Southern New Mexico Casino Delay Prompts Lawsuit

Jun 9, 2014

  Today, the Fort Sill Apache Tribe filed a lawsuit against the National Indian Gaming Commission after waiting for half a decade for the agency to review the Tribe's appeal of a notice of violation that its Chairman issued to the Tribe in 2009.  (Read the entire complaint here.)

“We are asking the court to do what the NIGC promised to do five years ago: review our case in a reasonable amount of time,” said Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous. 

In 2009, Phil Hogen, then Chairman of the NIGC, issued a notice of violation to the tribe for conducting bingo at its site in Southern New Mexico, threatening fines of nearly a million dollars a month. Facing this potentially devastating risk, the Tribe agreed to close the operation while the agency conducted an “expedited review” of the case. The Tribe says NIGC agreed to complete the review in 2009.

“We were concerned about the motivation behind the former chairman’s action and the legal theory used to justify it. We were troubled that it violated the agreement the United States made with us in 2007, an agreement that we relied upon when deciding to offer bingo at our reservation. We were looking forward to the expedited review, but after waiting so long, it’s apparent that the agency isn’t going to honor that agreement either, despite promises to the contrary over the years,” Haozous added.

The lawsuit asks the United States District Court in Washington, D.C. to act because the Commission will not, and to vacate and invalidate the Commission's notice of violation as arbitrary and capricious and in violation of federal law.

“Our people have long experienced broken promises from the Federal Government, from the peace treaty with Mangas Coloradas in 1852, to the agreement with Geronimo in 1886 to return our people to their homelands after two years, to the agreement in 2007 which would have enabled us to be there now, and finally to the agreement in 2009 for an expedited review,” said Chairman Haozous. "Geronimo couldn’t go to court, but we can.  Perhaps now we can finally receive the justice that’s been denied us for so long.”

Information from: Fort Sill Apache Tribe