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Navajo Nation insists on 5 casinos in pact

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SANTA FE — The Navajo Nation, as expected, has refused a legislative committee’s request to consider reducing the number of casinos allowed under a proposed state-tribal gambling agreement from five to three.

The Navajo Nation “has informed us that it will not agree to this proposed amendment,” Gov. Susana Martinez’s lead negotiator, Jessica Hernandez, wrote in a letter dated Saturday.

The letter went to Rep. James Roger Madalena, D-Jemez Pueblo, who chairs the Committee on Compacts.

The committee on Friday voted to ask the Navajos and the governor to renegotiate the provision that allows the tribe to have five casinos, up from the two it now has.

Under the committee’s recommendation, the three casinos would be restricted to the sites of the tribe’s current two casinos and a lower-level gambling facility – effectively precluding the Navajos from putting a new facility along Interstate 40 just west of Albuquerque.

Madalena said the legislative committee could meet as early as Wednesday to consider what to do next.

It could ask again for renegotiation; under state law it can return the proposed compact three times. Or it could vote for or against recommending the compact to the full Legislature, or simply pass it along to the full Legislature without a recommendation.

Madalena told the Journal on Monday he believes “it is only proper that there is debate in both houses” on the compact.

The gambling agreement, which would extend through 2037, is opposed by other gambling tribes that object to the tribe’s having five casinos, worry about more competition along I-40, and are concerned that other provisions they don’t like in the Navajo pact will become a template for their own negotiations.

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