FEDS RECONSIDER FORT SILL APACHE’S AKELA CASINO PLANS
DEMING, NM - The Fort Sill Apache Tribe of Oklahoma moved a step closer to
opening their Apache Homelands Casino, east of Deming off Interstate 10, when
the National Indian Gaming Commission filed a court document last week
withdrawing the federal government’s previous position. The document said the
NIGC was "in the process of reviewing and reconsidering" its opinion based on a
new argument presented by the tribe.
Early this year the tribe asked the U.S. District Court in Oklahoma to force
federal officials to issue a reservation proclamation for their Akela property,
which would help their casino efforts. In May the NIGC submitted their written
opinion about why Akela did not qualify under federal law. That document has now
been formally withdrawn from the court.
"I believe it means they're reconsidering their decision the land was not
appropriate for gaming," said Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Houser. He believes
this is a positive step.
The tribe has built a 6,000 square-foot casino off Interstate 10 about 40 miles
west of Las Cruces, where they want to operate Class II electronic bingo
machines. They are currently operating a smoke shop and cafe on the property.
Gov. Bill Richardson remains opposed to gaming on that site. His spokesman,
Gilbert Gallegos, said "Fort Sill does not have any legal rights to operate
gaming activities in New Mexico. Gov. Richardson will continue to aggressively
resist any efforts by the tribe to operate an illegal casino in New Mexico."
The Fort Sill Apaches are descendants of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs
Apaches, who once roamed southeastern Arizona, southwestern New Mexico, and
northern Mexico. They were relocated as prisoners of war to Florida and later to
Fort Sill, Oklahoma in the late 1800s.
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