Nation headquarters. We've corrected it to Window Rock, Arizona, in the text above.

 

Posted // April 15,2010 at 09:32 - The Navajo Nation is headquartered in Window Rock AZ. The first Navajo Casino, Fire Rock Navajo Casino, was opened just outside Gallup, NM in Church Rock, and the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise is headquartered there at this time. I think they got their wires crossed a little.

 

 
 
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