Friday, September 2, 2011

Jemez Pueblo Responds to Casino Rejection

The Interior Department today rejected Jemez Pueblo’s proposal to build a casino down in Anthony -- nearly 300 miles away from its tribal lands.

The government cited concerns about the pueblo 's ability to oversee a gaming site so far away. It declined the tribe’s request to acquire the land in trust.

Jemez Pueblo proposed a partnership with Santa Fe art dealer Gerald Peters to build a $55 million casino and hotel in southern New Mexico near the Texas border.

The Bush administration first shot down the plan in 2008, saying it was too far from the pueblo to generate jobs for the tribe. The Obama Administration reopened consideration of some off-reservation casino applications.

Responding to the rejection, Jemez Pueblo released a statement saying:

“On the very day when the headlines in major newspapers across the country are dismally reporting that job growth in the U.S. economy is at a halt and that the jobs report for the month of August is one of the worst showings in recent history, it is difficult to understand the Department’s decision to deny an application that will create thousands of jobs on such a technical basis.

“In addition to ignoring the need for jobs, the decision also ignores the express terms of the Agreement. The Pueblo expressly reserves the right to provide all the services, thereby, exercising total jurisdiction over the land. The Agreement does exactly what the letter says is lacking.”

The Pueblo is reviewing the rejection letter and “evaluating its options,” the statement said.

Other New Mexico Indian tribes were among those who opposing the Jemez plan. The project also was opposed by the nearby Sunland Park racetrack, which said the proposed Anthony casino would devastate its business.

UPDATE 4:15 pm I just got an email from Scott Scanland, a lobbyist for Sunland Park. Not surprisingly, it says “Sunland Park Racetrack & Casino is pleased with the action of the Department of Interior. Clearly Asst. Secretary Echo Hawk read the law, understood the law and made the only decision he could make based on the law.”