Apache tribe sues National Indian Gaming Commission

casino 4Santa Fe New Mexican – The Fort Sill Apache tribe, which successfully sued Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration last spring to obtain recognition in New Mexico, is going back to court to fight for another long-standing cause.

The tribe filed suit Monday against the National Indian Gaming Commission in hopes of reopening its casino in Southern New Mexico.

 In 2009, the gaming commission chairman ruled that the tribe was illegally running bingo games at its Apache Homelands Casino. Tribal Chairman Jeff Haozous said the finding was arbitrary, but the Fort Sill Apaches shuttered their casino because the commission threatened them with fines of up to $25,000 a day.

“Facing this potentially devastating risk, the tribe agreed to close the operation while the agency conducted an expedited review of the case,” the tribe said in a statement accompanying its lawsuit.

The Fort Sill Apaches said the National Indian Gaming Commission was supposed to complete the review in 2009 but never did.

“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,” Haozous said.

A spokeswoman for the the gaming commission declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

Fort Sill Apaches are successors of the Chiricahua and Warm Springs Apache tribes, which warred with the U.S. Army when New Mexico was still a territory. In 1886, after Geronimo and other tribal leaders surrendered, the Apaches were forcibly removed from their homeland in southwestern New Mexico and southeastern Arizona.


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