Fri, May 24

Y-A Nation talks casino compact

Staff photo by Mike Briotta

Kim Secakuku and Joe Yuhas are hoping voters in the Verde Valley will support a casino compact this fall.

Part informational session and part sales pitch, members of the Arizonans for Fair Gaming and Indian Self-Reliance told business owners that Native American casinos, namely the Cliff Castle Casino in Camp Verde, help create jobs and enhance tourism.

"With the success of gaming, Cliff Castle has brought many things to the nation, including jobs," said Kim Secakuku, public relations representative with the Yavapai-Apache Nation. "We’ve been able to provide economic benefits throughout the Verde Valley."

She continued, "Through tourism, we are also promoting the area, which helps out your businesses here and has an economic benefit for the Verde Valley." A ballot initiative for the compact was filed Monday by Arizona tribes.

Joe Yuhas, campaign director for the coalition that advocates the compact, stated, "The great things that gaming has done are in jeopardy today. We are building an army of support across the state."

He included "members of the clergy" among the supporters who "recognize the benefits of Indian gaming."

Yuhas told the group that "over 14,000 jobs have been created in Arizona as a result of gaming" and added that "gaming is the tax base on reservations."

At the heart of the issue is the continuation and expansion of gambling on Native American land in Arizona. The proposed compact would allocate some $83 million in the first year of the proposed compact and about $1 billion over the course of 10 years. Senate Bill 1001 would allow the continuation of casino-style gambling on Native American land while returning up to 8 percent of the proceeds to the state.

Lobbyists for Arizona's racetracks, have fought the bill because they believe expanded casino operations on Native American land would kill their industry.

The compact, conceived by Gov. Jane Hull and the tribes, would put more slot machines into play and allow Las Vegas-style blackjack. The deal would last for up to 29 years. Opponents have criticized the specifics of the compact, such as the length of the agreement and the increase in types of gambling that would be allowed.

The Yavapai-Apache Nation is one of those tribes that have been negotiating for at least two years to renew gaming compacts, most of which expire in 2003. The tribe started a casino operation in Camp Verde in 1995, called the Cliff Castle Casino. The conditions of the proposed deal include the expansion of slot machines per casino to 998, up from the current 500. Cliff Castle reported that it currently has fewer than 500 slots.