Akela casino proposal ignites NM turf wars

Fort Sill Apache Chairman Jeff Haozous
From the Deming Headlight - AKELA FLATS, N.M. (AP) - It's a 30-acre tract along Interstate 10 with a temporary building where travelers can stop for a burger and beer. It's also the nation's newest Indian reservation, designated as such last year for the Fort Sill Apache. But as the tribe moves forward with controversial plans to use the reservation to build a casino that could capture truckers and drivers ready for a break halfway between Los Angeles and Dallas, it has reignited old turf wars with the state and with other tribes concerned about competition for gamblers. The tribe recently won a first hurdle in its quest to build the casino with a ruling from the Bureau of Indian Affairs that the 30 acres the tribe has been trying to develop into a gambling operation for years is indeed eligible. Fort Sill Apache Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous says it's a bit of chicken-and-egg question. The tribe, currently based in southwest Oklahoma, needs the casino to get income to buy more land to help its members return, he said. "The goal is to repatriate the tribe," Haozous said. "Obviously that would require more than 30 acres. But that would also require more economic resources. With more resources, we can buy more land and develop more businesses." The Fort Sill Apache Tribe has roughly 685 members. Gov. Susana Martinez opposes the casino, saying the tribe agreed it would not attempt to build a casino in Akela Flats when the land was put into trust about 10 years ago. Read more


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