SANTA FE – A federal appeals court has upheld an earlier ruling that requires Pojoaque Pueblo to negotiate a gambling compact with Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration, not the U.S. Interior Department.
It wasn’t immediately clear how the ruling would affect the pueblo’s casinos, north of Santa Fe.
Pojoaque has operated the Buffalo Thunder and Cities of Gold casinos since mid-2015 without a state compact outlining revenue-sharing requirements and other conditions.
But federal prosecutors said they would wait for the litigation to end before deciding how to respond.
New Mexico stands to gain about $6 million a year in shared revenue from gambling operations on Pojoaque land, though the details, of course, depend on whether the tribe agrees to the same compact that others have, according to the Martinez administration. The revenue would go into the “general fund” for basic state operations.
Michael Lonergan, a spokesman for the governor, said the administration hopes the latest court decision will end the dispute.
“As we’ve said all along, we’re simply asking for Pojoaque to play by the same rules as other New Mexico tribes,” Lonergan said in a written statement.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday issued a 58-page decision affirming an earlier ruling that blocked the Interior Department from establishing gambling rules for Pojoaque.
Pojoaque’s previous agreement with the state expired in June 2015 and the two sides failed to reach agreement on a new one.
Pojoaque wanted to stop sharing revenue with the state, lower the gambling age from 21 to 18 and allow alcohol in gambling areas.
The pueblo also argued that the state had failed to negotiate in good faith. Pojoaque turned to the Interior Department and asked for approval of its gambling operations.
The state government then sued the Interior Department, contending it didn’t have authority to get involved.
The Journal wasn’t able to reach Pojoaque Gov. Joseph Talachy for comment Monday.