New Mexico tribe goes before appeals court in casino dispute

DENVER (AP) – Attorneys for an American Indian community in New Mexico were to present oral arguments Monday in an appeal of a case they say could affect the way tribes and states negotiate gambling compacts.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was hearing Pojoaque Pueblo’s appeal of a court ruling that blocked its efforts to have the U.S. Interior Department approve a gambling compact, rather than the state of New Mexico.

Under federal law, tribes must have compacts with the state if they want to operate casinos.

Pojoaque’s gambling agreement with New Mexico expired in June. The pueblo tried to negotiate a new compact with the federal government after talks with the state broke down in 2013.

The state denies the community’s claims that it ignored provisions of the federal Indian Gaming Regulatory Act for settling disputes. It noted that large and small tribes signed on to new agreements this year following years of negotiations.

Pojoaque sought a new compact in which the gambling age would be lowered from 21 to 18, alcohol would be allowed on the casino floor and revenue sharing with the state would end, among other things.

Negotiators for Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration argued those provisions would hurt attempts to create a more socially responsible system.

Pojoaque’s slot machines and gambling tables north of Santa Fe are still operating under an agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office in New Mexico pending the outcome of the appeal.

The pueblo continues to regulate its two casinos under provisions of the expired compact, and revenue-sharing payments are being deposited into an account overseen by an independent trustee, according to Pueblo Gov. Joseph Talachy.

The tribe pays the state between $4.5 million and $6 million a year. Talachy has said a higher percentage called for in the new compacts amounted to an illegal tax.

Pojoaque was required to share 8 percent of its net winnings under the expired agreement. According to filings with the Gaming Control Board, the tribe reported net winnings of more than $60.7 million in 2014. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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